The LA Giltinis have today announced the exciting signing of Gelen Robinson and Shawn Clark, two Colorado XO crossover athletes from football with enormous rugby potential.
Robinson, 26 on June 10, is instantly in the mix as a back-up hooker for the Giltinis with Mahe Vailanu and Lindsey Stevens both on the injured list.
Robinson (pictured below) has played only 10 games of rugby but admits he has become “obsessed” with the game after a transition from defensive end in football.
Lock Clark, 25, had a week-long tryout at tight end with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL last August before turning his 6’ 8” (2.03m) frame to rugby as a new challenge. He has natural aerial skills for the lineout.
Giltinis General Manager Adam Freier said he was delighted to sign two promising American talents and strengthen the club’s links with the Colorado XOs, a team formed through the progressive RugbyTown Crossover Academy and the City of Glendale.
“This is what the MLR provides, a clear and defined opportunity for talented athletes with ambition to thrive and fall in love with the game of Rugby and it’s values.
“Gelen has a unique skill of multiple disciplines as an athlete, from wrestling and football, while Shawn is one of those athletes that has an incredible engine, who could play multiple positions.” said Freier.
“They are both great signings and young men, which is a real credit the Colorado XOs coaching staff and officials.”
Both Robinson and Clark took their first strides in the game over the past 19 weeks in this unique “crossover” experiment to coach talented football, basketball and track athletes into potential professionals for the USA Rugby player pool.
Clark and Robinson are the second and third members of the XOs to make the leap over to the Giltinis for the 2021 MLR season after Ma’ake Muti was signed back in April.
Robinson (pictured below) played as a defensive tackle for the Dallas Renegades in the XFL last year when progressing skills learnt as a standout at Purdue University (2014-17).
“I dove headfirst into rugby only six months ago. It was a risk for me, but I’ve become obsessed with the game,” Robinson said. “I’ve picked up plenty but there are a million little things still to learn so it’s very exciting to sign with the best team in the country. I’ve felt that in my first training sessions with the Giltinis this week from the smallest scrum techniques to lineout throwing. I’m in the right place around experienced players and coaches.”
The 6′ 1″ (1.85m), 279 pound (121kg) Robinson excelled in football, wrestling and as a shot putter in college without ever knowing that this background would help him in a new sport.
“I would definitely say rugby is a combination of football, wrestling and a bit of soccer (for the awareness of space on the field). That background has certainly helped my confidence for tackling and rucks. And running the ball…that’s great for a guy who had a whole life in football not touching the ball as a defensive lineman.”
Robinson’s ingrained competitiveness and professionalism are major assets from a family pedigree of achievement in professional sports.
He is the son of Glenn Robinson, a two-time All Star who won the 2005 NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs to cap a decorated 11-season career among basketball’s elite.
His older brother Glenn Robinson III finished a stint with the Sacramento Kings in the current NBA season.
“We at the Colorado XOs and the City of Glendale are extremely proud of both Shawn and Gelen,” Colorado XO Director of Recruitment Peter Pasque said. “They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them and more. We also would like to thank the LA Giltinis for taking an early interest in our program.”
Clark (pictured above) played as tight end at Monmouth University (2015-19) when forging a college career out of his small-town start growing up in Potsdam, New York.
“It’s the dream for a lot of guys to play in the NFL. Life has thrown me rugby out of last year’s difficult year with the public health situation and I’m enjoying every part of the process,” Clark said. “I’ll admit, the only time I saw a rugby ball growing up was once when it came out of my friend’s toy box.”
“Learning as much as I can from guys at the Giltinis who have played on national teams will be great. I’m already learning different set-ups in the lineout and adding to my feel for the flow of the game which is the hardest part.” “I was a quarterback growing up so getting my hands on the ball and carrying the football has a natural feel. The Giltinis play at the Coliseum…now that’s very cool after watching so much college football being played there on TV.”
The No.1-ranked Giltinis have been back in full training this week after a bye round.
Full focus is on bouncing back with a win over the Houston SaberCats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from 4pm (PT) on Sunday.
The Giltinis play Houston SaberCats on their return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. For tickets, visit www.giltinis.com/tickets/ The match will be broadcast live from 4pm (PT) on Bally Sports SoCal in Los Angeles and can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.