The American Raptors have hired former USA Eagle Paul Emerick to be the club’s next head coach, the team announced on Tuesday.

Emerick will join the team after serving primarily as the skills and defense coach of the Houston SaberCats for the past four seasons. He served as the team’s interim head coach for the team’s final five matches of the 2019 season when then-head coach Justin Fitzpatrick resigned. Emerick helped guide the SaberCats to a 4-1 record during his time at the helm, with all four of the wins coming during the team’s final four matches of the season.

“I’m so excited,” Emerick said via the team’s release. “I was always a big fan of the idea and have been behind this mission 100 percent.”

There is arguably no better candidate to help the Raptors continue on their journey to convert elite athletes from other sports into rugby players than Emerick. Before he earned 54 caps and competed in three Rugby World Cups for the United States, Emerick was a wrestler and a football player himself. After disliking his one year of college football at the University of Northern Iowa, Emerick decided to give rugby a try.

It was the right decision. Emerick’s 10-year professional career took him all over Europe. He played for Amatori Catania, Overmach Parma, Dragons, Ulster, and the London Wasps before retiring. Following his playing days, Emerick coached at the Air Force Academy before linking up with the SaberCats.

“Obviously winning games is the mark of a good program, but if we start sending guys over to Europe and some bigger clubs and ultimately into the national team, that’s our goal,” Emerick said of his goals in the release. “It’s not out of the realm. Within two or three years of getting some of these guys, we should start turning our focus towards the national team.

With the addition of Emerick, Mark Bullock will move back into his role as the director of rugby on a full-time basis. Specialist coach Sarah Chobot will also take on a new role in 2022 as she moves into the assistant head coaching position. As the interim head coach during the first half of the Raptors Uruguay tour in 2021, Chobot led the team to a 1-0 record with a 68-27 victory over Uruguay A.

The Raptors have not yet announced their plans for the 2022 season yet, but the players will report back to Glendale on February 1.

Colton Strickler

Colton Strickler is a Colorado guy through and through. He is a Wheat Ridge Farmer and a Colorado State Ram. He has been involved in the Colorado rugby community in some capacity since 2011. He was Major League Rugby's lead writer in 2018 and 2019 before joining DNVR Rugby.