At the start of his junior year, Lake Highlands High School senior Blake Rogers ran into a friend headed to rugby practice. The friend asked him if he’d like to come along.

“It sounded fun to me,” Rogers says. “So I went.”

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What started as a “why not?” whim has turned into a life-changing experience. After just a year of play, Rogers, who plays locally for the Dallas Harlequins RFC-Colts club team, was invited to join the United States’ Under-19 national team.

Even being considered for that team was a matter of happenstance for him.

“I wasn’t even going to try out for state select team,” Rogers says. “My coach convinced me. And I didn’t even dream of getting invited to camp [for the national team].”

But he was one of about 50 players asked to come to the 2003 Labor Day weekend camp, held in Michigan. Half were asked to join the national team.

“I was excited,” says Rogers. “If nothing else, I get to travel.”

For five days in December, the national team was in Guyana, South America, for the international championship qualifying rounds. There, they beat Jamaica 40-0 and Guyana 49-3. Rogers scored in the first game.

From here, he’ll attend another camp in Arizona to qualify for the championship team. If he makes it, he’ll go to South Africa for three weeks in March and April.

“Odds are pretty strong that he’ll stand a good chance of making it,” says his coach, Michael Engelbrecht. “The good thing about Blake is he’s a thinker; he can take what you’re saying and apply it pretty quickly.”

Engelbrecht also has high praise for Rogers’ demeanor off the field.

“He’s just a great kid. He’s very respectful, he’s got a good sense of humor, and he’s fun to be around,” he adds.

Rogers, who used to play football and still runs track, hopes to make the championship team. He says he’d like to do some more traveling. The Guyana trip was “an eye opener.”

“It’s a Third World country. If people drove cars, they were old. There were cows in the middle of the street. And we couldn’t drink the water,” he says. “But the people were really friendly, and it was really fun.”

For Rogers, though, the best part about playing rugby so far hasn’t been the traveling. It’s the friendships he has made.

“A barbarian sport is what some people call it,” he says of rugby. “And on the field, it is a battle. But before and after every game, you’re always talking to each other. You make great friendships playing.”