At one time about a decade ago, diminutive Drummond was the epicenter of youth rugby in the state of Montana and home to a state championship-caliber squad of newbies that grew out of the dust along Interstate 90.
Drummond Trojans RFC has since vanished, but that club of largely offseason football players was just the launching point for Casey Clark. Now a 26-year-old well-traveled pro, rugby has taken Clark to the corners of the United States and around the globe.
On his latest adventure -- after playing in Australia and New Zealand, Jacksonville and Philadelphia, and of course with the USA Tomahawks (now just the Hawks) -- Clark visited the United Kingdom for a run at a spot with the Toronto Wolfpack, the first English Rugby League club based in North America.
Clark earned a tryout through the Wolfpack's "Last Tackle" docu-series this month, which follows the path of 18 pro hopefuls.
"He's a tough kid and he's got what's needed," said Wolfpack club director Adam Fogerty, calling Clark a hard-working "proper cowboy."
"He had a tough tryout, but we're holding a third tryout down the way so he's not going anyway yet. A lot of Division I clubs over here that would love to have him."
Clark, a second-row forward, dropped in to catch up with the Missoulian while back Stateside for the Christmas holiday.
Q. Tell me about the Toronto Wolfpack.
A. The buzz around the Toronto team started at the beginning of this year. One of the guys that's an administrator for the team, he was at a game that the USA had against Jamaica that I played in this summer. ... They organized one of the tryouts to be in Philadelphia, but I'd injured my knee and wasn't able to do any of the drills. I still talked to the coaches, though.
Q. And that sort of led into this latest tryout?
A. Yeah, they picked me and 17 other guys to go to England last month and we were over there through last week.
Q. This was no ordinary tryout either. Tell me about the Last Tackle aspect of it.
A. It was a lot of fun. The reason they had all these tryouts is because they're doing a docu-series, basically a reality show, about the creation and development of the Toronto Wolfpack. ... Us going over there, it showed the progression that we had going from tryouts in the U.S., Canada and Jamaica and then training for a week in England with the coaches of the Toronto team -- Paul Rowley, Brian Noble, Simon Finnigan and Haggy (Kurt Haggerty).
Q. So how'd you do?
A. They did the whole filming session on Monday about who's getting picked and who's not. They had the coaches sitting at a table and there's one chair and you come in and sit down ...
Q. Oh man, the whole reality show treatment!
A. The first thing you learn about guys like Paul and Brian Noble is they're really no nonsense. They said, "We're not gonna beat around the bush, you've not been selected." Three of the 18 guys got selected. ... They're supposed to have another tryout in Toronto in six weeks, maybe because the conditions we were playing in in England were pretty bad, real muddy and everyone was slipping around. It didn't make for a very good display of skill.
Q. So maybe that next?
A. I didn't get selected but there's other opportunities. I'm looking into a couple different clubs to play for in England next season.
Q. So this seems very unique, to have a team in a league that's on a different continent, correct?
A. Oh yeah. One of their selling points is this is the first trans-Atlantic sports team. You have other rugby union competitions that happen across the world, but that's more with international tests or national teams.
Q. So I'm gathering from your backstory, you make connections at each one of these stops playing with people from all over the place. It's all about being there and meeting people. Is that what opens up doors for you?
A. It's all about networking. You meet this person, they can get you in touch with the coach of some team. They can give you a place to stay or a job or whatever.
Q. Well, I imagine your passport is quite colorful at this point.
A. (laughs) Yeah, I've had my passport since I was 17 and it's got quite a few stamps. Lots of stamps, two visas and a bunch of other stuff. Also this year I got a British passport because I found out I was eligible for that because my dad was born in England when my grandpa was stationed over there with the Navy.
Q. Cool. Feels like a long way from Drummond, Montana, huh? How'd you get involved in rugby in the first place? Ten or 15 years ago I feel like there had to have been a lot less opportunity here.
A. (laughs) When I was a sophomore, my brother (Matt) started playing for the (Missoula) Maggots. I started going to the Maggot practices and played a season with the Maggots. Then my junior and senior year we started a (high school) team in Drummond. The Drummond team isn't around anymore. ... I pretty much just got all the football guys together (laughs).
Q. I mean it's kind of like football, but you were actually able to get enough kids out in Drummond to make a full squad? That's 8-man football territory.
A. At that time, our football team was (coming off a 45-game win streak and three straight Class C state titles). There were times we had 40 kids lined up on the sideline and somebody like Noxon would have their eight plus two (reserves).
Q. Got a favorite place you've ever played?
A. ... Australia was pretty fun. People seemed very much like they are here. People were laid back, still got some drunk idiots (laughs).
Q. When you're abroad, what do you miss most about living in Montana?
A. Probably just the space, the open space and the mountains. That laid-back sort of culture that they have here where you can just go outside and run around in the mountains. ... I'll bounce around all over the place, but this is home. My mail still gets delivered to my mom's house (laughs).