The quest for an Olympic gold medal has begun
When University of Washington (UW) linebacker and NFL prospect Psalm Fa’afoisia Pulemagafa Wooching announced that he was trading in his football pads and helmet for short shorts and rugby boots, he wasn't joking.
The young Samoan who grew up in Hawai’i has joined the Harlequins 16-man squad, set to compete in the Beachcomber World Cup 10s Tournament in the Republic of Mauritius later this month.
After leading the Huskies in sacks last year, Psalm was predicted to be a late round pick in this year's NFL draft, but the 6’4”- 231lb gentle giant from Kailua, Kona, Hawai’i had a different plan. He told Samoa News, "“My goal is to be able to represent my country while playing rugby, and then on to playing in the next Olympics. This has been a dream of mine for quite some time and I will do anything to accomplish it.”
Psalm's father Paulo — who was as shocked as anyone else when Psalm decided to brush off any hopes of playing in the NFL — said his son's change of heart was "a very hard pill to swallow."
He continued, "Now everybody is asking — 'why?' Yes, we have the same feelings and questions. But you see, when God is really the center of it all, you follow the steps He is laying out for you in faith. God has the best intentions for each one of us and I mean it. Even though it doesn't make sense."
Paulo told Samoa News, "My son is doing the same thing with his life. Psalm told us, 'Mum and Dad, you have a great faith story, going around the world with no money, and how God provided for you and more, and I want to write my own story of God's faithfulness to me so I can tell my kids as well.' This opportunity for Psalm to go play with the Harlequins 10s club is an opportunity of faith for him to see God's faithfulness in the making."
Paulo continued, "I am really proud of him in his perseverance to see how God is going to lead him through, amidst what people might think. How can you question God's calling, if you have been brought up that way? I can't wait to read his story about his journey of faith."
Paulo says he calls his son from time to time to check up on him, "to remind him of his decision, and to be prepared to be the best rugby player out there so when the opportunity comes, there will be no regrets. This is his opportunity."
Paulo grew up in Samoa so the love of rugby was something he couldn't get rid of. Apparently, his passion for the sport has rubbed off on his son who helped his high school team — the Kona Bulls win the state championship title two years in a row.
Psalm was also a national champ with the UW Club, during a sevens tournament two years ago.
With his degree in medical anthropology in hand, and the drive to take the rugby world by storm, Psalm already has his plan in motion. The ultimate goal: to represent his country during the Olympics and come home a gold medalist.
Such big dreams for the son of a man who grew up working on a plantation in Samoa with 14 brothers and sisters.
Paulo told Samoa News in an earlier interview, “I have come to the conclusion that God is up to something with my son. Only God can see what I cannot see. I can only hold on to that faith, knowing that His plans are for Psalm to prosper, to give him a hope and a future.”
Psalm grew up not knowing how to speak or read English, and was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia.
Currently, he plays center/ winger and continues to hone his rugby skills.
Harlequins Academy and Global Development Director, Tony Diprose told quins.co.uk, “This will be a great opportunity and experience for Psalm to continue his pathway into rugby from American Football; we are very excited to have him within our ranks for the World Club 10s. It also provides Harlequins with the opportunity to have a good look at him in a high-quality international tournament such as this one. This will also give him the chance to see how an elite professional rugby team operates."
The Harlequins team will travel to Mauritius and will compete alongside the Toyota Cheetahs, Western Force, Brumbies, and the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
The full 16-man Harlequins squad will be confirmed in the coming days.
Good Luck Psalm!
(For those of us soft in geography: Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean, about 1,200 miles of the southeast coast of the African continent.)