Fast forward to a month ago, when I found myself enjoying some college premiere league rugby on ESPNU. Utah was playing Cal in the championship semifinals, and while eventual-champion Cal dominated the Utes, one star shone bright for Utah: Thretton Palamo.
Even against some of the more powerful players on the pitch, Palamo seemed to be above them all. He had more speed than other players with similar power. Utah fans should be pleased that Palamo will play on a new pitch this fall, the one in Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Palamo's path into the Utes' backfield goes through Utah rugby coach Blake Burdette, who was a reserve tight end on Utah's football team in 2004. After playing rugby in Samoa, Palamo became the youngest player to ever play in the Rugby World Cup in 2007, when he was teammates with Burdette on the U.S. national team. During that time, Palamo told Burdette about his interest in an education and that he might like to try playing football.
|Palamo (in white) should be a force for the Utes (Deseret News)|
The stories out of spring camp were all the same: Palamo has a lot to learn, but his talent is irrepressible, and he's smart enough to be plenty ready when September comes around. In his very first scrimmage as a college football player, Palamo ran 16 times for 73 yards.
Palamo could be arriving in the football locker room just in time. Many Utah fans were displeased with how under-utilized the powerful Asiata was in the Utes' spread offense. After all, Asiata finished his career with just 1748 rushing yards in three seasons of action. But new offensive coordinator Norm Chow is returning Utah to a pro-set attack. Palamo might find himself in the fortuitous position of being the power back Chow needs to make the offense work. It seems likely that Palamo could find himself splitting time with Langi or White, who are both smaller, quicker backs (White much smaller of the two).
The return of the pro-style offense to Salt Lake could make Palamo a star, much like another islander who made his hay in Utah's pro-style: Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala.