FULL CIRCLE: CASEY MCDERMOTT-VAI'S RETURN TO RUGBY
By: Colton Strickler
American Raptors No. 8 Casey McDermott-Vai has no choice but to take care of his body.
“Recovery is the most important thing for me,” McDermott-Vai said of his routine. “I think I’ve learned in the past that I at least try to take an hour of my day after practices to recover my body. Hot tub, cold tub, cupping, boots, massages. It’s really important. Just the nutrition and vitamins that I put into my body after practices and before practice. It’s really important for me.”
That’s been the case for several years now, but he’s had to change up the way he approaches it because he’s using his body in a different way for the first time in a long time.
As a native of Auckland, New Zealand, rugby was McDermott-Vai’s first love. When his family moved to Missouri when he was 12 years old, his focus shifted to American football.
He played well enough throughout high school to earn a football scholarship to Texas Christian University. While at TCU, he played everywhere for the Horned Frogs. Whether they needed him to play on the offensive line, defensive line, full back or tight end, McDermott-Vai fit into the rotation with ease.
His performance throughout his career at TCU earned him an invite to the Seattle Seahawks rookie mini-camp in 2019. While that opportunity with the Seahawks didn’t pan out the way that he wanted to, he found his way back to rugby in the fall of 2020 when an opportunity with the Raptors – then the Colorado XOs, a team composed almost entirely of athletes from other sports learning the game of rugby – presented itself.
Having been back on the rugby pitch instead of the gridiron for a year now, McDermott-Vai has already noticed that the regular wear and tear of rugby is different from the everyday nicks that he dealt with playing football.
“I think on my legs it’s a lot different,” McDermott-Vai said of his transition back to rugby. “It’s different workloads. Mostly in football it’s the upper body because you’re always hitting, blocking, and tackling. For rugby it’s more legs and sometimes shoulders from tackling too because you’re not wearing pads.”
Even after a year, McDermott-Vai is still getting used to the increased running that rugby training requires. The different wear and tear that he puts his body through every day has required him to switch up how he approaches his recovery routine.
“I think I’m more strict with the cold tub after our first session and second session,” McDermott-Vai said of the change to the way he approaches recovery. “I try to get a lot of cupping and rolling out, and I try to spend 45 minutes to an hour after practice just to do all of those little things. It’s about the little things.”
A huge part of his recovery routine since making the switch back to rugby has been the incorporation of Wintergreen. Whether he’s dealing with sore muscles from a training full of heavy conditioning or achy joints after a physical match, McDermott-Vai makes sure he is within reach of his favorite Wintergreen products.
“Wintergreen is probably the best product I’ve ever had to be honest with you,” “I put it on my wrists as well. They have a lot of options. Before practice, after practice, throughout the day, hands down it’s the best stuff I’ve had so far and that’s saying a lot. It’s really good.”
As McDermott-Vai continues to make his way back to the sport that he fell in love with as a young boy back in Auckland, he will continue to rely on Wintergreen to keep him on the pitch doing what he was born to do.
Banner photo credit: Justin Purdy, American Raptors.