Will Holder was barely in Washington state to report to Joint Base Lewis-McChord before he was recruited for Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves club.
The Army captain now with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 17th Field Artillery Brigade, was announced as one of the team’s latest signings April 21 — the day before the Seawolves season opener against San Diego Legion.
Holder was ready to focus solely on his Army career back in November 2016, but just when he thought he was out, he got pulled back in.
“I realized that a part of me is rugby,” Holder said. “I found that I need to be playing.”
Holder’s father, Rob, played when he was stationed in Germany and continued playing for multiple clubs before he became a coach. Holder said he has been playing for as long as he can remember.
He wanted to pursue football in college and received an offer for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where both of his parents attended.
After one semester, Holder decided to play rugby instead and played four years for the Black Knights program. After graduating and commissioning as an officer in 2013, Holder was selected to the All-Army team in the 2013 Armed Forces Rugby Championships — played as part of the Rugbytown USA Sevens tournament in Glendale, Colo.
It was there the coaches recruited Holder for the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. He played with the USA Rugby’s 15s and Sevens teams for many international tournaments, which included a bronze medal in the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
Holder left the WCAP in 2016 and joined the 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo.
When it came time for his next duty station, Holder put JBLM at the top of his wish list because of the rugby community on base, the Atavus rugby program in Seattle and the Seawolves.
Holder reached out to the team and had connections with players like Shalon Suniula and Peter Tiberio. Seawolves coach Phil Mack said he was happy to bring Holder on the team.
“He’s added tremendous value to us, just in terms of leadership on and off the field,” Mack said. “He’s a very steady player as well on offense and defense. I’ve had the misfortune of playing against him with Canada.”
Holder plays in the back of the field, which makes him effective not only on offensive, but also on defense.
“He’s a big boy, and he knows technique and how he tackles is really good,” Mack said. “As everyone knows, you have to play both sides of the ball. How he puts his body on the line really motivates the rest of the team to do the same.”
The team has been successful so far in its first season with a 3-1 record so far, averaging between 3,500 and 3,600 at the home matches at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
Regular seats were sold out for last Sunday’s game against the Utah Warriors, and only a few spots in the standing room only area were available for the final home game this Sunday against the NOLA Gold.
Holder is used to playing in front of large rugby crowds, but not in the U.S. Similar to how fans support the Seattle Sounders Football Club of Major League Soccer, fans at Seawolves games were loud with cheers and chants commonly seen in international venues.
“It’s not so much seen in football,” Holder said. “(Starfire has) got a very rugby feel about it, and that’s what’s cool.”
Holder has several goals he wants to accomplish — both on the rugby field and in his Army career, such as taking command of a batteryand representing the U.S.A. in the Rugby World Cup or the Olympic Games.
“(I’m) figuring out which paths I want to take,” Holder said. “I have time, and I have options, but I’d like to see all of my goals come true.”