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Rio 2016 Olympic Calympian: Danny Barrett, Men's rugby, USA

With Rugby back in the Olympics, Cal alum Danny Barrett will try to continue the streak (dating back to 1920 and 1924) of USA Calympians winning the Gold.

US Rugby 7s Portraits
Cal alum Danny Barrett will represent Team USA in rugby’s return to the Olympics in Rio
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Danny Barrett

Sport: Men's Rugby

Country: U.S.A.

Twitter: @bookemshaaarkie

Birthday: March 23rd, 1990 (age 26)

Hometown: Pacifica, California

Cal affiliation: California Golden Bears alum (American Studies ‘13)

Years at Cal: 2009 - 2013

Olympic appearances: 2016 Rio is Danny Barrett's first Olympic, it's also the first year when Rugby returns to the Olympics

Hear about Danny Barrett raves about Cal Rugby and the University as a whole in the video below.

Cal Achievements:

Danny Barrett joined his two older brothers on the Cal Rugby squad in 2009 when Neil was junior and Jim was a redshirt senior. Barrett was a part of the 2011 National Champion squad in Rugby Union.

Danny Barrett also lead the Golden Bears to their first Collegiate national championships in rugby 7s (the same format that will be played in Rio) in his senior season in 2013. In the 2013 Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC), Barrett lead the tournament in tries and scored two (the first two and only scores of the first half) in the championship game against Life. You can relive my very first time acting as a press member at a sporting event covering that tournament here.

Danny Barrett in a post CRC win interview from 2013
Ruey Yen

International Achievements:

Barrett joined a touring squad of All-Americans after graduating and quickly made his mark on the USA Rugby national team. From his USA Rugby profile:

Barrett helped the AIG Men's Collegiate All-Americans defeat a combined New Zealand Universities side during the MCAAs' New Zealand Tour in June 2013 with a try. He was also a member of the San Francisco Golden Gate sevens team at the inaugural World Club 7s at Twickenham Stadium in 2013. Barrett scored a try in the Eagles Select XVs' win against Canada at the 2013 IRB Americas Rugby Championship in Langford, British Columbia. He has earned 13 caps with the Eagles - including four at Rugby World Cup 2015 - and has been named by coach Mike Friday as one of the top five players he's coached. He also spent time on trial at Gloucester of the Aviva Premiership. In July 2016, Barrett was named to the 12-man Team USA squad for Rugby Sevens' debut at the Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games.

More on Danny and his Rio outlook:

The last time that rugby (rugby 15s/union) was in the Olympics in 1924, four Golden Bears Calympians helped USA to the Gold medal. Golden Bears were a big part of the USA Gold in 1920 as well. Danny Barrett will look to continue that streak in rugby 7s in Rio 2016. Danny Barrett is one of the more familiar faces of USA Rugby currently thanks to his stint on both the 15s and the 7s national team and his now distinct choice of facial hair. His play in Rio will be pivotal to the success of the United States.

From the Cal Rugby press release,

"We are all so happy, so proud," said California head coach Jack Clark. "'Danny Barrett, Olympian,' has a forever ring to it. For all of time, an Olympian."

"It's a testament to the Cal rugby ethos because continually, year after year, we put out USA internationals, and that's what we strive to do as a program," Barrett said prior to his selection. His gratitude to everyone in the Cal community who helped him on the road to Rio – "We all did it, we've all done it, we're all going to do it" – has now been verified.

Barrett plays as a Back Row in 15s, and as a Flanker, Number 8, or Prop in 7s. He is one of the strongest guy on the pitch and his versatility makes him a great player in the 7s. He has the ability to both run over people and around them. Check out his highlight reels below,

This Rugby Today article, with an interesting title of calling Danny Barrett “An American Badass”, from 2014 details his time at Cal, including how he got suspended for an undisclosed reason in the beginning of his senior year but really matured to be allowed back on the team.

Another road block in Barrett’s path was a suspension his senior year, causing him to miss the fall of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. The reason behind the suspension was never revealed, but Barrett looks back on it as a learning experience.

“I think it was actually a big step in maturing. It happened. It was an unfortunate event. It was something I’d like to have back, but it happened,” he said. “It really put a lot on my plate to step up and mature a bit more. I had to get my head around what I wanted to do with my life, with my rugby career. It was almost kind of a good thing. Things happen, you learn from it, you move on and you look to the future.”

Barrett’s suspension didn’t come with a shot clock. He had a litany of boxes he had to check before he could be reinstated, and he worked impressively to do just that.

“Danny was so accountable during that period of time, just so amazingly accountable. He accepted responsibility, and probably put together a body of work during that suspension that no one I know could have done,” said Clark. “Danny had to kind of get through a lot of work and rebuild some trust, and he did it in a way that was spectacular.”

Barrett’s suspension ended in time for Cal’s Varsity Cup campaign, and he helped lead the Bears to a heartbreaking loss to BYU in the championship game that spring. His decorated collegiate career would end on a high note, though, as Cal claimed its first-ever Collegiate Rugby Championship title a few weeks later. Barrett led the tournament in tries, scoring two in the final against Life.

That’s just further proof how Coach Jack Clark is a molder of men. Barrett on his Cal experience from the same article,

It’s cool to be able to say I was on the team that won the first CRC in Cal history,” said Barrett. “There’s not a lot of firsts in Cal Rugby anymore, so that was a good thing. It’s a pretty special moment that we have in the bank.”

Rugby 7s was chosen over Rugby union as an Olympic sports due to the ability to have a tournament in just a few days. In Rio 2016, the men’s rugby event will take place in just 3 days from August 9th to 11th.

USA is in Group A in Rio 2016 with Fiji, Argentina, and host Brazil. USA comes into the tournament as the 6th seed. In this group Fiji is the overall top seed, Argentina is seeded 7th, while host Brazil is the last seed and only there due to the automatic bid for the host country.

USA will play Argentina and then Brazil on the first day, August 9th. USA will play Fiji in the morning of August 10th before advancing to hopefully the medal round with the top 8 teams out of the 12 in the tournament.

The medal round quarterfinals will be played on August 10th. The semifinals and the Gold and Bronze matches will be played on August 11th.

The opening match against Argentina will be pivotal for the USA Eagles’ advancement. In some way, the Americans are lucky to have an easy match against Brazil that they should advance even if they drop the group play match to Fiji.

These quick 14 minutes long 7s matches should be action packed and a lot of fun. I am looking forward to see Danny Barrett in action and for him to make the Cal Rugby family proud.

Good luck to Danny in Rio and GO BEARS!