A last-minute addition to the NOLA Gold club roster for last summer’s Rugby Town 7s, Andrew Guerra knew nothing was guaranteed.
He was coming in as an injury replacement and was not assured of playing much in a tournament that welcomed some of the best teams in the country.
So, Guerra, he had nothing to lose.
“I went in last minute as an extra guy on the roster,” Guerra said. “I got there a week early and started practicing with the team. First, I earned a roster spot, and eventually I was starting. It was really a great experience.”
Guerra definitely made a lasting impression on NOLA Gold.
In the Major League Rugby (MLR) draft on June 13, Guerra was drafted by New Orleans Gold with the 10th pick in the first round.
Guerra, a Beverly native and Mt. Carmel High School graduate, took another step in his rugby career as a professional. He graduated from Notre Dame College, in South Euclid, Ohio, this spring.
Continuing to rehab from a broken leg suffered this winter, Guerra watched the MLR Draft with his family and close friends.
He’d been in touch often with NOLA, but still, he wasn’t positive.
“We were watching the draft on a Facebook live stream. I thought I’d get drafted,” Guerra said. “I just didn’t know where for sure, but I had a good idea. I knew New Orleans liked me, so I hoped it would happen.”
As rugby’s popularity continues to grow in America, the MLR continues to grow right along with it.
The upcoming 2021 season will be the young league’s fifth. The MLR features 13 teams around the U.S. and one Canadian team. The league season typically runs from February through May.
The 2020 season was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Guerra, the cancelation and the social-distancing restrictions limited the pre-draft process, but he made the best of it, enjoying the Zoom calls with team officials in the league.
“You’re typically talking to a general manager and a coach,” Guerra said. “They’re just looking to pick your brain, get an idea of your character and your future goals and then telling you about the organization.”
A 5’10”, 215-pound flanker, Guerra admited he usually lets his play do his talking. But in this case, he knew he needed to sell himself and his abilities.
“I’ve always been a lead by example guy. I’m pretty uncomfortable talking about myself,” Guerra said with a laugh. “I told them, if a team is going to pick me, I’m going to work my butt off. You’ll get 100 percent on and off the field. I’ll do the work, and people will follow. I know I’m a high-character guy.”
The MLR season is scheduled to begin in early 2021. Guerra said training camp will likely be this December.
He continues to rehab from the broken leg and is hoping to get clearance to start jogging and running soon.
When the time comes, he’ll move to New Orleans for the season. The team provides free apartments for its players.
Guerra can’t wait for the next step, especially because he’s never been to New Orleans.
“I’m a Midwest guy, so this will be something different,” Guerra said. “It’s out of my comfort zone, but big things happen when you do that. I’m a big sports guy, so I can watch Zion Williamson and the Pelicans, maybe see the Saints play Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. I’ve been blessed with this opportunity to play rugby in New Orleans.”