Tiger on the Prowl: Wirt County’s Cam Nelson playing rugby in Germany
PARKERSBURG — Former Wirt County High School football player Cam Nelson was ready to pay his dues for a shot to compete in college after he graduated in 2016.
More than four years later, playing football is the last thing on the ex-Tiger running back’s mind. That’s because he’s enjoying every moment being a member of the HoneyBadger Rugby Football Club based in Kaiserslautern, Germany.
During his 2015 senior campaign, Nelson surpassed the 100-yard rushing plateau six times and finished with 1,456 yards on 205 attempts for an average of 7.1 yards a carry. Along with scoring 16 rushing touchdowns, which included an 89-yard scoring burst, he also had a pair of touchdown receptions.
“My wife (Bre) got stationed here (in the Air Force) and I just came out here to live with her,” said Nelson, who tried walking on at Marshall University but ended up playing rugby instead.
“(In 2016), I immediately started playing rugby when I got there and played the fall season. There are two kinds of rugby, 15 on 15 and 80 minute games and there are 7s (on 7) which are 14 minute games.”
After competing for the Thundering Herd for two years, Nelson took some time off and “ended up going to WVU and transfered there and immediately joined the team. I got there in the spring and played a 7 season with them and a 15 season. We didn’t have a very good season (in 2019), but I was the top tri-scorer for our whole league. I ended with 12 on eight matches.”
Once he arrived in Germany the ex-Tiger admitted, “I knew that I wanted to try and find a club here because I love the sport so much. I showed up and I told them that I played for a few years in college. I gave them my highlight tape and they watched it, liked it and knew I could definitely play.”
Nelson said the team he’s on is basically a bunch of military guys.
“It’s a mix of Army and Air Force and there are some Germans who play. There’s a South African on the team and people from all over,” Nelson noted.
“It’s mainly military guys. That’s one of the reasons our team dominates pretty much. We’ve got a bunch of huge military guys and the German clubs we compete against don’t really recruit in the military but we do.”
Although his position does change, Nelson said “the position you play is your number. The number you wear is based on our position. I typically play 8-man, the guy at the back of the scrum. He’s at the back and like pushes it.
“I also play what’s called a flanker. Their job when the ball leaves the scrum is to find whoever has it and basically just kill them or try to get the ball from them or hunt them down.”
His first match with HoneyBadger RFC was against Trier and Nelson noted, “I got Man of the Match and had three tris. I just had a great match and then COVID happened and it ended up ending our season.”
Along with having a gashed forehead and a broken finger in a match while in Germany, Nelson said the entire 7s season was called off, but he just found out league play will resume on Oct. 3.
“Since our 15 season last season ended, they were looking at the points and everyone’s placing,” Nelson noted. “Our team was so far ahead in points, even if we had lost out, we would’ve won so they called us champions. We had a trophy ceremony. It was really cool. We are trying to do that again this year.
“I actually had plans before COVID to go to the United Kingdom and play with like a pro 7s team. I didn’t get to do that, but they are going to give me a call back when they have another tournament lined up and I’ll get another shot.”
During his time between Marshall and West Virginia University, Nelson said he thought about going to try and play football at Glenville State College. Although he did enroll, things didn’t work out financially.
Currently, he’s nearing his degree in physical education with a minor in strength and conditioning as he still hopes to one day become a football coach.
Along with working toward attaining his final credits for his degree, Nelson also works as a Child Youth Program Assistant in Germany.
“Not well,” admitted Nelson when asked how his German was. “I know how to say thank you and excuse me. That’s about it and how to say french fries.”
The language barrier doesn’t pose too many problems since the majority of his teammates are Americans.
“Most of them all speak English,” Nelson said of the Germans. “They make them learn it here. They start in third grade and learn all the way up through high school.”
When asked what folks back home thought of him playing such a rugged sport like rugby he didn’t hesitate with an answer.
“My grandpa loves it. He filmed all of our college matches,” Nelson added. “He wishes he could come and watch. He loves the violence of it.
“The other side of my family hates it and think I’m crazy. It’s just so fun. It’s so much more rough and honestly it’s the most physically demanding sport I’ve ever been part of.”
Contact Jay Bennett at email@example.com