GLASGOW look to have beaten the Detroit Lions American Football team to former USA sprinter and sevens winger Carlin Isles for the rest of this season.
The Warriors have been keen to strengthen their back division after a run of injuries depleted stocks, DTH van der Merwe and Sean Maitland the latest casualties, and Isles, a former sprinter with the US track and field team, who narrowly missed out on competing at the London Olympics, has agreed terms on a swift move to Scotland.
He had already signed a practise contract to join the Detroit Lions as a wide receiver or running back, after being courted by a number of NFL franchises, however, he was holding out for an opportunity in rugby union.
The details were still being finalised with Isles in the USA and his agent Tom Beattie also abroad, and visa clearance to be finally ratified and a medical undertaken. The precise length of contract is unclear but Isles is keen to push for opportunities in the remaining months of this season and earn a longer term contract.
Isles, known for his 100-metre sprint time of 10.1 seconds, has been a key member of the US sevens squad competing around the globe in the HSBC Sevens World Series and become one of the most popular figures on the circuit on account of his blistering speed in the open abbreviated game.
How he will perform in the far more congested environment of 15-a-side rugby remains unclear but Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend is clearly confident that he would add another finishing quality to his side as they seek to secure a place in the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs and go on and win the title for the first time.
A spokesman for Glasgow Warriors said that negotiations with Isles were ongoing.
Beattie, the brother of former Scotland back row Ross, told The Scotsman that the 5ft 8in winger was delighted to receive an offer from Glasgow, even if it came nowhere near the lucrative NFL deal.
“It’s about rugby,” Beattie said, “and Carlin is very excited about the move and eager to get to Glasgow in the coming weeks.
“He has really enjoyed his time with the sevens squad but after leaving athletics his aim was to push on in rugby and play for the US Eagles team on the XVs world stage. The big target for him has always been the Olympics in England and so he has been looking for an opportunity to take his development on to a higher level and give himself the best chance of making the USA squad for 2015.
“If this had not come about I think he would have gone to NFL, but Glasgow have given him the opportunity he has been craving. One of the key things about this move for Carlin is the suggestion from Gregor that he work closely with Chris Paterson. Chris has agreed to work one-to-one with Carlin as part of his role supporting the pro teams, looking at everything from his positional play, kicking, running and tackling.
“He is an explosive player and has shown people he can give and take hits pretty well in sevens, though he knows he has a bit to learn about the 15s game. But having come from professional American Football and athletics backgrounds he is a very focused and ambitious character, and he has shown enough so far in 15s for the US Eagles management to be keen for him to get more games in the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup.
“For Carlin moving to Glasgow is a whole new adventure but he looked at a number of clubs and the presence of Gregor and Chris, the brand of rugby Glasgow want to play and the fact that they are competing at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 and want to do well in Europe were all factors that persuaded him to forget about NFL right now and throw his lot in with Scottish rugby.”
As for when the 24-year-old from Ohio will land in Glasgow, Beattie added: “The details should all be sorted out this week and he could be across in Glasgow within a short space of time. Then, he knows, he faces a big challenge to prove himself and get an opportunity to play - that has been made clear to him - but he is up for that challenge, and I’m pretty sure that when he gets his chance Glasgow supporters will be very excited at what he can bring to the team.”