Mike Durantâ€™s got a healthy dose of rugby in his blood. His grandfather â€” the legendary Dr. Thomas Durant of Melville Avenueâ€” played well into his 70s. His brother, two sisters, his mom and dad and uncle have excelled in the rough-and-tumble sport.
But, only Mike Durant â€” at the ripe old age of 16 â€” can say that heâ€™s represented his country on the field of battle. Durant recently returned from international competition in England, where the US under-17 team showed their European counterparts that their late-blooming American cousins are quickly earning their stripes in the rugby world.
In non-tournament play, they bested some of the best players in South West England. Despite a first-round tournament loss to cross-border rivals Canada, the U.S. lads pummeled Belguim and gave mighty France a huge scare. Mike Durant, according to U.S. Head Coach Sean Oâ€™Leary, was a big reason for the American teamâ€™s success in this two-week tour of duty.
â€œI scouted 6,000 players and Mike was picked as one of 26,â€ said Oâ€™Leary, who is the head coach at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. â€œMike was actually the only one from New England.â€
Oâ€™Leary, who knew Durantâ€™s father Steve as a player for the Boston Wolfehounds club for many years, knew of Mikeâ€™s potentialâ€” but was stunned to see the player he has become at Boston College High School.
â€œIâ€™d seen him a number of years ago at BC High as a freshman. He always had the skills and had to grow into his body. His level of maturity, nowâ€¦ By time they finished this tour, they were young men.â€
Oâ€™Leary calls Durant a â€œquiet leaderâ€ who inspires his teammates with a physical style that takes opponents off guard. As the #9 scrum half, Durant plays an integral position in the American line-upâ€”handling the ball and often leading the defense.
â€œMike takes no [stuff] from anybody,â€ Oâ€™Leary observes. â€œThe French were really rattled. In all the age grades, their menâ€™s teams should be 50 points better than us across the board. But, they were lucky to get out of there alive.â€
Durant, Oâ€™Leary recalls, set the tone when one bigger French player tried to man-handle him, but took a Durant forearm straight to the jaw before he knew what hit him.
â€œItâ€™s not dirty play, itâ€™s just, â€˜Iâ€™m not backing down from you.â€™ When your bigger guys see that, they get fired up and bring it too.â€
While Durant and company may have been bruisers on the field, Oâ€™Leary says that the Americans received nothing but compliments about the boysâ€™ behavior while in England.
â€œMike was a leader of that,â€ said Oâ€™Leary. â€œAll we heard was, â€˜This is the best group weâ€™ve ever had. This was the most special group of the few years weâ€™ve been doing this. They understood what it meant to put that jersey on.â€
Young Mike Durant agrees.
â€œTo play for your country and know all the other kids could be in your spot and they werenâ€™t, made it special,â€ Durant told the Reporter.
Mike grew up playing Dorchester Youth Hockey and Savin Hill Baseball â€” and has played football, rugby and hockey at BC High. Now a junior, Durant is focused on rugby and football â€” and his boosters see a collegiate career on the horizon.
â€œIâ€™d love to have him at Notre Dame,â€ says Coach Oâ€™Leary. â€œMikey has real potential.â€
To his credit, Durant says he hasnâ€™t mapped out his future just yet. Heâ€™s enjoying his high school days and the sport that his granddad loved so well.
â€œItâ€™s a team game,â€ he says. â€œEveryone has to contribute. I like how I have to control some of my players, set up scores and pass the ball a lot, but also get to run with it.â€