The Glendale Raptors winger is eyeing success in the second season of MLR
Despite the inevitability of the question, Harley Davidson laughs.
“People have always told me you have to do something big with a name like that; you can’t be bagging groceries for the rest of your life,” the flying wing says of his stand-out name. “I also wrestled when I was younger, in high school. Guys would check out who they’re up against, see a name like Harley Davidson and be like: ‘What?!’”
The second season of Major League Rugby kicks off on 27 January, with Davidson and last year’s beaten finalists Glendale Raptors renewing acquaintances with the reigning champions, Seattle Seawolves. Having worked throughout the off-season to improve handling skills, team discipline and cohesion, the aim is to go one better than last term.
The man with the motorcycle-themed name is not haunted by the loss in the final last year, though he admits to the odd flashback of a knock-on in the first half, with the try-line begging. He is keen to go again, emboldened by another season as a full-time rugby player – a career that the kid from Boise, Idaho felt he would have to go abroad to chase.
So is Glendale-Seattle going to become the MLR’s big rivalry?
Considering the tie, Davidson says: “It’s still pretty early in the league. There are two new teams this year and then two or three more the following year, so it’s tough to say there will be a rivalry between us. There are so many good teams and the competition is that much better this year.
“Seattle’s a great team, they are very disciplined, they have a great defence. But I think there will be a little bit more motivation when we do go up against them…”
Motivation, it seems, has never been an issue for the quicksilver back.
The 25-year-old first picked up rugby at Capital High School in Boise, after begrudgingly watching brother Richard play and realising he was into it. He honed his game – then at scrum-half – at the Snake River club, where coach Mike Saunders then put Davidson in touch with Life University.
The back-three burner believed that after his time with Life he would have to head overseas, to Ireland where there were contacts at Blackrock or New Zealand, and hope to keep working his way up. But then elite rugby in the States became a reality and Colorado was calling.
“The (pre-existing professionalism at Glendale) was one of the main reasons that motivated me to come out to this team,” says Davidson, who tended bar at Life and delivered glass when he first arrived in Colorado. “They already had that professional standard, they had a good group of players and I saw where I would grow the most by coming here.
“If I didn’t have the opportunity, I’d probably still be at Life University pursuing my Masters or maybe even the chiropractic programme. I’ve always had the mentality of never really giving myself a Plan B, that way I’m all-in on something I’m really passionate about. It’s worked so far!”
Worked is the right word. While many players in the MLR can focus on the game ‘full-time’, a large number still hold down jobs and juggle a gruelling training and work schedule. Davidson admits to being “blessed” that he can live off rugby. But he has worked at it, and he concisely explained his Plan A mentality. Where does that drive come from?
“Growing up it was just my mom (Julie) taking care of us. She was a single mom taking care of four boys. She worked two jobs.
“We didn’t have much but we were always thankful for what we had. Like at Christmas my mom wouldn’t be able to do a lot, so she would find a way – we thought it was special. She’d take us to the dollar store and we got to pick out toys. That was fun for us; we didn’t think anything of it or what our financial situation was.
“Things weren’t handed to us. If you wanted something you really had to work at it and that’s something I pride myself on, my work ethic. I got that not only from my dad, who is a hard worker, but from my mom. She worked a day job and a graveyard shift.
“Seeing that work ethic from my mom throughout my whole life is definitely what inspired me. It’s something I think about whenever I do anything. I’ll never do anything half-assed.”
Which brings us back to this season; to facing Seattle again.
The Raptors are roaring after the exertions of pre-season, Davidson believes. He is ready to motor too. His ultimate goal is to make his way into the USA Eagles squad and he has been asking capped team-mates to assess his game so he can work on elements the national selectors value.
Of course, the key to all of it is to perform for Glendale.
Last season young fans were shouting his name, which was a pleasant surprise. He has been approached by strangers in the gym, asked if he is that Harley Davidson.
Imagine what will happen if he goes full throttle this season?
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