Entering high school, Peyton Wall had a decision to make.
A football player since the 4th grade, Wall had also dabbled in rugby in middle school, following in the footsteps of his father who played throughout high school, college and with the Fort Wayne Rugby Club.
“I just wasn’t feeling it heading into high school,” said Wall about rugby. “My dad said to give it one more shot, one more year.”
What a decision it ended up being.
While a standout on the football field for Leo, Wall’s high school athletics career has had its greatest highlights on the pitch in rugby.
Come December, Wall will travel to New Zealand as part of the U18 USA Rugby Team. He has also traveled all over the country and to places like Ireland thanks to rugby.
“I was found freshman year at a camp,” said Wall, who also suits up for Leo’s rugby team. “From there I have been able to travel all over.”
How does rugby help Wall’s game on the football field? For one, the physicality in one can translate to the other, although surprisingly the Leo senior feels that football is rougher.
“Since we switched from a spread to a T offense (at Leo) and I have basically been getting hit on every play, I would have to say football,” Wall said.
Wall has been one of the best two-way players in the entire area this season. He has rushed for 1,512 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year for the Lions. He also has 33 tackles and three interceptions defensively.
For the first three years of his high school football career, Wall lined up predominantly at outside linebacker. In the last game of last season, Leo coaches put Wall back at safety.
“After the game, they asked me how I felt at safety,” Wall said. “I told them it was different, but you really had more time to figure out what the play was and where it was going, then react.
“They then told me that was my position (for this year).”
Wall dove headfirst into learning the position, studying guys like Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins on YouTube. It has paid dividends with the senior leading the Lions on the back end of the defense and a 10-1 record heading into Friday’s rematch with East Noble (11-0).
Wall’s tenacity in both of his primary sports feed off of each other. Rugby teaches proper tackling technique and leg drive, something that obviously is important on the football field.
Mentally, keeping a level head and not getting overhyped about individual plays and scoreboard advantages are two traits that benefit Wall in both rugby and football.
After high school, Wall has considered playing football or rugby in college, but wants to find a good fit for himself academically first. He has visited Indiana and Kentucky and had a trip to Arizona on tap, but his flight was cancelled.
While Wall is excited about his trip to New Zealand, the only trip he is worrying about right now is of a business nature. Leo lost to East Noble 35-7 in Week 5 and will be looking to be more competitive this time around in Kendallville with a Sectional 19 championship on the line.
“We need to control the ball and tackle well, neither of which we did the first time against them,” Wall said. “We didn’t play our game. We need to find our identity, which is smashmouth football.”
Spoken like a true rugby/football player.