Colorado State University’s Stephen Karas has been named to the Men’s Collegiate All-American team by USA Rugby.
Karas becomes the first All-American from CSU Rugby since 2009. He has been practicing with the rest of the MCAA team for the past three weeks and just concluded a week-long tour of games against international competition.
“This came from his hard work and play on the field but also his leadership,” said Blake Stevens, the general manager of CSU Rugby. “He’s been a leader for CSU Rugby for a number of years.”
Fifty-three players from across the country were invited to attend camp in Merrimack, Massachusetts. Karas was among the 33 selected for the final MCAA roster which played games against teams from Cambridge and Ontario.
Karas, a team captain for CSU last season, plays the prop. He and Stevens both describe the position as being similar to the offensive line in football.
“I’m a prop, or a forward, which is sort of the lineman type but I kind of break that mold,” Karas said. “When I get in the open field I can really turn it on and let loose.”
Stevens points out that Karas is not your average prop.
“Props are usually the biggest guys on the field but not necessarily the fastest,” Stevens said.
However, Stevens said Karas frequently chases down the fastest players to make tackles at the goal line. Being fast for his size and position is part of the equation for Karas but his energy and instincts cannot be overlooked.
“He can be on the complete opposite side of the field and it will look like the wing is going to make a break, but he’ll find the angle to run him down,” Stevens said. “He never gives up on a play – he always gets his guy.”
Karas is a humble leader and downplayed praise from his coaches and manager. He insists that all of his CSU teammates bring the same fire that he does.
“It’s such a team game that it doesn’t really boil down to one person,” Karas said. “It’s not just going to be me who puts out that extra effort – it’s all of us working as a unit.”
Karas began playing rugby in high school when he and friends were looking for a hobby. It started as a bit of a joke he said, but he quickly fell in love with the sport.
As a freshman at CSU he played alongside current CSU Rugby Assistant Coach Charlie Pappas, who was a senior at the time. Pappas and other players on the team that year gave Karas the nickname “Number 1 Steve.”
“Part of it was his jersey number and that there were four guys named Steve on the team, but he had the ability to be the best player on the field even as a freshman so he was Number 1 Steve,” Pappas said.
Pappas has seen what a hard worker Karas is from the perspective of teammate and coach.
“He’s got the biggest heart of any athlete I’ve ever gotten the opportunity to play with,” Pappas said. “He lights a fire underneath guys.”
Being an All-American could also help if he wishes to continue playing rugby competitively after college. Karas was a senior this past season but said he wants to keep competing.
“I’m going to keep playing until my body says ‘No’,” Karas said.
Karas finished competing against teams from Cambridge and Ontario this weekend.
Name: Stephen Karas
Nickname: Number 1 Steve
Position: Prop (Forward)
Height: 6 feet 1 inch
Weight: 235 lbs.
Year: Graduated Spring 2014
Major: Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism
Birthplace: Lakewood, Colorado
Hometown: Franktown, Colorado
High School Rugby Team: Chapparel Wolverines