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Lowcountry-born Olympian to help launch American Rugby league

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 11:53 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2021 at 11:54 AM EDT
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BEAUFORT, S.C. (WTOC) - A new sports league is launching in the U.S. this fall and a woman born in Beaufort is one of the league’s big stars.

Naya Tapper is one of several U.S. Rugby stars invited to launch Premier Rugby Sevens. The league will feature six professional teams for both men and women.

“Very happy I can be a brand ambassador for the league,” Tapper said.

The 27-year-old has transformed from a high school track star to one of the faces of American Rugby. This wasn’t part of her career plans, even if she did have dreams of become a pro athlete.

“I loved playing outside, playing football with the boys and watching my brother play football,” Tapper said. “I always wanted to be the first girl in the NFL.”

Born into a military family Beaufort, Tapper moved around some. She spent most of her life growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina where she ran track in high school. After deciding not to run in college, she joined a Rugby club team during her freshman year at the University of North Carolina.

“It was just supposed to be something that was fun, but as time went on I learned to love the sport,” Tapper said. “I learned the opportunities that it could provide.”

She was asked to join the national team after her freshman year, but declined and decided to return to school.

“I had my mind set on getting my degree so I went back to college and enjoyed playing for those next three years,” Tapper said.

After finishing school in 2016, Tapper joined the US Rugby team to prepare for the Olympic games in Rio, but her dream of representing her country would have to wait.

“We ended up getting a new coach and he came in and he actually cut me from the team because I wasn’t at the skill level I needed to be playing with the girls at that level,” Tapper said. “Back then, that was hard to hear just because I sports was always my thing. I never was not good enough.”

She went to a rugby academy to work on her skills and then rejoined the national team a few months later.

“From there, I kind of exploded onto the scene and haven’t looked back since,” Tapper said.

Tapper is now one of the leaders of U.S. Rugby and had the chance to play in the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. In her short career, she has already scored the second most career tries for the American team.

The new Premier Rugby Sevens league is scheduled to launch in Memphis, TN on Oct. 9. For more on the league go to https://prsevens.com/ and you can follow Naya on her website at http://nayatapper.com/.

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