Osi Nauer had a breakout season for the William Chrisman football team in 2018.

As a sophomore, he was the primary running back in a committee as he rushed for 802 yards on 131 carries (6.1 yards per carry) and had seven touchdowns. He added 76 yards on eight receptions as he earned honorable mention All-Suburban Middle Seven honors.

He was a factor on defense as well. As a safety, he had 38 tackles, one sack and three interceptions.

Going into the 2019 season, he will take over as Chrisman’s quarterback after the Bears lost Dawson Herl to graduation. He is only one of two returning starters on offense, so he will be expected to lead that unit this fall.

He’s trained over the summer in multiple ways, including a unique one that is rare for a high school football player.

Inspired by his father, Tom Sao, an assistant coach for the Chrisman football team, Nauer played in a rugby tour over the summer in Belfast, Ireland, with a national team called Eagle Impact Rugby Academy. He also played some games with a Kansas City team called the Junior Blues the past two years.

“I grew up watching my dad play rugby,” Nauer said. “It looked fun, so I wanted to try it out. I liked it and stuck with it. My dad played in high school and college. He pretty much taught me everything I know with rugby. I got all my skills from him.”

He trained with the Eagle Impact Academy twice a day to prepare for the tournament as his team finished 1-2 overall. He is the only player on the team from Eastern Jackson County and it’s something he enjoys doing when he’s not playing football.

“It’s fun. I think it’s more physical (than football),” Nauer said. “We don’t wear pads and there’s no stopping and no timeouts.”

In rugby, each team has 15 players on the pitch at a time. The object of the game is to cross the opposing team’s touch line and placing the ball on the ground to earn a try, which is worth five points. Teams can also can score points by kicking the ball between the goalposts, similar to what’s done in American football. The rugby version is worth 2-3 points depending on the situation.

There is very little protective gear in rugby, usually just a mouthguard. When a player is tackled they have to immediately relinquish control of the ball, which is usually a pitch to a teammate. A tackle may only be made around the waist, so a player can’t hit an opponent above the chest or below the waist.

Nauer said he mostly plays at the outside center position and he said playing rugby helps develop his skills for football.

“We mostly try to run with the ball and try to score,” Nauer said. “It’s definitely good for tackling.”

And those skills he picked up in rugby could definitely help him going into the 2019 high school football season as he will be a leader on both sides of the ball. It won’t be an easy task as 20 seniors graduated from last year’s team.

“We have a chance to be good this year,” Nauer said. “Our lineup is really young and we’re still learning. But we should be fine.”