This article was originally published in the Ulster vs Glasgow official match programme on October 1, 2010.
The beginning of September saw American Paul Emerick join the Ulster squad on a three-month contract. Taking time away from his busy training schedule, Paul spoke to Ulster Rugby about his introduction to rugby, what he gets up to in his spare time, and how he has settled into Ulster life.
“I’ve been in Ulster for a few weeks now and settled in really well,” Iowa-born Emerick enthuses. “All the boys have been very welcoming and they’ve taken me out and shown me the town. I’ve been invited to their barbecues so it’s helped me get to know everyone quickly. That was important to me as I’m from a very small town in America where there’s only 6,000 people. It’s taking me slightly longer to get used to the weather though.”
Paul made his Ravenhill debut against Edinburgh and put in a stellar performance, much to the pleasure of the supporters, and it was something which didn’t go unnoticed by the utility back. “I think my debut went very well. I had some pre-season training but it was back in America, not with the Ulster squad. I was doing runs and weights to keep my fitness levels up and to be able to get a run out on Friday was fantastic.”
“The whole atmosphere on match night was amazing. When I was at Ravenhill before, the new stand hadn’t been built, but now you realise just how much it helps create an atmosphere. I don’t remember the fans being so loud! They are very passionate about their team which is a great thing. The last time I was at Ravenhill, I played for Newport Gwent Dragons, so to come back and play for the Ulster supporters was a great feeling.”
As well as numerous appearances for the Dragons and Italian side Parma, Paul’s rugby experience also included 37 caps for the USA, which he is very proud of. “Being selected to play for my country is incredible, and when the national anthem starts playing and the team stands in line, it gives you an immense feeling of pride. With the World Cup next year, I hope to continue playing well at Ulster as it will help my selection into the USA side too.”
Despite this, he admits that rugby was not the first sport he fell in love with. “It’s strange because I actually started out as an Olympic-style wrestler, and tended to focus more on football in the winter and baseball in the summer. When I went to college, I quit football and was introduced to rugby. It was one of those things that came naturally to me, and I’m very fortunate to have been given the chances I have because I never thought it would become a career for me.”
Initially signed on a three-month contract, Paul hopes it will be extended for a longer period. “It’s a very exciting time to be a part of Ulster Rugby. They have a great squad this season, with their new signings and a number of young players all pushing for a starting place. If I can play the best I possibly can and earn my place too, hopefully I can extend my contract.”
Away from rugby, Paul admits he likes to take things easy. “I like to go to the movies and hang out with friends. I play the guitar as well so that’s a good way to relax. When I was living in Italy, I learnt Italian, so I always need something to keep me occupied and keep me on the go.”
And finally, some quick-fire questions…
Favourite Film: The Big Lebowski
Favourite Meal: Spaghetti Carbonara
Favourite Music: Country
Favourite holiday destination: Sicily
Favourite book: Anything by Bill Bryson
Best piece of advice received: Every day is a school day. It’s a chance to learn something new.
In ten years, I’ll be: [laughs] My mum asks me the same question! I honestly don’t know if I will be involved with rugby in some way, or whether I’ll stay in Europe or move back to America. For the time being I’m just happy to look ahead to the next three years and focus on playing rugby.
If I wasn’t a rugby player I’d be: I think I’d be farming. I come from a small farming community so it’s something I have always thought about.