SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Lasike is on the move again.
The former BYU football standout and NFL fullback who helped found the Utah Warriors in Major League Rugby has signed a contract to play with English club Harlequins FC in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby series, the clubs announced jointly Friday.
"It was awesome to play in the inaugural season of the MLR and an honor to represent the Utah Warriors," Lasike said in a press interview in London. "I’m extremely thankful for the Warriors organization and to Warriors Nation for opening the gate for me to get back into playing rugby.
"As of now, I’m really excited to be getting an opportunity with the Harlequins rugby club and look forward to what the upcoming season holds."
A member of the USA Eagles national team that pulled off a historic upset of Scotland last season, Lasike caught the attention of European clubs and was facilitated in the move by Warriors general manager Kimball Kjar (who also coached at BYU) and MLR deputy commissioner Nic Benson to coordinate his release from the Warriors.
"We're grateful that Paul has this opportunity to represent the Warriors and the MLR in the U.K.," Kjar said in a statement from the club. "He was cap No. 1 for the Warriors and he’ll always be a part of our family.
"A year ago, people wouldn’t have thought rugby in America was feasible. Now, with players like Paul and others leading the way, we can see that not only is the MLR viable and real, but 10 or 15 years from now, we believe the MLR can be one of the world’s top professional rugby competitions."
🗣 "It's exciting, it's an awesome opportunity and over the next month it'll be crucial to get pumping again and getting prepared."— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) August 3, 2018
📽 Welcome to Harlequins: @plasike2#WelcomeLasikepic.twitter.com/xPsaKNV284
A native of New Zealand, Lasike moved to the United States at 17 and played for the prestigious Highland Rugby Club en route to a national championship. He went on to BYU, but after a few seasons of full-time rugby, he moved to the football field full-time as a fullback and eventually earned NFL contracts with the Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears.
With his NFL career stunted, the 6-foot, 250-pound Lasike returned to rugby in January, signing with the nascent Utah Warriors and helping them to a fourth-place finish in the inaugural season of Major League Rugby.
Now he’s moving on to the historic "Quins," a club that was founded in 1866 and is the only premiership rugby club in London. Harlequins won the league championship in 2012.
"Paul signing with the Quins just shows that the MLR has talent," Warriors coach Alf Daniels said. "We may be a young team and competition, but there is talent in America and the MLR is the best path forward to develop that talent. We’re excited for Paul, but look forward to the next man to step into Paul’s shoes for the Warriors."