The Utah Warriors signed Joseph. Backe for the 2022 Major League Rugby season. He was selected as the 9th pick in the 2021 MLR Collegiate draft. The 23-year-old hooker is 6’0″ and 240lbs.
Joey is from Naperville, Illinois, and attended Neuqua Valley High. School from 2013-2017. he played football on the offensive line and played rugby for four years, winning two state championships as captain. He was ranked in the top 100 loose forwards in the country at Neuqua Valley.
He then went to Western Michigan University in 2017 and graduated in 2021. He played for Coach Mark Allen at Western Michigan and was a four-year starter at No.8 for the Broncos. He finished his collegiate rugby career as a three-time All-Conference player, earning the honor in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
The Utah Warriors transitioned him as a hooker for the Warriors Selects this Fall and he gained some international experience at that position in the USA Select XV tour to Montevideo, Uruguay in October 2021.
Utah Warriors Comments
“We future-proofed our team in this 2021 Draft and added depth,” said Utah Warriors General Manager Brandon Sparks. “All of these players could appear next year in the top 23 but it is our organization’s goal to be patient and give them time to develop so they are successful. Our three selections exemplify our core values and have the tools to perform at this level and we are excited to welcome them to Utah.”
The Warriors entered the Draft with their pick in each of the three rounds along with Rugby ATL’s first-round selection. In total Utah owned four selections as they prepared for the Draft, the 11, 12, 24, and 37 overall selections. However, a trade leading up to the Draft saw Utah send the 11th overall selection, along with cap space, to NOLA for the 9th overall pick. As a result of their trade with NOLA, Utah followed up the move by sending the 12th overall selection to Rugby ATL for cap space.
“This has been a two-year journey from when we first saw Joey the first time at an ID camp,” said Sparks. “We projected him based on physical traits to be a hooker at the professional level and he was able to put on weight and has been working on his throws which he showed off in his pre-draft workout here in Utah. He is a smart and motivated young man that has an incredible work rate on the field and we are excited for him to show why he was a first-round pick.”