Meet Meya Bizer, an American badass
Let's just be honest: You didn't know the Women's Rugby World Cup started last week. Or that it's in France. Or that New Zealand is a big favorite.
Right about now, you're wondering, "Hmm, how good is the United States' team?" Well, the U.S., for the record, is a pesky contender, with slightly better odds than the U.S. men's soccer team had in the World Cup last month. (The Americans' chances of advancing took a hit on Friday afternoon when they lost to Ireland in a crucial first-round Group play. They thumped Kazakhstan today, 47-7, and now need to beat New Zealand later on Friday.)
All of this means that the name Meya Bizer is probably foreign to you, even though she hails from Texas and is a senior at Penn State. FYI, it's pronounced ME-uh BITS-er, and at age 21, she's the youngest member of Team USA.
The last thing you should know? Bizer might just be the hardest-hitting athlete, male or female, in sports. She played football in high school and was a good enough kicker that she earned a scholarship to play at the University of St. Mary's, a small school in Kansas. But once she started playing rugby, kicking was no longer enough to satisfy her hunger for hitting.
From watching the clip below, you'll understand. It's a collection of collisions that would make NFL linebackers and UFC heavyweights shudder.
To find out just how much of a punisher Bizer can be, we talked to those who've witnessed her up close. We also talked to "The Human Sledgehammer" herself.
PETE STEINBERG, HEAD COACH, PENN STATE AND USA WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAMS
"Off the field, she's a very sweet, gentle girl. When she's on the field, she is a physical menace. The first time I saw her play, she had just finished her senior year in high school and was playing for the U-20 national team. A player on the other team made a break, and Meya just cut this kid in half. I remember thinking, 'Did I just see what I saw?' I mean, I'd seen that in the guys' game, but I had never seen anything like it in the women's game. And she was only 18. After that, she actually went to a small college in Kansas on a football scholarship -- she had played football with boys in high school -- before coming to Penn State to play rugby. She's definitely unique in the college game. Nobody hits like her. Even in the international game, she's one of the top open-field tacklers in the world. There might be a couple of players in the world that are able to close and hit the way Meya does. When she steps on the pitch, she stops being a girl and becomes a woman."
HOPE ROGERS, PROP, PENN STATE AND USA WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAMS
"In May, during our final four match against Westchester, this girl made a break and Meya just came up and flew into her. Both of them are in midair, parallel to the ground, before they slam down onto the ground. Meya just gets up and walks away, but not the other girl. I didn't know how long it would take for her to get up. It was amazing. That's right around the time when the announcers started calling her [Bizer] 'The Human Sledgehammer.'"
SOPHIA SCHWAB, WING, WESTCHESTER UNIVERSITY WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAM
"Normally when I get the ball from my teammates, I can juke people. It's really easy to break some ankles, and they can't tackle me. In the final four game against Penn State, I saw Meya in front of me. I thought if I give her a little cut to the right and then go left again, she'll bite and she won't hit me. So I take a juke to the right, and then I go left, but she read it. She came in from the side and just laid me out. All I remember is hitting the ground. My teammates were like, "Are you OK?" I thought I was fine, but as soon as the play started going again, I hunched over and I was like, 'Oh my god.' I played it off really well. I look at the video and I can't believe that actually happened."
IAN JONES, STRENGTH COACH, PENN STATE AND USA WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAMS
"For someone who isn't really that heavy, her Olympic lifting is exceptional. One of her favorite things to do is the hang clean. You start with the bar in your hands at your hip, then use a quick dip to get the weight over your hips, and finish by catching it on your shoulders. It's a quick counter where you shift a lot of weight fast. It's one of the most athletic and powerful movements there is, and she excels at it. At Penn State, some of our male athletes from rugby or lacrosse or football will be training across the room and they'll see the weight she's moving and they're like, 'Holy s---, I can't even do that.' Her force development is unique for a female athlete, and it transfers onto the field. When she hits, you can hear the impact from the sideline. You can hear sounds of girls getting cracked and the air being knocked out of them."
DEVEN OWSIANY, SCRUM-HALF, USA WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAM
"Off the field, she's the sweetest, most lighthearted girl. Paints her nails and everything. But on the field, it's a complete 180. She's a badass. I'm a Penn State alum, so I was lucky enough to attend the national championship game between Penn State and Stanford [Penn State ended up winning its third straight national title with a 38-0 shutout]. There was this one play where you could see a herd of people trying to tackle a Stanford player, then all the sudden everybody just stops and you see this girl get driven back 5 meters and you're like, 'Oh, that's where Meya is.' You didn't even see her at the beginning, and then she just appears out of nowhere. She's unlike any other fullback I've ever seen. She's got speed, physicality, vision. Whenever someone breaks through the line, you can see them turning their head, wondering where Meya is. It's amazing to see that fear in their eyes. And then boom -- she nails them in the flat and lays them out. Play after play after play."
MEYA BIZER, FULLBACK, PENN STATE AND USA WOMEN'S RUGBY TEAMS
"In December of 2012, we played a game against France. It was only my second time playing in an international match. It was my rookie tour, so my tackling still wasn't great because I was used to football tackling -- I would tackle with any part of my body instead of using my shoulder. I tried to tackle this French player with my face. I don't know exactly what happened, but her forehead hit my face and I broke my nose. I went in at halftime and looked in the mirror and it was really crooked. I think I got a huge adrenaline rush because I panicked and tried to straighten it. It crackled. Then I went out and finished the game. Three days earlier, in another game against France, I busted open my cheek, and so I had this huge black eye and a blood sack above my cheek. After the second game, when I broke my nose, it was super puffy, and now both my eyes were black. At the time, I was going to this small private catholic college and a lot of my professors were nuns. Needless to say, when I got back home, they looked at me pretty funny."