Published on 31 October 2019
By day he is in the front row of his lecture theatre, preparing for his end of term exams.
But by the weekend, you will find Simon Uzokwe in the back row for Premiership Rugby team, Newcastle Falcons.
The 23-year-old University of Sunderland student is currently juggling his degree in Pharmacy with playing for the Falcons, and it requires a lot of organisation.
Simon said: “I’m pretty busy from the moment I wake up; university, then training, then revision, it’s pretty full on.”
Full on it might be, but it’s also a dream come true for Simon who has been playing since he was 11-years-old.
Born in Manchester but raised in Ipswich, Simon first started playing during PE lessons at Ipswich School.
He soon proved a force to be reckoned with ands began playing for the county before, at the age of just 14, getting picked up by Northampton Saints RFC, where he remained until he was 18.
Taking a gap year, Simon played for Ipswich Rugby Club before deciding what he was going to do when it came to picking a university.
He said: “I visited University of Sunderland during one of their open days and I really liked what they were offering when it came to pharmacy.
“My dad is a doctor and so I had always been brought up in that medical environment and Sunderland seemed like it had everything I was looking for.”
But there was also another reason for Simon to head up North – a reason close to his heart.
“I really wanted to get picked up by the Falcons,” said Simon. “And I knew if I came up here and proved myself, it would be a possibility.
Arriving in Sunderland, the young player juggled his first few years of study with playing for Darlington Mowden Park RFC for two seasons before he grabbed the attention of the Newcastle Falcons.
Simon’s rugby career has now gone from strength to strength, having just completed his second season with the club, which saw him make his first team debut against the Wasps on November 4 last year.
In January this year, he signed a new two year contract with the club which will see him continuing to play after he finishes his degree at the University of Sunderland. He also kicked off 2018 by making his European debut against Russian team Enisei-STM.
So, what are his long term goals and how does a career in pharmacy sit alongside Premiership rugby?
“Well, I’m lucky in that I’m doing two things I love,” said Simon. “My life would be so much harder if I got up every day dreading going to university, but I don’t.
“I know that if I ever have a career-ending injury that I will have something to turn to and I know that pharmacy is 100% something I want to continue doing as a long-term career.
“Playing professional rugby is something I’ve dreamt about since being a boy and now I’m living that life. But there’s still a long way to go, there’s still a lot to achieve. I want to be playing in the Premiership week in, week out.”
Simon, who lives in Sunderland but travels through to Kingston Park to train, says both the University and the rugby club have helped him manage his hectic schedule.
“The University have been brilliant, they have worked around my training and been incredibly helpful in making sure I don’t miss out on anything,” said Simon.
“We’re getting to exam time at the minute, so it’s been really busy and I’m doing a lot of revising.”
Simon Uzokwe: A Day in the Life:
“I usually wake up at around 7am and have a protein shake at around 7.30am.
“Next its either early gym training or early morning lecture, depending on what’s happening on the day.
“Any time between 9am and 10am I will have breakfast, usually beans, bacon, sausage and eggs.
“After finishing my morning lectures, I will drive through to Kingston Park where there is team training which finishes at around 1pm.
“Lunch at 2pm consists of something high in carbs; either rice, pasta with chicken or pork, maybe some vegetables.
“Then I hit the books and do some revision in the afternoon and maybe grab a snack of yoghurt and fruit as well as another protein shake.
“Dinner at 7pm usually consists of a chicken or pork salad, something much lower in carbs.
“I’m not a big drinker and have really only had a couple of nights out this year.
“Usually I just relax by going to the cinema, chilling out or playing on the PlayStation which I love to do with friends.”