Nick Purewal's Holm Truths column: Criminal Mind George proud of 'safety net' underpinning his rugby
Dan George knows the M4 corridor as well as anyone. The Gloucester hooker explained why it was worth splitting his week between Swansea and London, all for an education.
SEIZING the opportunity proved all very well – but Dan George was intent on securing his future off as well as on the field.
Midway through his Criminology degree at Swansea University, London Welsh came calling with a full-time pro contract.
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Bullish hooker George was quick to sign up – but equally fast to secure a plan to finish his degree too.
The former Scarlets academy front-rower deferred his studies to wedge his feet under the table at Welsh – then later balanced the final stage of his degree with rugby.
"Criminology was something different," he explained. "Growing up you come through the systems.
"I was 16 when the academies kicked off in Wales, so I was the first batch through.
"I was keen to make sure it wasn't just rugby, rugby, rugby all the time.
"I just wanted something totally different, and left-field.
"Criminology took me totally away from the rugby field and allowed me to switch off from rugby and focus on something entirely different.
"Swansea is a very good university and the rugby played there is of an extremely high calibre too.
"I spent three years at university, then I deferred my studies to go and play for London Welsh professionally.
"Then I went back to uni part-time for my final year, while still playing at Welsh.
"So I was able to complete my degree but also play professional rugby.
"I was able to play in the first varsity match in the Millennium Stadium too, I ended up turning out at number eight for Swansea.
"It was brilliant, under a closed roof with a 15,000 crowd.
"That was tough, up and down the motorway two or three times a week.
"I finished my degree though, and was then able to get straight back into professional rugby again.
"I really enjoyed the whole experience."
George made the Gloucester switch from Welsh in the summer, after the London club's one-year Premiership adventure under then-boss Lyn Jones.
Studies well behind him, the 27-year-old said he is intent on securing a long-term Kingsholm future.
The longer he can stay in rugby the better – but he will always be relieved to have the degree 'safety-net' in hand.
Perhaps one day he will pick up again in his work on youth offending – and if so, he will use sport to help youngsters turn away from crime.
He continued: "I've always looked down different avenues to be able to use it in the future.
"I did my dissertation on youth offending, so whether it's to go into something along those lines or something else I'm not sure yet.
"In an ideal world I would love to stay in rugby as long as I can, coaching hopefully after playing.
"But more than anything else, I know I've got a safety net, which is important.
"My degree could help me look at a career in the police force or the probation service for example.
"Often sport is a good vehicle to help youngsters get out of a rut.
"Youth offending can often be a vicious circle, they just keep going and going.
"All of a sudden people find they can't get out of a problem.
"There are a lot of schemes out there to help now, and that's important.
"You see it on Sky's School of Hard Knocks, but that's with adults.
"But you get them young enough, get them out of their habits, hopefully instil some sporting values in them, and hopefully you open their eyes to the world that's outside their goldfish bowl.
"You grow up, finish the studies and then you're able to concentrate on the rugby again.
"Now it's time to get my head down, work hard and do the best I can for the team and the boys."