National League leap of faith reaps rewards for David Langley
Cambridge prop takes elevation in his stride
It was a small step to National League One for some when Cambridge got promoted, but it completed a giant leap for David Langley.
And it was the power of social media that helped propel the 23-year-old to become one of the fixtures of the front row this season.
Langley has been one of the top performers for the club so far this campaign, and that makes his step up even more impressive.
Langley had spent his younger years with London League side South Woodham Ferrers, but when he moved to Colchester to study at university, he switched to the National League Three club.
However, given their recent elevation to that level, he struggled to get a look in for the first team.
But the trajectory of his rugby career took a different turn when he was spotted playing for Colchester's Ravens' second team at Volac Park.
"Rowland (Winter), who was our director of rugby last year, messaged me about a month later and said 'we've been trying to get hold of you, do you want to come down?'. And it sort of went from there,said Langley.
"It was a massive surprise. I actually got a Facebook message and because I wasn't a friend with him it came through on a different chat, and it had been there for about a week and I'd ignored it.
"I just had a look at it and thought this guy is saying he is the Cambridge director of rugby and he wants me to come along. Okay, where are Cambridge? National Two. Let's give it a go.
"He just said he thought I had a lot of potential and a lot of work-ons."
Having made the step up to Cambridge, it took Langley time to adjust to his new surroundings, but by the end of the season he was in perfect sync with National League Two.
And his progress was highlighted by a match against the side that many from his hometown club aspired to represent.
"It was actually quite a surreal moment because I think either our second or third to last game was against Southend and South Woodham Ferrers is very close to Southend,said Langley.
"From South Woodham, if you'd gone to Southend as a rugby player you were at the pinnacle of your career.
"I came up against them and we beat them and relegated them so it was a bit surreal."
So strictly speaking, in little under a year Langley has stepped up around five levels, but little would you realise given the calibre of his performances this season.
And he puts great credit for that down to working with the likes of forwards' coach Dan Seal and experienced prop Ricky Reeves.
"It's been absolutely fantastic,said Langley.
"I've never had a proper scrum coach or proper forwards' coach who's actually been able to say do this, this, this and this.
"Dan's been working with me out on the field and Ricky's been working with me in the gym, just teaching me what to do when to do it and just trying to tweak little bits trying to get me from where I was a couple of weeks ago to where I am now.
"I've gone up about four or five levels in about a year and a half.
"When I first came here I dove into it headfirst. I was trying to take it incredibly seriously and I think that was actually a bit detrimental as when I focus on something too much I will be over-analysing stuff.
"I think this season it's been better to just take a step back, listen to what the coaches are saying, work it in and just try to keep working on everything.
"National League One has been a very odd league but it's a great, great learning experience.
"Personally, we're coming up against ex-professional players and just the chance to play against those guys is crazy."
There has also been huge competition for places in the front row this season, with Langley not only having to battle for a jersey with Seal and Reeves, but also the likes of Tom Jones, Sisa Naqasima, David Coutts and Ben Ibrahim.
But Langley has been a consistent selection, making 14 appearances out of a possible 16 games, and his ability to help get the team to and beyond the gain line has been impressive.
"As a prop, I always think that you should be a ball carrier and I love to get the ball,he said.
"It's a massive competition to see there is a guy standing in front of you and you want to smash them and knock them over.
"This season it's just been working on fitness to give me more the opportunity to get to that position and try to work on again, working with Ross (Stewart, Cambridge's director of rugby) and a couple of the other coaches just teaching me more my position and how to run."