Wednesday, January 30, 2008

AZ Guardsman pursues rugby dream

By Air Force Capt. Bob Everdeen, Provincial Reconstruction Team Qalat
Oct 1, 2007 - 1:20:37 PM

Blackanthem Military News

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – An Arizona National Guard Soldier assigned to the Provincial Reconstruction Team here has been accepted into the All-Army Rugby Training Camp program.

Spec. Christopher Eckerson, a former schoolteacher in Gilbert, Ariz., joined the Army as an infantryman in 2006. Prior to that, he spent four years in a Marine Corps commissioning program at Norwich University. Ironically, that program came to an end after he suffered a severe injury playing rugby. But that didn’t end his drive to continue his military service or pursue his dreams of playing rugby. He travels to Fort Benning, Ga., this month to try out for the team.

“They weeded through a lot of applications to find the best 36 players to invite to the camp,” Eckerson said. “Within a month, the best 25 players in the United States Army, Reserves and National Guard will be selected to represent the team to try and win the Armed Forces Rugby Championship.”

Eckerson’s rugby career started at Norwich University when rugby coach Robert Weggler saw him playing goaltender for the college’s soccer team. Weggler recruited Eckerson and provided him with training clinics led by several U.S. National team coaches.

“Our league was the hardest in the nation for Division I collegiate rugby,” Eckerson said. “We competed against Harvard and Dartmouth, teams that had great players and European superstars. I’ve also played with—and learned from—players on my team who have competed against international teams like New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.”

“Chris is a complete rugby player who has a mix of collegiate rugby and men’s rugby experience,” said Robert Weggler head rugby coach of Norwich University. “He is a winner with outstanding rugby skills and he is of great character.”

Eckerson attributes his skills and character to his military training and experience.

“I’m a better player because the military has taught me teamwork, discipline and commitment to success,” he said. “For training, I prepare myself to be able to sustain 80 minutes of running and physical contact. I hope to continue with rugby as far as I can and I’ll continue to play as long as my body lets me.”

The Armed Forces Rugby Championship tournament takes place Oct. 23-28 at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

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