The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby 7s Championship was held at Talen Energy Stadium again this year. I wasn’t as present as in past years, but I’m proud to say I’ve been to this event for the 8 or 9 consecutive years Chester has hosted this tournament.
At first glance, I became fascinated with the game because it reminds me of how we played football in the back alley as kids. I was surprised to see so few black players considering how well blacks perform as football running backs, which is what a rugby team is comprised of since there’s no forward passing or blocking. Then I considered if a black player was good enough for the rugby team, a club sport, he’s probably just as good for the football team, a scholarship sport.
In 2016 Talen Energy Park (PPL Park) made their practice fields available for the rugby tournament teams to bring all their games to one location. It was a game on one of those practice fields that I saw New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) for the first time.
I was stunned and ignorant at the same time. I was stunned to see a team without a white player. I was ignorant trying to figure out who they were with the HU on their jerseys. Was it Howard University? Hampton University? Who da Hell University? One of the players told me the name but his accent was so thick, I didn’t understand what he was saying. I just got the camera ready to capture what I could.
They won the championship that year by dominating the National Small College Rugby Organization category and would have likely done very well against the big schools (beating University of California would have been a tall task). I became an instant fanboy. The school enrolls 3500 students, and this was their 2nd championship in a row. 80% of their players graduate with college degrees.
Each year since then, of the hundreds of games played over the weekend during the tournament, I make it a point to watch the 5 or 6 games NMHU play.
They won the championship again this year. I could only attend their semi-finals game this year because of work and other obligations but when I walked on the field behind their bench, the returning players called me by name and expressed appreciation for the coverage.
In the five games they played this weekend, they went undefeated with a combined score of 139-to-19. As we say around Chester, Total Domination.