KINGSTON, R.I. – July 16, 2012 – Hundreds of incoming freshman at the University of Rhode Island are leaving behind outstanding high school athletic careers.
Some may join a club team or play intramurals, but they probably think their days of serious competition are over. They might reconsider once they hear the story of 2007 URI alumnus Kyle Marshall, who made the U.S national rugby team just three years after graduation.
The four-sport star from Narragansett High School thought about trying out for baseball when he first arrived on the Kingston campus, but realized he wanted a sport with more contact.
“So one day, I just walked out to the rugby pitch, and was immediately welcomed by the team,” he said. “By the end of that first year I was a starter.”
In 2010, the wildlife and conservation biology major and former URI rugby club member was selected to the national rugby sevens side, which unlike traditional rugby with its 15-player sides, plays only seven athletes at a time. Rugby sevens will be an Olympic sport in 2016, and while Marshall says he won’t be a candidate for that team, he cherishes the great opportunities that rugby gave him.
The biology teacher at Randolph High School in Randolph, Mass., credits URI with giving him a great academic foundation and launching him on a rugby career that has taken him to rugby bastions around the world.
“URI was my first choice,” said Marshall, who coaches rugby at nearby Brookline High School. “I knew I could play rugby spring and fall, and the academic program in the sciences at URI was excellent. I worked with some great professors and students in the classroom.”
In terms of rugby he learned the game from great mentors like Corey Joseph, the former URI player-coach, and Ethan Willis, former captain of the URI squad.
By 2005, the URI club was one of the best in New England, nailing down a 5-0 record. During the Division II club playoffs, the Rams lost to the eventual national champion Coast Guard Academy by a single point.
While the Rams played in Division II, the Northeast Conference is considered the toughest at that level. URI won the Beast of the East Tournament twice and the Buddy Cianci Sevens while Marshall was on the squad.
The summer after his URI graduation when he was being looked at by USA Rugby for the national sevens team, he contracted Lyme disease, and was out of the running. The two years after that, his bids were unsuccessful. But then in 2010, when he was ready to end his quest, the national team coach saw him play with the Boston Rugby Football Club in a tournament.
“He told me to get in shape and come out to the Olympic Training Center (in Chula Vista, Calif.) in two months,” Marshall said. “I tried out with 50 guys and I scored the highest on the fitness test.”
He was invited back to the next round with 24 other hopefuls. “I won the fitness competition again, and I played strong enough to make the squad and go on tour. We trained with the Navy Seals and they were very impressed with us.”
His selection was noted in a November 2010 story about the U.S. sevens squad on the website of Rugby America. “The third newcomer to the squad is Boston’s Kyle Marshall. Marshall was the fittest player at camp and smashed all previous Eagle Sevens fitness records,” the site said.
Ultimate Rugby Sevens, an online source for rugby sevens information, referred to “the exciting Kyle Marshall” in a Nov. 11, 2010 story. The story went on to say that Marshall “impressed during nationals this season, playing for Boston RFC. Marshall will be another exciting talent to watch in his series debut.”
He was one of 12 members of the U.S. sevens squad who traveled to the HSBC Sevens World Series in Dubai and South Africa. USA Rugby covered all of the players’ expenses. He wound up playing for the national team for six months.
He also went with his club team to Australia and defeated Newcastle University to capture the Premiership, the best rugby team in that area of the country.
“The rugby community has been so great to me,” Marshall said. “Boston RFC has found me a job and housing whenever I needed that kind of help,” Marshall said. “I got my first high school teaching job through rugby.”
While he loves the current stage of his life, Marshall said, “I think I would love to come to Rhode Island to teach. I love Rhode Island, it’s the best place on the planet.”
And how long will he keep playing this physically demanding sport? “As long as I can because it keeps you fit; you have to stay fast and explosive.
There are always the old boys squads, too.”
SHOWING THE COLORS: Rugby player Kyle Marshall proudly wears USA Rugby polo in a portrait shot. URI Photo by Michael Salerno.
TEAM USA: Team USA poses during a break in the action while in South Africa. URI alumnus and Narragansett native Kyle Marshall is standing fourth from the left. Photo courtesy of Kyle Marshall.