On the field and under the lights

Reporter and Reporter

The BG Rugby Club has a history of bringing in high-end players from across the world with much experience.

This past semester, it saw the likes of Alex Hopkirk, a British foreign exchange student who wanted to see how rugby was played in the states.

It’s not very often a United Sates rugby team has a player come along with the experience of playing in South Africa, a rugby enthusiast nation that has won two of the last three rugby world cups.

That is exactly what BG got in fall 2009 when current player Mike Brown joined the squad.

Brown lived in the states until the ripe young age of 12, when he and his dad moved to South Africa. It was there that Brown became a real student of the game and learned how to play rugby the right way.

“Not only playing in a nation that big into rugby benefited me, but I feel that by watching some of the top athletes in the game I was able to see the game differently,” Brown said.

Coach Tony Mazzarella is always looking for ways to make his team better. When he met Brown on a preview day in 2009 and heard about his playing days in South Africa, he was intrigued.

“Mike came to us on Presidents Day winter of 2009, and [when] he told us about how he grew up playing in South Africa, both me and my dad’s eyes lit up,” Mazzarella said. “From there we took him out to dinner and he seemed very knowledgeable about rugby and that was all we needed to hear.”

Brown plays the hooker position, which has developed into really a fourth flanker position. Hookers have some size to them, yet still are athletic enough to move the ball from side to side.

Mazzarella describes Brown as more of a “hybrid” type at this position because he has enough size to fill out the position and is still one of the more athletic players on the team.

Since Brown is used to playing on one of the biggest rugby stages in the world, he is also used to the spotlight by now. It is because of this that Brown is one of the more humble players on the team and refuses to let his talents go to his head.

“Mike is one of the more gifted players on the team, both athletically and scholastically,” BG Rugby Director Roger Mazzarella said. “He is what I would characterize as more of a silent leader, a guy who really leads by example, and most of the guys respond well to his presence.”

Brown was at his best in a game against Indiana during the fall season where he was directly involved in the Falcons getting the 30-27 victory. Both Tony and Roger described him as being in the right place at the right time; on that day their descriptions held true when he stole a scrum late in the game against Indiana, which led to the game-winning try.

That was one of his most memorable moments from fall season, but it won’t be the last, as Brown and the rest of the Falcons will continue play Saturday under the lights at Doyt L. Perry stadium against Michigan.

The Falcons have struggled as of late, going just 1-3 in their first four, but hope to bounce back this weekend.