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Sunday, March 7, 2021

RugbyPickEmBio - 018 - Rob Kelly

The Form, The Grace, The Beauty ...

Rob Kelly (aliases include Jim Bob Kelly) and I played college rugby together at Wake Forest University. Rob played flyhalf, but his best asset wasn't his on field performances. Instead, it was his ability to make all teammates feel welcomed and included in the team fabric. 

Always a Fan Favorite
He led from the front on the field and at the post-game socials. Genial, comedic and affable to almost any situation he was thrown into, his presence was felt throughout our team.

When You're Ready For the Post-Game Social .....

He wasn't half bad at rugby either, bagging meat twice (brace-face 😬) in the 2012 final game against Va Tech. Rob played the game exactly like someone who's 160 lbs soaking wet ..., craftier that you'd expect, and always holding on for dear life. 

He'd take a gap when presented, finesse his boot to the team's advantage, but when he went in for a tackle, the entire sideline would exhale once we could confirm he hadn't been demolished. 

Hard nosed, and never taking himself too seriously, Rob is the exact type of "glue guy" that any college rugby coach doesn't just want, but NEEDS. 

Who doesn't love a cheeky chip kick?

During our tenure there, the team grew each year and the level of competition was raised each and every year. In 2012 we posted a 7-4 record. Under head coach (and college rugby growth facilitator) Pat Kane, the program grew from the fringe of D3 to something special that year in 2012. 

After reaching the highs of a successful season, the following year saw the Demon Deacons winless in what became a massively competitive ACRL (the league that Pat Kane had championed and helped create). After dedicating a decade of his life to molding the the Wake Forest Rugby program into a highly competitive side, Pat stepped down and has continued to grow the game in the Greensboro NC area. 

His tenure with the program accelerated the growth of rugby in the Carolinas on the Collegiate level. The ACRL 7's was a completely unique experience for new players who we're trying rugby for the first time, and experienced players who hadn't had the opportunity to play high level teams. I still remember our 12-hour van trip from Winston-Salem NC to Tallahassee FL (slept about 11.5 hours), and hosting the tournament in nearby Greensboro NC in 2010 & 2011.

Although Wake never hoisted any hardware we picked up pool game wins that instilled the confidence in our team that we could compete with high-level teams in the upcoming 15s season. Iron sharpens iron, and sure enough in 2012 we forged some W's.

That 2012 Wake Forest Rugby team after defeating Virginia Tech 43-29

Seven years later, Wake competes in the Southern Rugby Conference, playing the local teams in North Carolina (App State, Furman, Elon, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte) that I first played as a freshman in 2008. It's funny how things almost always come full circle. 

Top 3 - Wake Forest Ruggers (from graduating classes  of 2012 & 2013)

Rob's #Top3

Johnny McMurray

Will Hank

Ben Cohen

Bt's #Top3

Chris Ryan

Wes Bloomer (best to never play)

Jack Zimmerman

Rob grew up in the greater D.M.V. area, and is not only a season ticket holder of the Major League Rugby franchise, Old Glory D.C., but he is also a founding member of "The Glory Hole" ... the cheering section that fused Catholic Stadium with palpable energy during Old Glory's first few home games before the season was cancelled due to Covid-19. 

The Glory Hole in all its might ...


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