May 26, 2019

Matt "Sunshine" Shaffer is our last graduate this year. He came to Lawrence with a background in football, wrestling and pole vaulting. Rest assured he had all the athletic talent and drive needed to start rugby as a new sport in college. For his first two seasons he was bounced from wing to flanker and then back from flanker to wing based on where the team needed him that day. Towards the end of his college career, Matt had found his home in the loose forwards. He threw in at line out time when needed, his tackling never let the team down and he would be in support at the breakdown or for an offload in open play. After every practice or game, he would always come up to the coaches and ask what he needed to be doing to become a better rugby player; not only for himself but also to help the team. He had an unlucky string of injuries including both of his knees, a broken foot, and shoulder problems, but that never kept him from staying active in the club. He showed up to trainings, games, and socials while injured and was a wonderful teammate. That is a testamont of his character. We asked Sunshine some questions and here are his responses.
What are your plans after graduation?
"I plan on going to work as a construction inspector for the Missouri Department of Transportation. I will be moving back to Chillicothe, MO. with my fiancé GraceAnn."
What did you like about KJRFC?
"What I loved most about the club were the guys in the club. The guys who were either coaching or playing were just all around great guys and the type of people to always have your back no matter what. It made coming out every week and playing so much better with the kinship you got from everyone."
What was your fondest memory while on the club?
"My favorite memory would be playing against Iowa University my senior year. It was a really tough fought game that we won and I had some good runs in it."
What would you tell incoming players to the club?
"To new players I would say go all out. My first two years with the club I worked hard at practice but didn't really hit the gym at all. Senior year when we got our S&C Coach Burt Cockley, you got to see the difference in the teams abilities and how we played. So put as much into it because it makes all of it so much better."
Do you plan on playing after college?
"I may after we get settled in back at home and with my job. Chillicothe has a club that may be forming."
Matt, KJRFC wishes you and GraceAnn the best in what comes next for you. Thanks for your efforts and all that you sacrificed. Rock Chalk!

May 25, 2019

A.J. "Rocc" LaRocca is next up. His father Tony and his grandfather John both played for the KU Rugby Club making A.J. the third generation of LaRocca's to play at KU. Before coming to Lawrence, he played football at Butler Community College where he was a kicker. Rocc did his family proud playing both wing and fullback. He also played scrum half occasionally and as the picture below shows, blind side forward when needed. That goes to show how versatile and athletic he was. A fit and fast back, Rocc's accurate and powerful boot could kick for points from anywhere inside of the 50m line. He was a fearless defender and a threat on attack when he had the ball. He always had a smile on his face and had a positive attitude. We asked him some questions about his time with KJRFC and here are his responses.
What plans do you have after graduation?
"After graduation I will be working. I am talking with medical sales companies. That's what I would like to be involved in."
What did you like about the rugby club?
"What I loved about the club is the traditions, traveling all over the country to play in different states and even tour to different countries. I have played all sorts of sports my entire life and the game of rugby is by far my favorite. The memories and stories I have for this club are endless!"
What was your fondest memory while at the club?
"My fondest memory was touring New Zealand. The trip was a non-stop thrill. We covered so much ground and saw so many things for the time we were there. The clubs we played against are things I will remember for the rest of my life."
What would you tell incoming players about the club?
"My advice for future players is that with this club you will make so many friends and memories. What's great about this club is that it teaches you to grow as an individual not only on the pitch as a player, but also off of it as a person."
Do you plan to play rugby after graduation?
"I would love to continue to play after school. I am definitely going to try and play as long as I can."
A.J., thanks for all that you brought to KJRFC and best of luck to what the future holds. "Rocc" Chalk Jayhawk!

May 23, 2019

Riley Botz is our next graduate. Riley primarily played in the back three and on occasion was called upon to play at scrum half. He was always one of the fittest guys on the team and it was common for him to come across the field from his wing position during a game and make a try saving tackle to end an oppositions break away. He had been a member of the executive committee and had toured to Ireland with the club in '15. Between Riley's commitments with school, being a member of Delta Tau Delta at KU, Battalion Commander for KU Army ROTC, and his two jobs, he wasn't able to be at as many KJRFC events towards the end of his college life, but he came out and gave it his all when time allowed. We asked Riley some questions about his time with KJRFC and what comes next after graduation and here are his responses.
What are your plans after graduation?
"This summer I'm going to Fort Knox, Kentucky as a 2nd Lieutenant to train cadets to be future officers of the Army. I will then head to Fort Rucker, Alabama in September where I will go to flight school to be a pilot."
What did you like about the rugby club?
"There is an incredible brotherhood behind the rugby club. A lot of it derives from the sport which fosters a social environment, but the KU club is special because of the name we have made for ourselves. That didn't come from winning or losing games. It came from off the field team chemistry."
What was your fondest moment with KJRFC?
"My greatest memories with the club happened on tour in Ireland. I vividly remembered the laughs that we had and more specifically, being beaten in a game by a bunch of 15 year old Irish kids."
What would you tell incoming players to the club?
"To get involved socially and know that It doesn't matter if you are big or small, there is a place for you on the club."
Do you plan on playing rugby after graduation?
"As I move around from duty assignments I'll be actively seeking out rugby organizations I can get plugged into because there is no greater community than the rugby community."
Riley, you are a humble, positive thinking, and hard working individual.
We here you loud and clear Sir and I hope you know that KJRFC will always have your six covered. Best to you in flight school. Rock Chalk!

May 21, 2019

Josh Shipman came to KU to pursue his PhD after graduating from Truman State University. Josh already had experience on the pitch as he had played rugby at TSU under the tutelage of legendary coach Bill Sexton. Not only did he play for Bill, he was able to play against his alma mater as well when KU took on TSU in league play. Josh has accomplished a lot during his time in Lawrence in the classroom/laboratory, and on and off of the field. He has received his PhD and married the love of his life, Sarah(they both went on tour to New Zealand in '17). He plays hooker and loose forward and is a tireless worker on the field. Josh leads from the front and his positive attitude, work rate, and efficiency at the breakdown separate him from most players. Josh tore ligaments in his knee early on in the fall before games had started and missed the entire fall and spring season but didn't let that keep him from showing up to training sessions, games, and socials. He underwent surgery to repair his damaged knee and went through the arduous task of rehabilitation, which he often did on the sideline during trainings. He is now jogging in straight lines and working on his lateral movement. The coaching staff and his teammates hold the utmost respect for Josh as a senior player and as an overall good dude. If something needed to be done, he did it or organized people to do it. He's loyal, he's smart, he's passionate about what he does, and he makes a mean chili. What's not to like about that? We asked Josh some questions about his time with KJRFC and here are his responses.
What plans do you have after graduation?
"I'm currently seeking a research position in the pharmaceutical industry."
What did you like about the rugby club?
"The grounds at Westwick and being able to go out on a Saturday and spend the whole day at the fields and with my 30 year old son, Tim Fredrickson(KJRFC social chair)."
What is your fondest memory with KJRFC?
"Going on tour in New Zealand and scoring a try off of a maul against Paramata-Plimmerton."
What would you tell incoming players about the club?
"You are extremely fortunate to have the infrastructure and support around you that this club offers. Learn how to organize your time so that you can commit and take advantage of it."
Are you playing rugby after graduation?
"Yes, as soon as I can run sideways again."
Josh, we were fortunate to have you be a part of the club. You are an awesome human being and KJRFC wishes you and Sarah the best in what comes next for you. Rock Chalk!

May 20, 2019

When Ryan stepped on campus in 2015, you could tell that he was a good rugby player. The self proclaimed 'chubby kid' had a good knowledge of the game and skill set thanks to his father, Ed, who had played quite a bit of rugby previously and his Blue Valley High School coach and KJRFC Alumni, Matt O'Donnell. He also played a semester abroad at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. He came back to KJRFC after his semester abroad with a whole new tenacity and knowledge of the game. His junior year he was one of only 100 rugby players nationally to be invited to All American Camp, and 1 of only a handful of players invited from a DIaa school. Flash forward to 2019 and Ryan leaves KU with a legacy of being a great rugby player. He helped lead KU to two consecutive appearance in nationals. He has been to Ireland, New Zealand, and Scotland/Wales on tours with KJRFC, was this years captain, a Red Jacket Society member, and a previous Kernow Cup recipient. He's a three time Heart of America Collegiate team member that played in Aspen, Colorado. Ryan was an all around player. He could play hooker, anywhere in the back row, and anywhere in the backline. He could throw in at the lineout, make crunching spot tackles, kick to relieve pressure or for touch. He hit the line with blinding pace and could put his teammates into space with a short pop pass or wide spin pass. He is a complete rugby player and was a joy to watch on the field. Ryan was injured this past September in Aspen playing for the HOA and missed all of our league games in the Fall. We lost two close matches, both within 7 points, and there is no doubt had he played, those matches would have had different outcomes. He was that type of player. He elevated the team when he was on the field and never left anything in the tank at the end of the game. We asked Ryan some questions about his time with the club and here are his responses.
What are your plans after graduation?
"I am going to work for Burns and McDonnell in Kansas City, MO. "
What did you like about the rugby club?
"The thing I liked most about the rugby club would definitely be the people I got to play with. I have made lifelong friendships and memories thanks to the club."
What is your fondest memory with KJRFC?
"One of my fondest memories would probably be when we were on tour in New Zealand. I hadn't seen anyone in months since I was studying abroad and then we all went out together that night and had an awesome time."
What would you tell incoming players about the club?
"One thing I would tell incoming players would be just soak it all in. Especially as a freshman it's difficult navigating your way through college but being a part of the club provides amazing opportunities to travel, build friendships, and become a better version of yourself. So I'd say just take advantage of every opportunity you can get with the club."
Do you plan on playing rugby after graduation?
"At the moment I will likely take a season off from rugby to let my body reboot and then will likely play the following season."
Best to you Ryan with all that comes next. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

May 19, 2019

Next up is Ryan Harriman. Ryan is the outgoing president for the rugby club and has been part of a group that was instrumental in getting the rugby club back in the good graces with the University through sports clubs. As president, Ryan has set the template for years to come on how the team interacts with the university.He was a lineout and kickoff specialist that was always on winning the ball on our own throws and competing for the opposing teams throws and kickoffs. He loved having the ball in space and proved difficult to tackle in the open field. We asked him some questions and here were his responses.
What are your plans after graduation?
"I plan on going back to Miami to work with Lockton Insurance."
What did you like about the rugby club?
"I like the diversity of the club and how much we were willing to improve in my time here."
What is your fondest memory with KJRFC?
"My fondest memory would be the Sioux City tournament this year."
Do you plan on playing rugby after graduation?
"I haven't decided if I will continue playing rugby or take a little break."
Whatever comes next with Ryan's career, we know that he will put 100% into it. Rock Chalk!

May 18, 2019

Neil "Pops" McCarthy is yet another KU graduate that will be continuing the tradition of walking through the Campanile and down the hill for graduation tomorrow. Neil has been both the field and match secretary for the executive board, been to New Zealand and Scotland/Wales on tour with the club, is a Red Jacket Society Member, and was this years Kernow Cup winner. Neil was the consummate rugby player on and off of the field and as a teammate. You could always count on him for anything. A hard nosed player in the front row or in the loose that used his body with reckless abandon to secure the ball or bring down an opponent with absolutely no regard for himself. He would always get up and continue on, often with a wry smile on his face as described by one of his coaches. You could tell that he really enjoyed playing rugby. Another coach when asked about Pops had this to say,"It was late in the day of a tournament and everyone was pretty beat up and tired. A bunch of guys were telling me that they didn't want to start unless they had to. I could see that Pops was beat up and tired also. I asked him what about you Pops? How are you feeling? Neil forced himself to smile and told me that he was as good as gold. He's perhaps the toughest guy on the team and has one of the best attitudes. He always is concerning himself with other peoples needs and he always does what needs to be done. I don't think I've heard him complain one time." Another coach had this to say, "Well he is definitely a clubman. I have always appreciated how polite and helpful he is. He just did everything that was asked of him and then some more. I also love how knowledgeable he is about global politics. I have never met somebody as informed as him. I think he may be president someday."
We asked Neil some questions and here are his responses.
What are your plans after graduation?
"I have a job at Ultimus Fund Solutions in Omaha as a fund accountant."
What did you like about the rugby club?
"I thought this club is a great bunch of guys that really care about each other on and off of the field."
What was your fondest memory with KJRFC?
"My favorite memory with this club has been both tours I have gone on. The tour to Scotland/Wales was particularly fun."
What would you tell incoming players about our rugby club?
"If you fully commit to this club you will get everything back and more. It's the best bunch of guys you'll ever have the privilege to know."
Do you plan on continuing rugby after KU?
"Yes, possibly with the Omaha G.O.A.T.S"
Pops, we know you will be a great asset at your new job and for your new rugby club and wish you the best. Rock Chalk!

Westwick Rugby Complex, E 1094 Road, Lawrence, KS, United States 66047 --- Mail to: The Kansas Rugby Foundation Inc. P.O. Box 1182 Lawrence, KS 66044
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