Two ACU brothers have been selected to play in an international rugby tournament in New Zealand.
Juan Escobedo, junior nutrition and exercise science major, and Adrian Escobedo, freshman health promotion major, are from Round Rock and have been playing rugby since they were in high school.
Their first exposure to the sport was through their older brother, who was asked to play rugby in high school and would come home raving about how much fun he had at practice. Juan, skeptical at first, ended up playing during his junior year of high school.
Adrian said he was introduced to rugby during a time in his life that he wanted to focus on baseball. Because rugby practices were so early, he decided to wait and didn’t start playing until his sophomore year of high school. He made the athletic transition to rugby after being offered a leadership position at a Christian leadership group.
The brothers have been leaders on ACU’s club team, teaching players who have no experience. Head Coach Keith Goeddertz said the two have acted as coaches and stepped up to run drills when he is working one-on-one with new players. He said, paired with their leadership, passion has helped them excel.
“When people think of rugby players, they think of huge 230 pound plus guys on the field,” Goeddertz said. “Adrian and Juan are the two smallest guys on the team, but they have the biggest hearts and drive than anyone I know. There is a position on the field for any person’s size. Adrian and Juan have been able to use their body size to excel in their positions.”
The opportunity to represent the conference presented itself at a rugby combine in San Antonio. Eight of ACU’s team members tried out for the team.
“We are in the Lone Star Conference and, once we established ourselves as a team, we got an email from the conference director saying that there was going to be an all-star opportunity,” Adrian said. “The opportunity was to go play in New Zealand.”
Players from the Lone Star Conference can attend one of a few tryouts to get picked for the team that will go on the tour. Of about 70 people, only 25 will make the cuts.
“The best players get picked during tryouts,” Juan said. “You go to the tryout and they offer you the choice of joining the team. We were blessed with that opportunity.”
The trip will cost them $5000, which covers housing, air fare, food, equipment, free-time activities and team building events. Because the cost is so high, Juan started a GoFundMe to help raise money in order for them to attend. In two months, they have raised a total of $765 through eight donors.
“We will be representing this conference from Texas and Abilene Christian University in this international tournament,” Juan. “We’ve been blessed that our passion for rugby has opened many opportunities for us and we want to continue to seize them.”
Juan said his excitement is in meeting the guys on their new team and forming relationships within the Lone Star Conference. Adrian added to this, saying his excitement was found in the tools they will learn from professionals and bring back to expand ACU rugby.
Because the team is spread throughout Texas, a portion of the training must be done through the club team. Occasionally, practices are scheduled for all of the players to meet in one location to practice as a group. Adrian said this kind of accountability and integrity is what it takes for them to reach their dream of eventually playing for USA Rugby.
“The big thing is integrity. Knowing what you want and reaching our dreams and trying to achieve it even when no one is watching.” Adrian said. “We both have aspirations to be USA Rugby players, and this opportunity is going to help us with our rugby experience as well as just adding more tools to the belt and stuff we can train on.”
The two said despite many setbacks such as finances and size, they are most excited to learn and challenge themselves so they can inspire others.
“Our dream is to shine a light on rugby and how, with our circumstance, we can prove that anything is possible with God,” Adrian said. “We’re taking this game and every step with God. We’re going to achieve our dreams no matter the cost. We’re not going to give up; we’re going to have a relentless effort toward it despite the odds or our financial situation. We know that God is going to take care of it if we stick to what we believe in and never give up.”