After being named the HBCU Rugby Classic Champions and getting to go to nationals, the Howard University men’s rugby team is back, ready for the 2023-2024 season.
The team’s coaches, captain, and players all seem to be on one accord when it comes to further establishing the Howard men’s rugby name.
The team was brought to Howard’s campus by former captain, Daniel Davillier, a “lifelong” player of the game and an alumnus from New Orleans back in 2021. “…in Drew Hall my freshman year, I met around five or six guys that had played before too, so I wanted to create a program,” Davillier said. “We started with ten guys at best, and we focused on showing we were serious about rugby being a program and that we wanted to win at the highest level.”
After Davillier acted as the catalyst or what the team likes to refer to as the “Herd Hero” to get the rugby team off the ground, they were able to grow from having around nine players to 15 in the 2023 spring season. The team since then has expanded to having a consistent 23 to 26 guys on the roster for the 2023 fall and 2024 spring seasons.
Head Coach Tito Miranda has shared insight into how the team is preparing for the upcoming season. “We didn’t have much of a preseason, so right now we are focused on teaching the new kids how to play. We started practice last week, and now have to teach them how to tackle, pass, and other things so in the spring when they come to practice we can just hit the drills,” Miranda shared.
The team last year primarily focused on playing sevens, but this year they will also run 10s and 15s. Miranda also revealed that the Bison have a few matches scheduled this fall against different schools.
Miranda is not the only one excited for the season. Many of the players are also looking forward to improving their skills and the team’s success as early as this fall.
Forward Tyler Johnson, a junior sports management major from New Orleans, spoke to his hopes for the team’s journey this year. “My personal goal for this season is to win regionals and be a more consistent team week in and week out. Obviously, we made nationals last year, but that was more so because we played hard and were given a chance to prove ourselves on the biggest stage,” Johnson said.
Even though Johnson originally joined the team because he knew Davillier from high school and wanted to stay fit, he now has personal goals to improve as a player. Johnson shared “learning rugby was hard and I’m still learning to this day, but consistency and the coaching we receive every week has really helped me grow over the last year.”
The team is hoping to start playing as early as Sept. 30 in their first tournament of the season. While their schedule is not finalized, they also hope to play throughout Maryland in three more tournaments in October.
“If we combine playing hard and playing smart, I think we’ll easily win our league and get a shot at nationals again, this time trying to win it all,” Johnson said. The team is planning to live up to a national qualifying standard and has been working hard with three practices a week since Sept. 7.
Captain Hilary Kangethe, a senior mechanical engineering major from Nairobi, Kenya, spoke on goals he has for leading the team during the upcoming season. “I want the team to win the conference and nationals. We know we have the ability now with our numbers and experience so that is what I’m focusing on,” Kangethe said.
“As the captain, my personal goal this year is to leave a legacy behind with Howard Rugby that there is a constant upward climb where every year we are improving. I want to come back in five years and the team is a well-established program.”
The team operates as a Howard organization and is trailblazing for rugby teams at HBCUs. Last year, the Howard women’s and men’s rugby teams were the first HBCU teams to compete on a national level. This year the team hopes to be the first HBCU team to win nationals.
Howard University has been very intentional in offering its support of rugby at the University. Intramurals Director Jomah Watson was integral in working with the team to become a 5013C organization and to gain funds from the Student Activity Fee Committee (SAFC) which they used to travel to different conferences in last year’s season. As the season progresses, the team is hopeful to gain trainers, more access to facilities, and Howard transportation to continue fostering their success.
“In the future, we just hope to have more local support. It would be great if we could get some home games to allow the students and the guys’ friends to come out and support,” Miranda said. The team has a lot coming up this school year and hopes to continue increasing its visibility within the Bison community.
Learn more about how to support and keep up with the team through their Instagram @Howardmensrugby.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew