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1. You grew up as a pretty serious football player and even spent some time as a counselor at a Jacksonville Jaguars summer camp. How did you end up making the switch to rugby?
My oldest brother played rugby when he went to Florida State, so I always knew the game was out there, but I didn’t get into the sport until the spring semester of my senior year of college. (Shout out to my roommate Dan Sprando) So after 17 years of football, pee wee to college ball, Rugby seemed like the next logical step.
2. What other Clubs have you played for?
I’ve played for Schuylkill, obvi, but I have also run with the Indian River Raptors. They’re a rugby club down in Vero Beach, FL. They started up in 2011, play 15s and 7s, and I always try to get a training session in with them any time I go back down south.
3. Tell us about the summer you spent playing 15s down in Florida. That must have been pretty brutal.
Yeah, with Indian River in a friendly with Boca Raton Red Eyes. It was mid-July, so it was 90 something with an ungodly amount of humidity. Worse part, I played a full 80 minutes at scrum half. I usually play hooker, flanker, or prop. I now have a huge respect for 9s.
4. Why is Schuylkill River the Club for you?
When I was coming out of college, I knew I was moving to the Philly area for Grad School. I sent out emails to all the teams on the Find a Club app on USA Rugby. Funny enough, the first and only response was from one Patrick Boyle with a three paragraph email telling me to come out and see how I like the team. I went to a practice and after I knew I had found my club.
5. We’ve talked a little about your Florida roots. Explain how you’re sort of from Florida but really from Philly and therefore a Philly sports fan.
My mother was born and raised in South Philly, my dad’s family is from South Jersey. My three brothers and I were born here cough cough I was born in Connecticut * cough cough * My dad had four sons and a wife to take care of, and the first job offer was in Florida. Bing, we move to Florida. I went to school down there, but every summer / holiday, we would come back up here because both sides of our family lived here. Both my parents, and older brothers, were die hard Philly fans, so naturally I and my little brother followed suit.
6. But what’s up with you also being a Cubs fan?
Slanderous Lies. Phillies all the way. But I do love Chi-town. Been there quite a few times. Best city in the world, three months out of the year.
7. Okay, let’s take a moment to pay the bills really quick. You’re a professional artist. Tell us about your new website and the artistic services that you provide.
I dance for money. I mean draw. I draw for money. Yes, I went to undergrad for studio art. Then I got my Masters of Fine Art from The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, with an emphasis in Painting and Drawing. I now have a studio at the academy and teach illustration and graphic novel classes at the academy. You can find my art at www.mattmcknightart.com Let me know what you think and if you’d like some work :D
8. Who is better at art, you or Dave Jones?
Me. Bring it, Davie.
9. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you strive to personify that?
To me, Philly Rugby is about friendship, being sincere, and being honest. That’s what I love about this city. I appreciate it when people tell me the truth, even if it hurts my feelings. The only way you fix something is if you acknowledge it. This club has helped me better myself and become the guy I am now.
10. Your off-season work has been noticeable in terms of adding muscle to your frame. Give us some official Matt McKnight Muscle Man Philly cheesesteak recommendations.
Thank you, I’ve lost over thirty pounds and feel even stronger. On the food front, the trick to a good cheesesteak is the bread. The best steak in Philly is Tony Luke’s. The Phillies have them in the ballpark. You disagree with me, you disagree with the best baseball team ever. The best cheesesteak outside of Philly is White House Subs in Atlantic City, NJ. Their bread is fresh and their meat is 98 % lean. Don’t like it? You’re wrong.
11. How many years of rugby have you played?
Since March of 2014, so going on four years.
12. How has Schuylkill’s structure, which provides multiple sides regularly playing 80 minute league matches, helped you develop as a player compared to if you were only playing here and there in B-side matches at first?
Only way to learn the game is to play. Make mistakes, and find out how to be better next time. If you’re getting 80 minutes a week, six to eight weeks a season, that helps you get closer to those 10,000 hours you need to master something. Plus, you get to play so many more positions and learn new skills in those games. In B-Side games, it’s usually filling in what is needed and playing two 20 minute halves with guys who just put in a full 80. Better minutes equals better learning.
13. I’ve noticed that you post a lot of art of Instagram and in particular you make a lot of comics. Where does your inspiration come from?
I grew up drawing and reading my older brothers comics. Making a living doing something I’d do anyway seems like the kinda thing I wanna put back into the world. My comics and art are how I connect with the world. I see something, internalize it, then give back how I view it.
14. Who’s your ideal 4 person superhero team?
Tough Question: Long Answer – My DC Team would be Batman, Hal Jordan Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Barry Allen Flash. My Marvel Team would be Wolverine, Spider-Man, Thor, and Storm.
My Wildcard / Misfit teams would be – Marvel: Moon Knight, Magik, Mimic, and The Fabulous Frog Man. – DC: Booster Gold, Zatanna, Guy Gardner, and Kite-Man (Hell Yeah).
15. Are you willing to call Matt Chiaramonte out and declare yourself to be a better, and more knowledgeable, comic book fan than he is?
He’s got quite a few years in the comics game on me, but I definitely could keep up with him in a convo. Also, he likes Superman the best. Batman is better.
16. What is the proudest moment of your rugby career thus far?
Going on tour to Ireland, playing those two games, scoring in one and winning the other is definitely up there. Made a lot of memories with the club, forgot some too. Looking forward to more.
17. What do you hope to accomplish going forward in your rugby career?
Playing the game in more places, states, and countries. Sharing it with others, and meeting and making more friends through it. And in the words of Michael Coach, “Scoring sexy tries.”
18. You traveled to Ireland with Schuylkill in 2016 and will be traveling to South Africa with us in March. What’s the best part of getting to travel to other countries with your team?
Playing rugby is awesome, playing rugby in a country you’ve never been is awesomer. But in all honesty, I love how this game is a construct that connects people from all over. Having the opportunity to make life long memories with your friends is one of the best thing you can do.
19. How does it feel to be voted by your teammates as one of the 3 nicest guys on the team alongside Ryan Tower and Ryan McHugh?
You guys are losers
20. How does it feel to know that I just made that up?
Refer to previous answer
Schuylkill River Rugby would like to invite all Philadelphia rugby players to join us this winter for weekly touch rugby which will take place at Fairmount Park’s Edgeley Field. Directions can be found here (https://www.epru.org/field-locations/edgely-field-fairmount-park) or by setting your GPS to Randolph and Reservoir. The games will take place on Saturday mornings at 10:30AM beginning on January 20th. If you have any questions please e-mail our Club Captain Joe Midwig (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the second installment in our off-season player profile series we sit down with John Hines Jr.
1. Let’s get to the heart of the issue right off the bat. Who’s a better dancer, you or your brother Vaughn?
Vaughn is the better dancer. He inherited the rhythm and I got competitiveness over him.
2. Okay, back to serious for a second, how long have you been playing rugby?
This will be my 6th year playing rugby
3. The coaches like to move you around because of your versatile skill set, what’s your favorite position to play?
My favorite has to be fullback because I can pick my spots on the field, exploit gaps and create for myself and my teammates. Plus, I get to kick sometimes
4. You play a lot of back 3 but obviously love lowering the shoulder and putting the boom on somebody. Where does that mentality come from?
I definitely get it from my dad. Growing up he often talked about playing football and giving people “snot bubbles” which occur when you hit someone hard enough to knock snot bubbles out of their nose.
5. What attracted you to the game of rugby and got you playing in the first place?
Rugby was so attractive to me because of the physicality of the sport. I’ve only played light contact sports (basketball and baseball), so actually hitting people is so much fun.
6. What makes Schuylkill River the club for you?
Schuylkill River is the club for me because of the brotherhood aspect of the club. Everyone is so close and everyone cares about one another. A key moment for me was when I got hurt in college, I got so much support from Schuylkill even though I had only played one summer here at the time.
7. What’s your proudest rugby moment so far?
My proudest rugby moments are probably captaining U23 and winning Men’s open both years.
8. What do you hope to accomplish individually and with Schuylkill going forward in your career?
For both 15s and 7s, I want to be a regular on both premier sides for Schuylkill. Individually, I just want to get into great shape, improve my game and travel to play.
9. Your family comes to a lot of matches, and your mom is pretty active within our Club’s social media. How does their support help you perform?
The support helps a lot, whether it’s pushing me to play better because I know who’s watching or just knowing that they’re behind me 100% whether I have a great game or a bad one.
10. In my last interview with Ryan McHugh I asked for some cheese steak recommendations. What are your go-to spots and do you have any special order recommendations?
My go-to cheesesteak spot is Maxx’s on Broad and Erie. The best in the world. All I get on mine is the regular SPK and some mayo.
11. I saw a meme about this online and for some reason I thought of you. If you were outside with your dog and two dogs started barking at him would you start barking back with him so your dude wouldn’t be outnumbered?
Of course I’d join my dog in barking at them. They’re not gonna bark jump Big Nico.
12. What’s on your pregame playlist?
My pregame playlist consists of a lot of Meek Mill (Free Meek), Dave East and Rick Ross
13. You call me granddad, especially on game day. What was the reaction from your family like the first time they noticed you doing that?
It was hilarious, they were like “first of all, who is grandpa and why is he grandpa”. They were so perplexed
14. Who’s your favorite pro player? I’d heard before that it was Eben Etzbeth from South Africa which would make our teammate Izak happy.
Actually my favorite pro player has to be Reiko Ioane. He’s a great young player that can burn you or go through you.
15. In addition to 15s, you’ve had plenty of success in 7s as well and captained our U-23 Academy to a MAC championship last summer. Which version of the game do you prefer and why?
I prefer 7s because of its open play and how it forces you to work on your fitness, defense and your handling skills.
16. Unless I’m mistaken, you’re from Philadelphia. How did you end up becoming a Steelers fan?
My dad and my mom’s parents are all Steelers fans. Plus I have family in Pittsburgh, so I was born into greatness
17. What’s a fact about you that might surprise your teammates?
One fact that might surprise them is that I’m super into poetry and the arts. I love writing and I love seeing it performed and I admire all works of art.
18. What does Philadelphia rugby mean to you and how do you try to embody that?
Philadelphia rugby, to me is very technical and scrappy. Most teams I’ve seen in Philadelphia are smaller in stature than other teams but always overcome that by being more fit, more gritty and more technically sound.
19. Do you prefer Donald Glover or Childish Gambino?
Childish Gambino is the better being
20. What’s the first thing you’re buying if you win the lottery?
If I win the lotto, I’m buying a huge house with my face painted on the garage door.
In the first installment of our off-season player profile series we play 20 questions with Ryan McHugh (with a bonus question at the end for all of you club treasurers out there!). Let’s get right to it.
1. How many years have you played rugby? I will be going on my 20th year of playing.
2. What made you stick with the sport? The teamwork required to win and the family aspect of a rugby team.
3. What position do you wish coach would let you play? Everyone wants to play hooker right? I love my role know but I wouldn’t mind trying center.
4. What previous clubs have you played for? I played for Media for about 15 years.
5. How come people say you went to St. Joe’s but you’re always wearing Temple gear? I actually graduated from SJU, but I was fortunate to coach at Temple and most of my closest friends went there.
6. What drew you to Schuylkill River initially? Aside from persistence it had to be the team culture they had built and and opportunity to play with my friends. I also wanted to challenge myself by playing D1.
7. What’s your favorite thing about being part of Schuylkill River Rugby? Aside from the constant ball busting it is playing for a team that works this hard yet is never satisfied. It was also pretty cool to play for a legit 7s program
8. You have an interesting nickname, where did that come from? In college I was tall, white, skinny, and bled a lot.
9. What other sports do you like besides rugby? College basketball, baseball, and hockey
10. Do you prefer Carson Wentz or Randall Cunningham? The Ultimate Weapon was great to watch but Carson is a generational talent.
11. Do you prefer Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons? Simmons is going to be a multi time all star but he needs to improve his shooting. Got to go with Embid here.
12. What is your proudest rugby moment? Going undefeated in our first season at Media and making back to back trips to nationals. Starting for Schuylkill is pretty high up there too.
13. You grew up pretty close to the Frankford area of the city, what’s it like to give back to your community through Rookie Rugby? It is great. They are an amazing group of kids who truly appreciate our time and are starting to enjoy the game.
14. Tell me what Philadelphia rugby means to you and how you embody that ethos? Just like our city, rugby here is blue collar. We are all about out working our opponent and doing anything necessary to win.
15. Who do you think could talk longer about rugby without stopping, Pat Boyle or Greg “Loopy” Mininger? I think if you put both of them in a van they could make to the West Coast and back without stopping.
16. Who’s your rugby hero? On a personal level it is my college coach Ken Smith. I’m also a big fan of Francois Pienaar and Richie McCaw.
17. Who is your favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan? ODB was batshit but I’m a fan of Rza , the Gza, and of course M E T H O D man.
18. Give me 3-5 official Ryan McHugh cheesesteak recommendations. Steve’ Prince of Steaks, Phil’s, and Johns roast pork. Steak ums a close 4th of course.
19. What’s on your pregame pump up playlist? Eminem, Gang Starr, Wu Tang Clan, Ac/Dc, Crystal Method and some movie scores like Gladiator and Braveheart.
20. What’s a fact that people might be surprised to learn about you? I hate clowns. Not in a scarred way but a freak me out way. I saw the original It (yes youngsters the new one is a remake) and clowns have creeped me out ever since.
21. As Club treasurer would you like to end this interview by telling everyone to pay their dues? They know to pay or they can expect a call from our Director of Rugby. Haha.
The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference, which features collegiate rugby teams from Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware played an all-star game on Saturday December 2. Three of the players chosen for the match have previous experience playing 7s with Schuylkill River’s U-23 7s Academy. They are Paul Diorio from West Chester, Kyle Kent from Drexel, and Matt Hughes from Villanova. As an added bonus, one of the coaches was former Schuylkill River, and current 7s coach, Mike Burch. Way to go guys!