Sign Up for our Rugby Newsletter
Since 2015, the Life of Significance Award has been presented during the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC). This award is given to a player that exemplifies integrity, commitment and respect – values that are deeply woven into the fabric of Penn Mutual’s culture. Since its introduction, stories about rugby players and the contributions they make to their teams and communities have been pouring in, reinforcing the character of people associated with this sport.
David Schroeder of the Naval Academy was the inaugural winner and took home the award for embodying these core values. The Midshipman gave up a free ride to the University of Louisville to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. After serving two tours of duty, including a deployment in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Schroder attended the Naval Academy and is now commissioned in the United States Navy.
During his time at the Naval Academy, Schroeder spent time mentoring local youth groups at a community church, teaching Sunday school and chaperoning numerous events. According to his coach Mike Flanagan, “David is someone who looks out for the welfare of others and leads them with his actions. He is a competitor on the pitch and in the classroom as well as out in our local community.”
In 2016, Michigan’s David Caputo took home the award. During his sophomore year of high school, Caputo embarked on a campaign to help underprivileged homes acquire more books. By the time the award was presented, Caputo and his family had collected over 6,500 books and donated to a local summer literacy program.
“David is a great team man and a natural leader who brings it when he is on the field,” said Michigan Head Coach Brandon Sparks. “He is remarkably mature for his age and it shows how he conducts himself.”
While there can only be one winner, there have been a number of strong nominations, including those from the women’s competition and the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) division, who have been recognized for their achievements.
Katie Mueller helped Penn State reach the semifinals of the women’s division at the 2016 CRC, serving as the captain and leader of the squad. The senior was a member of the ROTC and often came directly from vigorous training sessions to practice with her team. The nontraditional student athlete always displayed a positive attitude while keeping everyone motivated at the same time.
“We discussed Katie as a knowledgeable and humble player, a loyal teammate and a great friend. She carried this character with her throughout her career on the Penn State Women’s Rugby team,” said Club Vice President Jessi Purawic. “As captain, Katie kept us motivated and focused, adamantly helped develop the level of play of the team and individual players, and saw that we acted with our team values at heart.”
The senior served as the backbone of the team, demonstrating respect for her teammates and commanding respect through her actions both on and off the field. Purawic indicated that after weekly 6 a.m. workouts the team pondered the future. Many of the players left thinking about how to better themselves, thanks in large part to Mueller’s empowering words.
Kevon Williams, from New Mexico Highlands University, highlighted an impressive group of National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) nominees. Williams captained the two time NSCRO national champions in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, balancing a family, academics and the duties of being a team captain.
In the fall of 2016, Williams turned down a Pro Rugby contract in order to finish his studies and support his wife and children. The Vatos captain balanced a 20 hour a week job with his studies in order to provide for his family and finish his education.
In his spare time, Williams dedicates himself to a number of different causes. In addition to serving as the President of the NMHU Black Students Union, Williams spent his time volunteering at the St. Jude’s Childhood Cancer Hospital reading, talking and playing with cancer victims and tutoring students at the local elementary school. He has fundraised for the March of Dimes and helped clean up local streets, all while balancing a family and his own education.
“In over 30 years’ service with thousands of university students within the triad of teaching, research, and service, this true student-athlete, Kevon Williams, is absolutely outstanding. He is immensely unique and committed to leading other students to a higher standard of accomplishment and, more importantly, citizenship,” said New Mexico Highlands coach Dr. Dick Green.
Time and time again, members throughout the rugby community have demonstrated the importance of character and displayed the values that have defined Penn Mutual since 1847.