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Non-traditional student finds home on UWRF rugby team

May 7, 2009

After spending four years in the United States Air Force, Jason Anderson, 30, decided it was time for a change in his life. Little did he know that after coming to UW-River Falls that change would include the UWRF club rugby team. 

Anderson grew up in Ellsworth, Wis., before joining the Air Force in 1997 straight out of high school. He traveled from two bases in Texas to find a home in Omaha, Neb., for three years. While still serving his country, Anderson managed to run his own photography business in Ellsworth that he started at the age of 20. It was after leaving the Air Force that Anderson decided to give his education another shot as a bio medical major. 

In Omaha, Anderson consolidated all of his belongings into one moving van and hit the road back home to Ellsworth and to a new future. 

“When you’re gone from your family for so long there is nothing like seeing their faces to make you realize you made the right decision,” Anderson said. 

Upon arriving at UWRF, Anderson quickly found a home with the rugby team. It was at the Involvement Fair that rugby club president Crague Cook spotted Anderson and approached him about playing for the team. 

“When Jason asked me what the objective of our organization was, I told him that we strive as a club to produce valuable rugby players through practice and utilize them when we compete against other clubs to obtain a victory,” Cook said. 

Cook assured him that the team wanted him to come to practice even though Anderson said he had some inhibitions about his age affecting the game. When indoor practices started in early February, Anderson decided to jump in head first and learn the ins and outs of the complicated game of rugby. 

Being the oldest member of the team, Anderson said he was worried about the demand of the physical workouts. At 6 feet 5 inches and 260 pounds, Anderson thought that his physical status on the field would help the team in its future games.

Having already competed in football and wrestling in high school, Anderson had the physical agility needed to play the game of rugby.

“I was hoping that the physical workouts would help me keep up with the younger guys,” Anderson said. 

According to Anderson, he started to feel his age around the 20-somethings, but he felt that the effort that he was putting forth would be well worth it in the long run even with the aches and pains after the late night practices.

The team was giving Anderson a chance to feel young again and to live the life of a college student that he had never experienced before. 

Rugby coach Leif Berg had nothing but good things to say about his newest player. Berg said he thought that the addition of someone older would help the younger guys stay motivated and strive for greatness on the field as leaders of their sport. 

“I’m encouraged that Jason sought us out as an organization to be a part of while he spends his four years on campus,” Berg said. 

At 30 years old, Anderson is an unconventional student that shows it is not needed to be young in age to feel young at heart. The UWRF rugby team is giving Anderson a second chance to experience college and to enjoy the camaraderie of being a part of a team again.