For most of Alex Fozzard's life, he has enjoyed watching the game of rugby.
But it wasn't until last month that the 2011 Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School graduate received an opportunity to play the sport.
Fozzard, who was born in Republic of Mozambique, a country in the southern part of Africa, joined the Montgomery College Men's Rugby Club.
“I just started a couple of weeks ago,” he said during an interview during a practice last week at Welsh Park in Rockville. “This is exactly what I thought it was going to be and I love it. It's physically challenging and just because I was a rugby fan and watched it, didn't mean I was going to know how to play. I'm learning everyday.”
The club team was founded in the spring of 2010 and has since grown in popularity. Its players come from a wide variety of athletic backgrounds. The student-athletes range from novice rugby players to those that received background information about the sport in high school. Most, however, are new to rugby with football or wrestling pedigrees.
Rugby is not offered at the county's public high schools, where many of Montgomery College's students originate from, but a few area private schools field teams.
“We have recruiting tables at the school and we get a lot former football and wrestling guys,” said team captain Andrew Sauer, a 2009 St. John's (D.C.) College High School graduate and Olney resident. He also played rugby for the Cadets. “People pick the sport up naturally once they learn the rules, but the biggest thing is adjusting them to contact. Some embrace it and others have never hit before.”
At first, the team, which competes during a fall and spring season in Division II of the Potomac Rugby Union, received little attention at Montgomery College and was unable to field a competitive and full lineup. It has since grown to a 40-member program with a varsity club and developmental team.
The teams are coached by Rhode Island native Ben Rollin, who played at American (D.C.) University, and Dyon Stefanon, an English teacher at Montgomery College. Montgomery College, for the first time, owns a winning record (2-1) this fall.
“It has been really nice to see,” said Mike James, a 2009 B-CC graduate. “I did crew in high school and wanted to do football, but MC doesn't have a football team so I found rugby. “
James, who has been a member of the team since the beginning, was looking for a business and economics club before he found the rugby club. He then emailed the coach.
“It is a simple, but complicated sport,” James said. “Once you learn the rules it's pretty easy. I mean, it is passing and hitting. What's not to love?
“When we first started we have maybe 10 guys, but only five showed up for practice. We didn't even have real jerseys and they were just black shirts with tape on the back of them.”
Added Sauer: “We were blown out and non competitive. Now, we are winning so that is awesome.”