At the 2018 Volunteer Rugby Gala on Saturday night the Volunteer Rugby Foundation inducted the inaugural class of The Captain's Circle - the UT Rugby Hall of Fame.
Over 225 were on hand at the Knoxville Convention Center to recognize the achievements and contributions of the six men introduced as the first class.
In September of 1970, a contact sport-loving butterfly from Virginia named Jim Pyles flapped his wings…when he carried an oversized, egg-shaped ball to the intramural fields next to the old aquatic center. A group of nearby students came by, and fascinated by the egg, joined in passing the ball around. Then, someone had the idea that they should organize.
In short order…University of Tennessee Rugby was born.
Jim played here from 1970 - 1972. After leaving, he would play for a decade for the Chesapeake Rugby Club in Baltimore, finally hanging up the boots at 43.
Since leaving UT Law School, Jim Pyles has become one of the preeminent health care policy attorneys in the nation. In 1983, helped found the D.C. firm of Powers, Pyles, Sutter, and Verville, one of the largest and most prominent health law and policy firms in the nation.
In the late 1970s, college rugby teams all over the country began to split and become student only organizations. Before this time, students and non-students played the game together with little regard for eligibility or enrollment. The same was true in 1978 at Tennessee. After the split of the non-student to what is today Knoxville Rugby Club, UT Rugby was left with few players and even less experience. It was a pivotal moment in the young history of UT Rugby.
Danny Parris stepped in and became captain, lead recruiter, and inspiring leader of the team up until his graduation in 1980. Along the way he made multiple all-star teams while playing multiple positions in the backline (primarily center). He finally found himself at scrumhalf for the Vols due to injury and team needs.
After graduation Danny landed in the Washington DC area and continued playing rugby (15s and 7s) for NOVA. In 1984 due to work demands he chose to focus on 7s with the Duck Brothers and his progression to the national team began. In 1987 he was selected and played the Eagles in the World Championships in Sydney, Australia.
But, as Danny professes, his proudest rugby moment very well may be when his son Dan Parris made the decision to come to University of Tennessee and play rugby and play for the Vols and Coach Robertson.
Richard started playing rugby at UT in 1971 and served as Club President from 1975 – 1976. Richard played flanker and in 1975 he was elected the MVP for the club and became a member of the Mid South Select Side. He continued to play rugby after graduation from UTK with the High Country RFC in Atlanta and was its President from 1978-1980. He organized the UTK Rugby Alumni Association, “The Old Boys”, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the “Old Boys Weekend".
He always dreamed of starting a scholarship to help recognize dedicated and academically deserving fellow club members and it was this dream that was the impetus to honor his untimely death Feb. 18, 1980 by starting the Richard C. Sexton, Jr. Rugby Club Scholarship.
Today, the Sexton Scholarship is the most highly revered award presented each year and recognizes a student athletes selfless character, everlasting spirit for the game and commitment to the club - all of which perfectly described Richard Sexton.
Bob Hampstead played for the Volunteers from 1973 to 1979. During that time he was an anchor at prop for Tennessee. During the 1977-1978 year he was awarded the Ironman. Created that year, the Ironman was presented to the player that played in every A side and B side match for the entire academic year. In 1977-1978 that accounted for over 50 matches.
In 1980 he was part of the founding group of men that separated from UT Rugby and formed the Knoxville Rugby Club where he played and held leadership roles until 1983. After two years in Augusta, GA Bob returned to Knoxville and began a exhaustive list of volunteer and leadership roles in the rugby community including: Coach of Powell High School and development of Rookie Rugby. He has served on the boards of Smoky Mountain Athletic Club and as President of the Knoxville Rugby Club.
Bobby Hampstead - the original Ironman and a true servant of the game of rugby in Tennessee.
At a chance meeting at a local grocery store in 1996, Butch Robertson invited Marty Bradley out to UT Rugby to help with the back line and a coaching career was born that's last over 20 years. Having just retired from playing with the Knoxville Rugby Club for the prior 8 years, Bradley was in search of something a little more accommodating to his young family and fledgling banking career.
Bradley coached alongside Robertson for 16 years before assuming the head coaching duties in 2012 following Butch's retirement. Over the past 22 years, Coach Bradley along with other dedicated volunteers has been instrumental in development of many of the programs and services currently offered in the sport of rugby at UT and in East Tennessee. He served as the founding director of the high school league in East Tennessee plus also orchestrated the development of the Tennessee Rugby Park.
Over 900 wins in 34 years as Head Coach established Tennessee Rugby as the strongest collegiate program in the southern US. From 1977 to 2011 Butch led the program to 1126 games in 68 seasons that included 7 straight years making the USA National Championship Tournament.
Butch nurtured, cared for and cultivated the team with a constant diligence, encouragement, expertise and passion. The tangible measures of his success are many. More importantly, Butch made the team what it is today. He consistently led the team. He lived the mantra he espoused - Family, School, Rugby. For those who were blessed to play for him, he is friend, mentor, example, and yes, coach. Butch's constancy, his passion, and his steadfast and ongoing willingness to give of himself are the key ingredients in what we call Tennessee Rugby today.