Meyers and his teammates at Mizzou. Photo from Meyers.

Michael Bernard and Daniel Cohen

“He passed [the ball] to me. I was getting closer and closer to the line. The other defender tackled my ankles,” CHS history teacher Josh Meyers said. “My head smacked the ground, and I was knocked unconscious.”

As Meyers scored his first try, the equivalent of a touchdown in football in his rugby career at the University of Missouri, he also suffered his first concussion with the team. Despite the clear injury, Meyers continued to play the rest of the game.

Even though this injury was unfortunate, Meyers chose to see the beauty of the concussion. When a player on the rugby team scores his first try, he has to strip down naked and dance around while the other athletes pour their drinks on player. Due to his ailment, Meyers was able to escape the tradition.

Meyers began his rugby career as a freshman at Mizzou with no previous experience.

The first week of school, one of Meyer’s high school buddies persuaded him to come to a practice for the club sport.

“I had heard a little bit about it and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna get destroyed,’” Meyers said. “I went out for one practice and fell in love with the sport.”

When Meyers commenced his career with the sport, he was one of the few freshman on the team. Although he was not one of the biggest guys on the team, he was quite fast and had better legs than most of the other players.

Meyers was given the position of fly-half, which is essentially the quarterback of the backfield on the pitch. This position is generally given to a smaller and faster player.

Meyers’ initial instinct to join the team proved to be the right decision as he felt the team embrace him warmly right away. Even though Meyers had just joined the squad, he was quickly able to surmise that the group was more of a brotherhood than just a team.

Although Meyers was not in a fraternity, the team felt like a fraternity environment to him as Meyers would regularly hang out with the team.

“One of the things that I loved about rugby was way more than any other sport that I’ve played there’s truly a sense of community,” Meyers said.

As Meyers looks back on the rugby team at Mizzou, he admires the fact that he felt part of a rugby culture. After every game, the two opposing teams would pass time and have a drink with each other no matter the score of the game.

“We would sing songs together or go to a local restaurant. We would intermingle. It’s almost like a brotherhood,” he said. “You beat the crap out of each other on the pitch, but when the game is over let’s drink [and] sing songs.”

According to Meyers, singing was a large part of the rugby lifestyle. The rowdy and crude songs were not specific to just Mizzou, they were universal through the rugby community. Meyers felt like he belonged to the unique culture right away.

“It’s a brutal game, but rugby players generally tend to not get into drunken fights,” Meyers said.

The team had two practices a week

“We traveled quite a bit,” Meyers said. “We played men’s club teams. Us little college teams would play the men’s teams.” The team would also play other schools such as Rolla and Truman State.

“We had a coach from South Africa. He played for the national team in South Africa. He was this really intense, super tiny dude,” Meyers said. “He rode me relentlessly. He never called me by my name, he only called me ‘stupid.’”

Meyers took all the yelling and excessive criticism from the coach as a compliment. Meyers was told by his friend on the team that being yelled at by the coach was a sign that he thought Meyers had potential. Eventually, when he felt the Meyers was a well established player, the coach changed his name from ‘stupid’ to ‘Josh.’

Meyers sprinting down the pitch. Photo from Meyers.

According to Meyers, this vicious sport can be incredibly dangerous.

“People tape their ears back to keep their ears from getting ripped off,” Meyers said. “You can use three-quarter inch metal spikes on your cleats.”

Right before the Mizzou rugby team went on to play their first game at Westerns, a regional rugby competition between schools, Meyers, while watching a game before his, learned how important these tips are.

“The opposing [player] walked over to the medical tent. He had blood running down his face,” Meyers said. “I knew something was up with the side of his face.”  Meyers continued to watch as the player removed his hand from the side of his face.

“His ear was stuck to his hand,” Meyers said. “It was attached by one small piece of skin.”

Like the majority of college rugby players, Meyers suffered numerous injuries himself during his four year career.

In rugby, there are certain instances in the game where purposeful jabs with a players cleat spike is allowed. Meyers would often finish a game with marks up and down his legs from cleats.

During one game, Meyers got cut from a cleat while scoring a try. This cut led to a staph infection that Meyers did not know existed.

“My back was hurting really bad and I hadn’t been able to sleep for a day and a half. I went to the student health center. [The doctor] happened to touch my leg and I went, ‘ow.’ He looked at it and it was red and swollen.

Meyers also was very delirious from a fever. However, he was unable to make the connection between his hurt leg and his malady.

“[The doctor] goes, ‘you’re going to the hospital immediately.’ They admitted me right there. They got me on IV’s,” Meyers said. “The doctor said if [I] had waited another 24 hours there was a good chance [I] would’ve lost my leg.”

Although Meyers had a prominent role on his rugby team at Mizzou, he realized that he would need to train harder and devote more time to the sport if he wanted pursue a career in rugby. Meyers also was aware that it would be very difficult to support himself financially as a rugby player.

Meyers did not always plan to teach immediately after college. He originally wanted to make millions as a businessman, retire and teach high school. However, he quickly learned that this was not the route in store for him.

“The first day of class [of] my sophomore year I walked into the accounting class and I sat there for about 20 minutes. [The professor] assigned 60 pages of the accounting textbook for homework. I was like, ‘this is ridiculous,’” Meyers said. “I stood up and walked out of class straight to the registrar’s office and changed my major to education.”

Meyers career did not end after his four years at Mizzou. After graduating college, he came to St. Louis.

He joined the St. Louis Ramblers, a St. Louis based rugby team that was founded in 1932. The Ramblers are the second oldest active men’s rugby club. Meyers sported their colors green and white during his time with the team. Meyers suffered his third and final concussion with the St. Louis Ramblers. After this head injury, he and his wife decided it was time to hang up the boots for good.

“I do wonder if my memory has been affected by [the concussions],” Meyers said. “I knew enough at the time to know that multiple concussions aren’t good. I was generally worried about brain damage.”

As Meyers reminisces about his glory days on the rugby pitch at Mizzou, he admires both the warrior type culture on the pitch and the civility it inspires between rivals.

“Rugby is a barbarian game played by gentlemen,” Meyers said.