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Path to the Pros: Oliver Kane’s Journey to Major League Rugby

The Father Ryan High School alumni’s exclusive story of his journey leading up to being drafted

Source: San Diego Legion


Oliver Kane described himself as, "just a big body," before he started playing rugby.


Now, Kane is a professional rugby player after being drafted with the 21st overall pick by the San Diego Legion at the 2022 Major League Rugby (MLR) Collegiate Draft.


So how did Kane become an eligible MLR player? Here is his story.


Introduction to Rugby

Kane attended Father Ryan High School in Nashville where he and his older brother played football. When asked whether he was a good football player, Kane told MLR Tennessee, "I was a late bloomer. I was pretty awkward and not really a great athlete." Even though he considered himself unathletic, Kane continued to play football until his junior year when something in his life changed.


During his junior year, Kane's mother started a new job that required her to work long hours. Since she was not able to pick up Kane until later in the evening, she told Kane to find something productive to do at school. Trying to find something fun, Kane had some friends that played on the rugby team, and they invited him to join. Kane started to practice with the club and immediately loved the atmosphere. He credits Coach Burnett, Hobbs, and Robertson for creating a great team culture.


Kane grew in love with rugby for a few reasons. "It was a very social atmosphere," he said. "I was able to express myself and built great comradery with teammates. I dreaded going to football every day for practice and would be looking at the weather app to see if it would rain, but I always looked forward to rugby practice." As Kane grew in the sport, he became a dominant prop who performed well on the pitch. His abilities helped him as he looked to continue his rugby career in college.


Collegiate Rugby Career

As his high school career winded down, Kane began looking at his options to play in college. He reached out to various schools including Spring Hill College to see who would offer him a spot on the roster. Spring Hill reached back out and at that time, still had rugby scholarships to offer. The college had some interest in the young prop for their team.


"I went and saw the school," Kane said. "And it was a smaller school which made it feel like Father Ryan. I loved it and knew this was where I needed to be."


Kane played four years for Spring Hill where he gained valuable experience. "Southeastern rugby doesn't get a lot of hype, but I got lucky with the group of teammates I was in," Kane said. "They showed me the fun part of rugby, and I was able to combine the fun and competitive side as I got older."

Kane playing at Spring Hill College

Source: Spring Hill Men's Rugby Club


During his senior year, Kane said how he became acquainted with more of his teammates' families. One of his friend's dad approached him with a question that would change his life, "What are you doing next?" The question caused Kane to think about what he wanted to do with his rugby career.


"At Spring Hill," Kane said. "I decided to do my best, and continue to play and enjoy rugby. One thing led to another, and I reached out to the coach at the University of San Diego [my friend's dad personally knew him] to see what my next options could be. The coach texted me back immediately saying that they had a spot for me. I decided to go to USD as a graduate student, so I could continue playing rugby.

Kane playing at the University of San Diego

Source: Our Sports Central


At USD, Kane excelled in the program. He was team captain in his final season, 1st Team All-Conference in the Gold Coast Conference, and helped the team win the Men's Red Cup title at the USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championships (R7CC). Kane was also selected to the USA High Performance Academy squad after he graduated.


"Going to USD is the best decision I've made as a rugby player and as a person," Kane said.

Kane with teammates at the USA Rugby 7s Collegiate Championships

Source: University of San Diego


The MLR Collegiate Draft

Kane's collegiate career boosted his professional potential, and the local franchise, the San Diego Legion, took notice. "They were the only ones that [seriously] went after me," Kane said. "They contacted me that they were looking at me, and I felt lucky."


On draft night, Kane was surrounded by his USD coaches, teammates, parents, and older brother. They all cheered when Kane was selected by the Legion in the second round.


"We are thrilled to get Ollie onboard with Legion," Legion head coach Danny Lee told media on draft night. "He's coming off a great season with our own University of San Diego and is still growing as a Tight Head Prop, but we believe that our tutelage combined with his thirst for improvement will make him a talent to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future."


Kane became the fourth Tennessee player to be drafted by an MLR franchise, after Greg Janowick (University of Tennessee) was selected three picks ahead of him.


Preparing to Play

Kane was overjoyed that he is now a professional rugby player. He is even more excited that he gets to stay in San Diego. "I am looking forward to this opportunity," he said. "The Legion are a great organization, and will give me the challenge I am looking for."


Kane will have the chance to play in one of MLR's newest venues - Snapdragon Stadium. The new stadium is ready and will be the home for the Legion in the 2023 season and beyond. The venue is a world-class amenity and can hold up to 35,000 fans. "I drive past the stadium every day on my way to work," Kane exclaimed. "I am excited to play there."

Source: Sports Business Journal


While Kane is preparing for a chance at playing an MLR match next season, he still has not forgotten his Tennessee roots that helped him get to where he is as a rugby player. "I would love to come out and help out at Father Ryan again with skill camps or other things," he said. "Anything for Tennessee rugby, I am all for."


We look forward to seeing Kane progress into a great professional player.


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