Kyle Lemond discovered rugby in a hallway at the University of Southern Indiana.
"I saw this big dude walking down the hall with a USI rugby shirt on," he said, "and I was impressed."
That was four years ago.
"I was going to play soccer, but I changed my mind and I've been playing rugby ever since."
In fact, he got to be so good at the sport he's a starting inside center and the kicker for the USI rugby team.
Make that the undefeated USI rugby team.
It's a club sport at the school, meaning that it's not sanctioned by the NCAA. Nevertheless, the Screaming Eagles are 5-0 this season. In fact, after Saturday's 47-10 victory over visiting Wabash College, they're 3-0 in the Indiana Rugby Union's small-college division.
USI has one regular-season game left, next Saturday at noon at home against league foe Grace College. The team's field is located off Clarke Street on the north side of the campus and just south of the Lloyd Expressway.
"This group's been together a couple of years now and really enjoy it," said Kurt Murrell, who's in his fourth year as USI's head coach. "And they take it seriously. They treat it like any other sport."
He was referring to rugby's checkered history at USI. The sport's image was that of a collection of hard partiers rather than a team of dedicated athletes.
"We've kind of kept this close to the vest because of (rugby's) reputation on campus," said Murrell.
Judging from Saturday's win over Wabash — "This was definitely a grudge match," said sophomore Doug Rose of the bitter rival that beat the Eagles in last year's small college state championship match — USI has become very serious indeed.
Rose has been playing the game since seventh grade after getting interested through his father, who played rugby in college.
"I like it because it's a combination of (several) sports," said Rose. "It's like cross country because you're always running. It's like football because of the intensity. It's like soccer because of the finesse."
People unfamiliar with rugby may think of it as football without pads. But Murrell disagrees.
"It's more about space than it is about contact," he said.
With 15 players on each side battling for control of the large, egg-shaped ball, it's also a lot like wrestling.
"As a matter of fact, wrestlers make the easiest conversion to rugby," said the 53-year-old Murrell, who took up rugby while playing football at Hofstra University.
But don't be fooled. There's still plenty of contact. The sounds alone testify to that.
On Saturday, one Wabash player reportedly suffered a broken collar bone.
As for the game itself, players score a "try," worth five points, when they cross the goal line with the ball. After a try, the scoring team will attempt to score two more points with an uncontested kick between upright goal posts, which are located on each goal line. There's also a kick similar to football's field goal in which a player tries to kick the ball between the uprights during play; if successful, it's worth three points.
Also, there's no forward pass like in football. Instead, all passes are shoveled backward to teammates on the run.
All this results in almost constant action during the 40-minute halves.
Lemond loves it.
"It's pure," he said. "It's the original sport.
"There's the physicality of it. But you can't be just a big guy playing rugby. I like the physical part, but I also like the mental challenge."
And, he said, don't forget the camaraderie, which may be as important as the ball.
"We're all friends," he said. "I've gotten in a fight with a guy in a game, then we went out and had a beer together afterwards."
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