MATT HAMPTON | Reporter
Lindenwood rugby player Nick Feakes is one of five finalists for the Rudy Scholz Award, given out annually to the top collegiate men’s rugby player in the country.
Feakes, a senior and sports editor for Lindenlink.com and Legacy Magazine, is a flyhalf for the Lions and plays both sevens and 15s. This week, the Washington Athletic Club of Seattle announced that he was a finalist for the Scholz Award.
The award is named after Rudolph “Rudy” Scholz, a player for the Santa Clara University Broncos who fought in both World Wars and competed in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, earning two gold medals.
Twelve nominees for the Scholz Award were selected by a panel of USA Rugby administrators, journalists and coaches. They were then narrowed down to five finalists based on public online voting. According to FloRugby, the number of finalists was raised from four because voting was so close.
Feakes said he didn’t expect he would be on the list of nominees when it was released last month, but is enthusiastic about being a finalist.
Assistant coach Nic Tyson, who has known Feakes since January, described him as one of the most “cerebral” members of the team, saying he devotes a lot of time to analyzing the game off the field. Feakes said watching film of the most previous games is an important part of preparing and improving his tactics.
“On my own, I always like to watch the previous game four or five times, just picking it apart a little bit to see if there’s anything I can improve on in my performance,” he said.
Feakes also serves as a leader on the team, and players and coaches look up to him to make the right decisions on the field, Tyson said.
His teammate Nick Taylor, a center, said “You can ask [Feakes] for advice and expect an honest, straightforward answer.”
Last year, Feakes was the Most Valuable Player of the College Sevens National Championship.
This season, Lindenwood advanced to the playoffs after winning all but two of its conference games, in what Feakes said is one of the toughest conferences in the country.
Last weekend, they defeated No. 1 seed St. Mary’s College of California 43-22. In the game, Feakes had five conversions and did not miss a single kick.
“I think the team as a whole played pretty bloody well,” Feakes said. “Honestly it was probably our most complete performance in the four years I’ve been here.”
The Lions will face the University of California-Berkeley in the national semi-final this weekend. Cal, as it is known, is the most successful collegiate rugby program in the United States having won 28 national championships.
Feakes, who is originally from the Canberra, Australia, said he started playing rugby when he was 11 and has since developed a love for the game and the camaraderie that goes with it.
“It took a little bit of convincing [my mom] to let me play it because I’m not the biggest dude, so she was a bit worried about me getting hurt,” he said. “But I love it; it’s just really grown on me.”
The Scholz Award has been given out each year since 2016. This year, the other finalists are Vili Helu, Jake Lachina, Connor McNerney and Kyle Rogers.
Helu is an 8-man for Saint Mary’s College of California, a team Feakes said hadn’t lost a game in a year until their defeat by Lindenwood.
Lachina, a sophomore at West Point, has a career high of four tries and 20 points for both sevens and 15s.
The U.S. Naval Academy’s team captain, McNerney, is an 8-man from Switzerland. The nominee list described him as “a ferocious defender, a powerful runner in traffic, and also kicks for points for the Naval Academy.”
This season, Rogers, a captain for the University of Arizona, helped his team win its first PAC Conference in sevens.
The Scholz Award winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Seattle on June 9.