Absegami High School’s Spencer O’Brien has committed to play rugby at Life University in Marietta, Georgia, starting this fall.
O’Brien, 17, is also a member of the Jersey Shore Sharks Rugby Club in Galloway Township.
The Life University Running Eagles are considered one of the top collegiate rugby programs in the country, recently winning their second straight Division I-A national championship, their fourth in the last seven years.
“It’s all still surreal to me,” O’Brien said. “I just thought about all of the hard work I’ve put in and the people who have helped me along the way — family, friends and teachers.”
O’Brien first gained interest in rugby when a friend asked him to try it out. He began playing in seventh grade. Along the way, he gained interest in chiropractic medicine from Dr. John Zimmerman, the President of the Jersey Shore Sharks Rugby Club, who is also the team chiropractor.
“Dr. J has been a huge help for me, and the experience has really benefited me along the way,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien took up an interest in chiropractic health when Zimmerman would do adjustments for every player before each game.
“Spencer asked if he could come into my office and watch me work,” Zimmerman said. “He then started coming in every week, and so I started to give him my books for him to read.”
Life University is one of the nation’s leading chiropractic and holistic health universities.
O’Brien’s dream is to play for the U.S. national team and become their team chiropractor.
O’Brien said the prestige of the program and the coaching staff at Life made his decision an easy one.
“All of the coaches there were incredibly invested — not just in myself, but in all of the players,” O’Brien said. “I don’t consider myself the best rugby player, but they helped me believe that I could become one of the best.”
The opportunity to play rugby professionally is also out there for O’Brien.
Major League Rugby, the top-level championship in North America, just expanded, with one of the new teams located in Atlanta, about 20 miles south of Life.
“Two of the coaches of the Atlanta team are also coach at Life,” said Zimmerman, who captained the Running Eagles first national championship team in 1986. “The opportunity is there for him to go all the way to playing professionally.”
O’Brien leaves for Life University in July to get a jump start on his academics before training camp begins in September, where he will start an eight-year journey of playing for the Running Eagles while achieving his doctorate.