Sir Winston Churchill once famously said: "Rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen."
Some would say that hooligans is putting it nicely. Rugby is a rock'em-sock'em cousin of football and the second most popular sport on the planet. We all own a rugby shirt, but only the toughest among us play rugby. It is also possibly the sport where the players get the muddiest. I mean, they get really dirty. When you utter the word "rugby" in Rancho Cordova, everybody conjures up grinning Jerry Ahlin.
is the co-founder and current president of the Sacramento Valley Rugby Foundation, but he's more than that. He is a total rugby nut.
A lot of people in Rancho Cordova know Jerry. He graduated from the University of Idaho back in 1967. He was inducted into the Idaho High School Hall of Fame in football and was the Idaho Hall of Fame as a citizen athlete. He went on to pursue his football dream with the Dallas Cowboys and other semi-pro teams before finally landing in Sacramento.
When he arrived, he started playing rugby with the Sacramento Capitols and played for another 25 years. He won a bunch of awards and became a certified referee. He found he needed to eat, so he also started his own promotional products firm which continues today.
Jerry and his rugby buddies look longingly at empty expanses of former Mather Air Force Base, working their dream of building a state-of-the-art rugby facility there someday. If and when it becomes a reality, it will be in no small measure because of Jerry Ahlin.
And to make sure there will be plenty of Rancho Cordova kids around to play there some day, Jerry spends an inordinate amount of energy teaching local kids how to play this crazy game.
At Cordova High School, the Lancer Rugby Club provides great opportunities to play for both boys and girls. It is open to all students of Cordova High School, as well as students from other schools in the area where no high school rugby club is available.
The Rancho Cordova Police Activities League caught the rugby bug, and the result was a bunch of kids playing rugby instead of getting in trouble. One of PAL's most successful Rancho Cordova programs, PAL Rugby will return next year with Jerry's help.
But perhaps one of Jerry's greatest achievements has been his success in relocating what is believed to be the largest youth rugby tournament in the world to Rancho Cordova. The 29th annual Kick Off Tournament attracts more than 120 teams from across California, neighboring states and even Canada to fields at Cordova High School each January, bringing both prestige and business to our town.
Over the years, Jerry has pitched in on a lot of Rancho Cordova efforts, representing the city on the American River Parkway update, and activities to support the Cordova Meadows neighborhood where he lives. But, his heart belongs to rugby.
There are many ways to promote healthy activities for kids, and many ways to promote our city as a great place to visit, and Jerry Ahlin has managed to do both. His dedication and love of rugby as a tool to build character and good sportsmanship as well as healthy bodies is unmatched.
The result for kids in our community is priceless and holds amazing promise for the future, as well. Thank you Jerry Ahlin!