Jerad Reinhardt wears at least a couple of different hats.
To his Clinton kindergarten through eighth grade physical education students, he's Mr. Reinhardt.
To his Missoula Maggots teammates, he's Venus. He's also their captain, a title he earned this season after spending months learning the finer points of rugby in Australia and New Zealand in parts of 2008 and 2009.
The 27-year-old native of Newberg, Ore., started playing rugby for the University of Montana Jesters when he was attending school here. He shifted over to the Maggots, but has taken detours to play with the the Port Macquarie Pirates in Australia, where he helped them win the championship "Shield," and to Christchurch, New Zealand, where he played with the Shirley Rugby Club.
He took some time recently to talk about the sport he loves and this weekend's Maggotfest.
Q. When did you start playing rugby?
A. I started back in 2004, when I came here to go to school at the university. It was an opportunity to be involved in something and be competitive, be a part of a team that was competing.
Q. Did you play for the UM Jesters?
A. I did. That was my first taste of it and ever since then it's been a great relationship.
Q. What was the appeal?
A. So many kids come out of high school who are athletes while growing up, but they're not able to play at the college level in football, or baseball or basketball - whatever it might be. A lot of them just stop being competitive. For me, it was an opportunity to be a part of something, but also continue that competitive nature. Rugby's unique in that you get a gamut of guys. When you talk about a fraternity ... we have guys I play with on the Maggots who run from college professors, to teachers, to lawyers, to a town drunk in there. Everyone comes and it's a fraternity in a true sense.
Q. Did you play sports in high school?
A. I wrestled all four years, played some football, baseball, soccer.
Q. I hear you played some rugby in Australia.
A. I did. First I played for the Jesters for two years and then the Maggots for a year and a half. The Maggots had toured Australia back in 2003 for the World Cup, so they established relationships with clubs down there. It was an opportunity to go down and play the sport where they really cherish it and it's their national sport. I took the summer and went down there for three months. It was a great opportunity to see another country and to play and see how they do things where it's their national sport.
Q. And New Zealand, too?
A. A couple of years ago we brought over a coach from New Zealand. It was another opportunity to travel and go play rugby where it's at the highest level. Last March I went down. I stayed there for five months and played with a team from Christchurch and did a little substitute teaching down there.
Q. I hear you made a try-saving tackle in a big game in Australia.
A. Down in Port Macquarie. We were in the final and had gotten out to a big lead, then the second half the tables had turned and they were mounting a comeback and it looked like they were going to punch it in. The last play of the game a guy broke out wide and I happened to be out there and laid one of those hits you like to hit and it happened to be the game-ender. There was a picture of it and the newspaper guy was right on cue. That was a nice way to finish my experience down there and go out on top.
Q. Did those experiences make you a better player?
A. Definitely. If you want to learn something, you go to where it's done and where it's done at the highest level in the world.
Q. What's been your highlight while playing for the Maggots?
A. I would say just the brotherhood of guys. I don't know that I can pin it down to one moment. Just the opportunity to play in the rugby family here and Maggotfest is always a good time. It's our one little gem that we host. That's been a great thing to be a part of.
Q. This is your first year as captain. How do you get to be the captain?
A. One of the things I said I never wanted to do was be the captain. This year we were a little light on numbers so I kind of put my name in the running. It's a team vote, so it's up to the guys. I felt after having played in Australia and New Zealand that I had learned enough to be able to come back and share, and lead, provide a good example for those guys. We're kind of in a down year. We've been blessed with some pretty talented teams 4-5 years ago, but we're definitely in a rebuilding mode so I thought it was a good opportunity for me to come in and play a bigger part, bigger role.
Q. It was a little bit of a down year for the Maggots?
A. Yeah. Unfortunately, we got beat in a close game (in the Montana Rugby Union) championships. In those close games it usually comes down to one or two plays that you don't think about. That's one thing about the competition level here is that you don't get a lot of close matches where one play here or one play there could be the deciding factor. It's also nice to see some of the other teams in the union stepping up. It's never fun to be replaced, but it gives us incentive to come back next year, grow and reload.