Year after year, more freshmen join the collegiate rugby landscape looking to make their own impact on the game and on their respective programs.
It takes a special type of player to come on board and work his way into the first team as a rookie, and every school will hope that these players become cornerstones for their success for years to come. In the 2018-19 season, we saw a number of highly talented freshmen come in and do just that.
Today we highlight five such players we weren't as familiar with before the season who we felt made big names for themselves during their freshmen campaigns:
Julian Roberts, Life
Following in his older brother Nikey's footsteps, Julian made the long trip to relocate from his native Hawaii to Marrieta, Georgia to take part in what they have going on at Life University. Though not the biggest guy on the pitch by any means, Roberts consistently made a big impact for Life out on the wing with his aggressive running and his nose for the tryline.
Saving perhaps his best performances of the season for the semifinal and final of this year's D1A playoffs, Roberts was a major ingredient to Life's second consecutive national championship in 2019.
Joe Marchant, Saint Mary's
Arriving on the Moraga, CA campus of Saint Mary's College in August, Marchant was stepping into a program with a rich legacy of top-notch front rowers. Furthermore, he was joining a team already loaded with talent all across the board, with the front row being no exception.
However, his hard work earned him a consistent place in the starting pack for the Gaels, and his seven tries in eleven games are a testament to his abilities as not only a great scrummager, but also a valuable asset in open play.
Jason Severance, Cal
Competing in arguably the deepest back row in college rugby, Severance proved his worth throughout the season as a great ballcarrier and tackler, ultimately earning himself a starting spot in the D1A national championship game against Life.
As captain of his national championship-winning high school rugby team (Danville Oaks) as well as a three-year captain of his high school football team, Severance is a leader on the field that will continue to be an integral part of the Cal Golden Bears system for years.
Reece Botha, Lindenwood
Is that a cannon? A missile? A rocket launcher? Oh, no, it's Reece Botha's right leg! Boasting maybe the biggest boot in college rugby, Reece Botha was a consistent weapon for Lindenwood this year as a goal kicking specialist and a skilled, rangy fullback.
He played a crucial role in Lions' narrow quarterfinal victory over Arkansas State, and almost helped lead Lindenwood to an upset semifinal win over Life when he banged in penalty after penalty from all over the field. It will be wise for teams to maintain their discipline against Lindenwood in the coming years, or else Botha will make them pay.
Nick Zolikoff, Ohio State
A Saint Ignatius high school product out of Ohio, Zolikoff spent his freshman season terrorizing ball carriers week in and week out. Few players play with the same level of aggression as this Buckeye flanker, and his line speed and tackling would make any coach happy.
Zolikoff and teammate Josh Leidich are in Christchurch, New Zealand for the summer in camp with the Crusaders. So watch out for an even better player returning next season to make life tough on opposing players around the country.