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New home, new sport

Knoch grad found rugby at Oregon

April 22, 2019 Digital Media Exclusive

Hixson

EUGENE, Ore. — A three-sport athlete at Knoch, Troy Hixson figured he was done with sports when he graduated from high school four years ago.

Little did he know a new athletic career awaited him right around the corner.

And across the country.

Hixson, a senior at the University of Oregon preparing to graduate in June with a degrees in Human Physiology Pre-Med and Biology, has wrapped up a rugby career with the Ducks.

“Coming from a small town, I wanted to experience what life was like away from here,” Hixson said of his decision to Attend Oregon. “And their physiology program is first-rate, which was important to me.”

Hixson was a quarterback on the Knoch football team, a forward on the basketball squad and a first baseman in baseball.

“I knew I would still work out and stay in shape, but I figured my competitive athletic days were done,” he said.

Besides, Hixson had torn his ACL during a dodgeball tournament in high school.

While working out in the weight room, he came across a couple of players on the university's club rugby team.

“I was a big, husky guy and they asked me if I'd be interested in playing,” Hixson said. “I never played rugby before, but I knew about the sport and it sounded intriguing.

“I figured I'd give it a try.”

He wound up staying with the team for all four years of his college career, though he missed his junior season. Hixson suffered a second torn ACL in the summer leading into that year.

“I still stuck around the team and helped the coach out any way I could,” he said.

The Ducks' head coach, Dante Tissue, considered Hixson a valuable member of the team.

“Much of the success in rugby is determined by quick decision-making,” Tissue said. “Troy was very good at that.

“He grew into the game. He got to know the game. He was always asking ques tions and learning.”

Hixon played the Lock and Loose Forward position. He scored the first “try's” of his career against Boise State. He played on an Oregon team that finished 9-3 one season, losing to Oregon State, 24-23, in the second round of the playoffs.

Standing 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Hixson said “I've always loved the physicality of sports. Rugby is rough, but since you play without a helmet, you learn proper, safe tackling technique.

“The NFL is just now picking up on some of those techniques,” he added.

Washington, Washington State, Oregon State and Western Washington are considered Oregon's biggest rivals in rugby.

Hixson's last season was last fall, when the Ducks finished 4-5.

“We have a “7s” rugby team that plays in the spring, too,” Hixson said. “I played for that one as well, but I'm not playing this spring.

“I'm close to graduation and don't want to risk a third torn ACL now.”

Tissue said Oregon's rugby players come from “guys who did all kinds of different sports in high school. We have former football, basketball and soccer players, even swimmers on our team.”

Hixson said he enjoyed rugby more than football because of fewer stoppages.

“You transition from defense to offense and play keeps moving,” he said. “It's almost like playing basketball on a football field.

“You have to be in shape to be able to play ... and that sport kept me in shape.”

John Enrietto

John Enrietto

I graduated with a Journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979. I started at the Eagle on August 24, 1997. My awards include 2nd place in feature writing from Ohio Associated Press (while working for the Steubenville Herald-Star), media award from Lernerville Speedway and 3rd place in a Pennsylvania AP contest for story feature.