Calvin Elam rises from frail freshman to head honcho


Men’s rugby club president Calvin Elam pictured with his family.

Coming right out of Cheney, Wash., freshman Calvin Elam discovered the sport of rugby at WSU. Four years later, Elam is graduating and ending his tenure as president of the men’s rugby club in Pullman.

“As a freshman, a lot of the older guys really intimidated me,” Elam said. “They were a lot bigger than me. I was a pretty small, quiet kid and a lot of those guys were kind of scary to be around at first.”

As Elam grew older and developed throughout college, so did the men’s rugby club. During Elam’s first year with the club, a lack of team commitment and discipline created issues for the team.

“People wouldn’t show up to practice and would end up playing in games, and that really bothered me,” Elam said. “I think it’s something that we really changed a lot in my time being here.”

Men’s rugby Head Coach Matt Hudson, a WSU alumnus and rugby player, took the helm of coaching the team four years ago and has helped change the WSU rugby program from a team with more losses in a season to a team with more wins.

“Calvin was a small kid when I first met him, weighed probably 30 pounds less than he does now,” Hudson said. “He was a kid you could tell had just been dropped off at college and was figuring it all out. That’s what is so great about WSU, you learn how to live and fend for yourself out here. Calvin really typifies that.”

WSU finished this season with an 8-5 record, thanks to the help of centers DeShon Bell and Josh Vizcaya, fullback Matt Huylar, fly-halves Nate Freimund and Brady Rude, Eighth-man Casey Smith, and scrum half Elam.

“When our starting scrum half graduated we made the decision to move Cal into that role, and there was a lot of reservations, but he grew into it quickly,” Hudson said. “His pass is probably one of the better passes that I’ve seen, very crisp and accurate. He started to pick up the game more and more and solidified into his role on the team.”

In rugby, the scrum half is the team’s ball distributor and usually the smallest player on the team. An ideal scrum half can move the ball quickly and effectively across the field as well as have a solid kicking technique.

Elam was able to display his abilities in the Cougars’ rout of North Idaho College with two tries scored and 10 conversion kicks, a total of 30 points.

“Calvin has been able to give the club a steady presence at an influential position,” Hudson said. “He’s not the kind of player that will break a game wide open, but he’s a part of the process of facilitating players that can do that. Changing a position like his with a different player can have dramatic effects of the makeup of a game.”

Randy Elam, Calvin’s father, watched Elam grow and mature through college and while playing competitive rugby.

“Rugby has been a huge thing for Calvin,” Randy said. “Quite honestly, I was thinking, ‘You’re going to do what?’ when he told me as a little freshman that he was going to play rugby. The first game we attended was in Idaho, and Calvin was on the B-side. When we pulled up to the field, there was a player laid out on the field, and I thought for sure it was Calvin. It wasn’t, but that was our first experience with the game.”

In Calvin’s senior year, he was elected the men’s rugby club president. He will graduate as a double major in in secondary English education and digital technology and culture.

“I ended up being vice president and president, and I think just the sport taught me a lot about responsibility, and being in those positions taught me a lot about responsibility,” Elam said. “No one is going to do things for you. You have to get things done, or they’re not going to get done. It’s like on the field, if you can’t get your job done, someone is going to have to pick up slack for you.”