Mike Purcell began playing rugby for the Newport Beach Sharks while in junior college in Huntington Beach, CA. While on a football scholarship to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, Purcell also began playing rugby for the Bay Area Touring Side (BATS) in San Francisco and continued playing with them through the 1988 season.
He rose rapidly through local representative rugby and won his first United States Eagles’ cap and scored his first international try against the Welsh Centenary XV in Long Beach, CA in May of 1980.
The following year, Mike played in the unusual match against South Africa on a farmer’s field in upstate New York. Also in 1981, he played on the first U.S. 7s team at the Hong Kong 7s Tournament and scored the first-ever try for the USA at that historic event. He captained the U.S. 7s team to the plate championship title at the 1986 Hong Kong 7s.
Mike played for the Eagles at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 1987. He played in the opening match victory against Japan and scored the first try for the USA in a Rugby World Cup match. He scored a try against England in the USA’s final game at the 1987 World Cup, which was also the last of Mike’s 14 international appearances for the U.S.
In 1986, along with U.S. Eagle teammate Kevin Higgins, Mike was selected to play for a World XV team in Johannesburg, South Africa, and played against Transvaal at Ellis Park. He scored a long-range try in the first half of that game and the World XV were victorious 24-17.
Mike has coached several representative teams after retiring from playing. He coached the Davis High School team from 2002-2009 and coached both UC Davis and Chico State University. UC Davis won the D1AA national Championship in 2015 and Chico St. was the D1AA national runner-up in 2019.
Mike’s sons, Brendan and Jaime, played under him at Davis High School. Both were selected as U.S. Collegiate All-Americans at San Diego State University and played for the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club.