Cristian Rodriguez (Lindenwood University): 2019 Prusmack Award Recipient

Cristian was introduced to the sport in the streets of Hawaiian Gardens, CA through a program called, Alternatives to Gang Membership. The name speaks for itself as founder Ernie Vargas used rugby as a way of keeping kids off the streets and on the pitch.

Cristian immediately took to the aggressiveness of rugby when he first picked up a rugby ball as a 14 year old. He climbed the ranks through his Hawaiian Gardens team utilizing his speed, playmaking ability and defensive prowess.  He caught the eye of then Lindenwood University coach, JD Stephenson, at a match in San Diego, and it was the start of something big.

He earned a scholarship at Lindenwood and for the past four years, has been a leading figure for the Lions, guiding them to three consecutive USA Rugby Collegiate Sevens titles and back-to-back Collegiate Rugby Championship titles.

“Cristian has been the bedrock of our sevens team for three years now,” said current Lindenwood Head Coach, Josh Macy. “He is diminutive in size but is the best play maker in the country. Add on his ability to finish tries and defensive prowess at sweeper and you have a recipe for the country’s best player.”

Cristian closed out his Lindenwood career a winner and now he looks to continue in the game exploring more opportunities in sevens and Major League Rugby. But before that he is looking to give back to his community and the sport by going back to Hawaiian Gardens.

“Ernie Vargas wants me to take over his job. I’ve been working for him for the past five years as his assistant, so that’s the goal. Two years ago, I started putting in a proposal for a teen center. We’re looking to get that this summer, where kids will be able to come to the facility and do homework, play games. We’ll run all our programs out of there.”

Congratulations to Samantha and Cristian on being selected as the first-ever winners of The Prusmack. Both will be on hand to receive their awards at the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame Induction Dinner at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO on Friday, July 26, 2019.