PJ Bride is going to play rugby at Queens University of Charlotte, and his matriculation has been interesting and challenging.
Bride, who will soon graduate from Bishop England, had two major obstacles to achieve his academic-athletic dream.
First, rugby was a club sport when Bride arrived on campus at BE for his freshman year. But by the time he was a junior, the team was disbanded because they lost 15 seniors from the previous year.
This meant Bride needed to find ways to keep his game strong – and his dream alive. So, he played on club teams with students from other schools, including the School of the Arts, Academic Magnet and James Island Charter.
And of course, Bride and other members of the Class of 2020 had their senior years come to a screeching halt as far as normalcy is concerned because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That meant online classes, no prom, and a graduation ceremony that’s up in the air.
“When I first found out that I had to take classes from home, to finish my senior year from home, it broke my heart,” Bride said. “I knew it also meant I wouldn’t get to perform in the school play.”
While rugby players are north of football players on the tough-guy, no-pain ladder, Bride admits he is fascinated by theater and acting. He gets some unusual responses when he introduces himself as a rugby player/aspiring actor.
The thing that Bride might miss most about his senior year was his chance to perform in the school’s Disney musical “Newsies.”
But Bride’s immediate future only involves academics and athletics.
He remembers his first contact with Queens University of Charlotte. The Bishop England club team played the Wando team his sophomore year, and in the stands was Frank McKinney, the head coach of the university’s program.
Bride attended a Queens soccer camp, and with a 3.8 GPA on the BE scale, he knew that’s where he wanted to be.
Queens is a private school located in Charlotte, North Carolina, that has about 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students. Established in 1857, the university offers 34 undergraduate majors and 66 concentrations, and 10 graduate programs.
“What I love most is that it’s a great college in a great community,” Bride said. “I plan to major in sports management. I have loved sports all my life, and know I want to build marketing around that. We will see how it goes.”
And, of course, Bride also loves rugby.
McKinney, who had experience as a coach at The Citadel, was named Queens’ first rugby coach in 2017, and led the team to a perfect season. He is focused on building the university into a national power.
“When I found out I wasn’t returning back to school for my senior year, I had a lot of mixed emotions,” Bride said. “I learned a lot, a lot about myself. To have this opportunity is a great experience.”