by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Next week marks the eleventh anniversary of the passing of Kevin Higgins. Kevin was a terrific athlete who, like many of us at the time, began playing rugby in college.
Higgins had a decorated rugby career, but his lasting impression has little to do with the number of appearances he made for our country. Kevin was the ultimate teammate.
Kevin lived and played with unbridled enthusiasm. The bigger the match the bigger he would smile. His enthusiasm could penetrate even the most reserve players on the team. He just never backed away from a challenge or said a match was out of reach. Victory was always possible.
Kevin was passionate. You never wondered where Kevin stood on a subject. If he felt a backline move was flawed, he said as much, but in his own enthusiastic way. You only had to be within earshot to appreciate his passion for the game and I witnessed firsthand the amount of influence that he had on his teammates. He loved the tactics, competitiveness and relentless nature of our sport.
Kevin was loyal to a fault. He would defend you first and then only later ask what you had done wrong to get into trouble. If he considered you a friend, and he had hundreds, you could always count on him to back you, on or off the field. Kevin was loyal to America, and was patriotic in ever sense of the word.
Whether representing the U.S. during the 1991 Rugby World Cup, or competing in the famous black and white hoops of the Barbarians, Kevin beamed with nationalistic pride. He was quick to embrace his nationality in a sport where being an American meant you weren’t supposed to understand how the game was played.
Because Kevin was so much fun to be around it was easy for some to miss how competitive he was. He was a fierce competitor in every thing he did. On a few occasions Kevin and I competed for the same position on the U.S. national sevens team. Needless to say I only edged him out once in selections, and of course he was the first person to approach me with a sincere congratulations. You knew you had accomplished something if you beat him at anything.
Enthusiastic, passionate, loyal, and competitive, that’s who Kevin Higgins was. He made you want to be around him, but more importantly, you wanted to be like him. He made his teammates better by how he lived his life.
His family and friends miss him. Rugby is without one of it’s best.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand (Bay of Plenty), the U.S. (The Old Blues), England (London Harlequins), and Wales (Pontypridd) for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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