GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Davenport University is making their first ever appearance in the weekly publication of Sports Illustrated as rugby player JP Eloff was selected as a “Faces in the Crowd” for the December 12 issue. Eloff helped lead the USA Rugby Division I team to a national championship last season and has the Panthers ranked No. 1 in the Division I-AA poll in 2011-12.
Eloff, a sophomore center led the Panthers with 106 points this fall to help them finish with a 7-0 record and a No. 1 USA Rugby Division I-AA ranking from Rugby Magazine. In the team's first season at the D-I level last spring, Eloff scored 13 tries, led the Panthers in conversions (37) and penalty goals (11) for a team-high 172 points, including 25 in a 38-19 win over UC Santa Barbara for the program’s first national championship, and was named tournament MVP.
“It is truly an honor to be selected to be a part of Sports Illustrated," commented Eloff. "This past year with Davenport has been a great success and I could not have asked for a better team. We play for each other on the team and because of that they've given me the opportunity to get selected to play at a higher level with the All American team. All I can say is that God has truly blessed me with great talent and the opportunity to play with a great bunch of guys.”
Davenport, which has sponsored the sport of rugby since the 2009-10 season, finished with a 15-2 overall record last year with Eloff leading the way as a freshman. The panthers picked up wins over national powers Minnesota, Kansas State and Harvard University en route to the school’s first national championship in the sport's history.
“I'm thrilled that Sports Illustrated is recognizing Davenport Rugby and JP Eloff," said head coach Kruger VanBiljon. "DU rugby has come a long way in a short period of time. JP is a special athlete and we are fortunate to have him on our roster. His skills and talent help all players around him to become better and I know JP will feel honored about this recognition but he will also be the first player to give all the credit to his teammates.”
Davenport is 7-0 headed into the winter break and is ranked No. 1 in the Rugby Magazine D1AA Top 25. DU has already qualified for the spring national tournament.