As a kid growing up just outside of Houston, Bronson Teles already knew what he wanted to do when he got older.
“At 7 or 8 years old, I knew I wanted to play rugby,” he said.
Rugby? In Texas? Yep.
Fast-forward to age 22, and Teles is living out his dream having spent the last four seasons as part of the UA men’s rugby team. He was recently selected by the Dallas Jackals in the first-ever Major League Rugby draft.
At Arizona, Teles established himself as one of the premiere rugby players in the country over the last four years, becoming a two-time All-American and 2020 co-player of the year in the Pac-12 before graduating from the UA’s Eller College of Management.
“To be drafted in the first Major League Rugby draft was truly an exciting moment,” Teles said. “And I am grateful to have that chance; it was a surreal moment for me and my family.”
For Teles, the roots to his rugby career begin with his family — specifically his father who grew up in South Africa and developed a passion for playing rugby there. Though Bronson was born in Denmark and moved to Texas in the early 2000s, rugby blood flowed through his veins.
Teles recalled nights of watching the South Africa and United States rugby teams with his dad and looking on in amazement.
“He was a big influence on me as a kid,” Teles said of his father. “As soon as I was old enough to put the cleats on and play, I fell in love with it.”
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches and weighing a muscular 250 pounds, Teles is built like a linebacker. In fact, he played high school football at Foster High School in Richmond, Texas, where pictures depict him mimicking the pass rush stance of Houston Texans star J.J. Watt.
Teles also experimented with wrestling and track in high school — quite the busy schedule.
Though he enjoyed each sport, he never truly loved any of them the same way he did rugby. By his junior year, Teles focused on just playing football in the fall and rugby in the spring. He garnered some interest to play football collegiately but it just didn’t feel like the path for him.
“Rugby was always my top passion,” Teles said. “I took football very seriously, but I also sort of used football and those workouts as ways to hone my rugby skills.”
So when Arizona’s rugby program made getting Teles to Tucson a priority four-plus years ago, Teles was all in.
UA’s rugby squad isn’t a highly publicized group as it is not one of the official sports under the NCAA’s umbrella, meaning the program isn’t found anywhere on the Arizona Athletics website. But that doesn’t mean it’s without importance or value.
The Wildcats rugby team has been around for the last 51 years and is part of the USA Rugby’s Division 1A league, the highest level of collegiate play. UA’s program became relevant under former Wildcat and iconic Tucson broadcaster Dave Sitton in the 1970s and has remained one of the top teams in the league since. Teles arrived on scene in 2016 where he earned his stripes the first few years and was named team captain for the 2019-20 season.
“Playing at Arizona, it was an honor to represent the university and wear the ‘Block A,’ ” Teles said. “The alumni, the coaches, the team I was on, the players that came before me; it’s a very successful culture and that’s what I did my best to uphold.”
Major League Rugby (MLR) will have 13 competing teams next season thanks to an influx of expansion clubs that made it necessary for the league to enact its first-ever draft in June. Teles landed with the Jackals — one of the expansion teams — in the second round and sees it as a blessing he’ll be able to continue his career near his home. The 2021 season begins in February.
“It’s special to me to come back and play in my home state of Texas,” Teles said. “It’ll be awesome when the season starts and I play that first game in Dallas.”
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