In the late 50’s and early 60’s, a trio of Gent brothers helped bring football and basketball state titles to Bangor High School in Michigan. Nearly 60 years later, another trio of Gent brothers have found their own success in rugby helping to bring a state title to Rockford High School.
The oldest son of Elizabeth & Charles Gent Sr., Charles, Jr., was the sprinter in the family. He was not only competitive in the 100-yard dash, but is most famous for the extra point kick to secure a game against the Paw Paw football team and played guard in basketball. His shoe was bronzed and presented to him for the “Golden Toe Award.” Charles ended up going to Central Michigan University on a scholarship for trumpet of all things! He was known for playing in local jazz bands. He is survived by his three children.
Peter was the middle brother. He played all the same sports as Charles Jr. For track, he ran middle distance competing with his younger brother. During one race, Peter got tangled up with another runner disqualifying both runners leading younger brother Jaime to win the race. Peter and Jaime also played basketball together and both were members of the 1960 State Championship team. Michigan State University was the next step for Pete where he ended up being drafted for both professional basketball and football. He didn’t plan on playing professional football but decided to go through the tryout for the Dallas Cowboys. After his six years in NFL, he leaned on his college degree in Literature and started writing. He wrote several books like The Franchise, The Conjuring Heroes and The Last Magic Summer. North Dallas Forty was made into a movie in the 1970’s starring Nick Nolte and Mac Davis. He is survived by a son and daughter.
Jaime was the youngest — he played and excelled at three sports like his older brothers. He had a natural talent reading football plays. Jaime went on to Central Michigan University to play safety in 1961. He held the interception record in Mount Pleasant for over 15 years and is still in second place on the football career records. After college, he worked in the public school system in Haslett, Michigan, and retired after 43 years. His various jobs included teacher, principal, coach, and athletic director. He is survived by his wife, Cindy and three children, two sons and a daughter.
Fast forward 60 years. It’s been a good spring for the Gent brothers who all have a passion for rugby. Amongst them, they have played on a Top-5 nationally ranked college team, collected Division-1 College All-American honors, All Conference, All-State, High School All-American honors and garnered the attention of USA Rugby.
Their rugby journey started in Spring 2000 with the oldest, Shawn. Mike “Kiwi” Taylor, his first rugby coach, believed he had a natural talent for rugby. His position as a hooker placed him in the middle of the forward pack. He played high school varsity all four years. Since high school, Shawn has been playing for the Grand Rapids Gazelles, a senior men’s rugby team. He has had a unique opportunity to play almost all of the positions on the pitch throughout his career as well as spending 6 months playing in England.
Shawn was the assistant coach for Rockford High School rugby for a number of years before becoming head coach in 2016. His first year as head coach ended up 1-5. With his assistant coach, Andy Dauser, 2017 brought a 9-0 season and a state title. The team scored an average of 29 tries while giving up 9 tries in each match. Shawn credits the win to the players and their willingness to “dig in and [listen] to us and doing the basics every day — just doing the boring stuff. They [players] never complained and they worked their butts off and obviously that paid off. And we had to beat Grandville three times to do it and they’re two-time state champions!”
With 14 returning players, Shawn and Andy will be recruiting to defend the championship.
Continuing with the trio, Brady, the middle brother, started playing rugby in 2005 in the fifth grade. During his career, Brady was awarded High School All American and he is a two-time Division-1 College All American honors recipient. Brady played at Davenport University for four years. DU had been ranked in the top 5 of the country for most of his career. His last game with DU ended with a third-place finish in the National 7’s Rugby. According to Brady, rugby rules his life: “It’s literally my passion…it’s everything. Whenever I have to make a major life decision, I’m always thinking about rugby.” Brady is currently playing for the Chicago Lions and is also on the USA Rugby Eagle’s tracking program. He awaits his chance to play for the international team. Brady was an integral part of the state title helping with “backline experience and forwards coaching” during the 2017 season for Rockford High School.
The youngest, Jacob, started playing rugby in 2007 while in kindergarten. Jacob thanks rugby for showing him “how teamwork can really make the dream work…having 14 other people who are all going for the same goal of winning the game, winning the state title.” Although just in his second year of high school, he has already shown his abilities. He received the “Man of The Match” honors in the state finals game for his aggressive defensive play and ability to help the offense keep moving. He also received All Conference and All-State honors. USA Rugby just added him to the Eagle tracking program and in August he has a chance to be training at the USA Olympic Rugby facilities in California.
You may contact the Rockford Rugby Football team for interest in the spring 2018 season. Andy is currently recruiting for fall 2017 girls team and can be reached by Facebook Sparta Rock Girls Rugby and during practice at Roguewood Elementary (3900 Kroes St NE, Rockford, MI 49341 ) from 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Shawn can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org