MTI heads back to the scrum

  • Published
  • By Patrick Desmond
  • 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs
The sight of a 6-foot-1-inch, 260-pound military training instructor charging at full speed is the stuff of trainees' nightmares.

At last year's Armed Forces Rugby Championship tournament, it was the bane of other services' chance at beating the Air Force.

But that's the first thing All-Air Force rugby player and 331st Training Squadron MTI Marvin Mays likes to do in a match.

"I knock the numbers off of someone's jersey early," he said. "It just gets me pumped up to go the rest of the game."

Rugby combines the conditioning of basketball or soccer with the physical nature of football through 80 minutes of nearly non-stop action.

"You're beating each other up and running," Mays said. "It's a challenge."

These two elements combined, Mays said, is the reason he looks for an early tackle to stay motivated and why the Air Force always wins.

Playing the prop position in his first All-Air Force selection in 2009, Mays said props are usually bigger and slower.

"We help maintain possession. We do the dirty work," he said.

The difference between himself and props on other service teams, he said, is his ability to cover 40 meters in 4.6 seconds.

"All of (the Air Force) guys are fast and athletic," he said. "It makes it really hard for the other teams to match up."

In 2009, Air Force outscored its military opponents 226-3 en route to its sixth consecutive Armed Forces Rugby Championship.

Mays scored the team's first five points on a 20-yard run against Navy.

Another distinguishing characteristic, this prop comes from a well-rounded sports background, covering baseball, basketball and football.

While stationed at Osan Air Base, Korea, in 2005, he was introduced to rugby.

"I was in the gym and somebody said, 'hey, want to play rugby?' I went out and that was that," Mays said.

After a two-year break, Mays started playing rugby again at Lackland.

"I found a team here in San Antonio, and then went out for the Air Force team," he said. "I guess I still had it."

Before taking his place in the scrum, Mays played football at almost every position in his high school, semiprofessional and arena football career.

He said football prepared him for rugby.

"I literally played every position on the field except for cornerback and safety," he said.

He said that versatility helped him switch over to rugby.

"Two seasons in rugby and I'm a better rugby player," he said. "It somehow matched up with my natural set of skills."

But the MTI also puts in time at the gym. Doing a mixture of cross-fit exercises and Olympic weight lifting in preparation for his Air Force rugby team tryout March 9, he said he's already added 100 pounds on his squat and 50 pounds on his bench since August.

Mays said he's looking forward to meeting up with the members of the team during the three-day tryouts, and complementary two-day rugby tournament.

"We go out together; we hang out together," he said. "It's one of those rare military opportunities where there's absolutely no recognition of rank. Just 30 dudes with one common goal."

The common goal is winning a seventh Armed Forces Rugby Championship at Fort Benning, Ga., Nov. 10.

Teammates on his local team, the San Antonio rugby team, have also been pushing him toward a tryout with the USA Eagles, a squad that fills many of the USA Olympic team spots, as well.

But he's a little hesitant to compare himself with that level of competitors. At least not yet.

"I consider myself an above average rugby player," he said. "I don't know that I am an international rugby player, but I'll definitely give it a go. We'll see what happens."

The Eagles tryout later this year around August or September.

Meanwhile, Mays continues to build on the success he's seen in his relatively short rugby career and gain more experience.

"All the physical attributes are there," he said. "It's just a matter of learning more of the game."