When the Culver Military Academy Rugby Club traveled to Argentina on a Global Pathways Spring trip in 2013, the Paul McBride family, of Lake Sherwood, Calif., went with them. During that trip, Gabe McBride, age 14, who has Down Syndrome, became fascinated with the game.
It is easy to understand why. His dad Paul ’87 played rugby in college at Ohio Wesleyan and later in the Marine Corps. Older brothers Duncan and Nick, both first-classmen in Troop B, also know their way around the rugby pitch. And during that 2013 trip, Gabe was quickly adopted as a member of the team, coach Darrell Knowlton said. The team was inspired by his spirit and willingness to not allow perceived limitations hinder his achievements.
Over the past year Gabe’s love for the game has grown exponentially, said his father. “He just became consumed by it.”
Now Gabe watches replays of rugby matches on YouTube. His favorite team is the famed All Blacks from the New Zealand Rugby Union. “He is even learning the Haka,” Paul said.
So, when CMA was offered the chance to scrimmage at the new Stinson Rugby Field at the University of Notre Dame on April 5, it was an easy decision to turn it into “Gabe’s Game.”
Gabe, Paul, mother Courtney, and sister Margaux came back to join Duncan and Nick. For 30 minutes, Gabe was able to put on the Eagles kit (jersey and shorts) and play with his father and brothers during the controlled team scrimmage while Courtney and Margaux documented the event. Notre Dame Rugby head coach Sean O’Leary gave Gabe an ND skull cap so it would be easier for friends and fans to locate him from the sidelines.
Gabe led his team to victory, scoring three tries. For his efforts and inspiration, he received the game ball. Gabe said it was the first chance he has had to play in a game situation.
“It felt good,” he said, adding he has been preparing for the game for some time. “He’s been running to get in shape,” added his mom.
The scrimmage was a prelude to the Fighting Irish’s game against Arizona. The ND team used the game as an opportunity to raise funds for the Ara Parsehgian Medical Research Foundation, which working for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease.