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Brian Hightower


Sweeney Award


Brian began playing rugby as a sophomore at the College of William and Mary and represented the Virginia Rugby Union Select side as an outside center in his junior and senior year. In 1993, after graduating with a degree in Government, he moved to Colorado and joined the Gentlemen of Aspen, where, due to his reluctance to pass the ball, was moved to the wing.

With the Gents, his game improved under the tutelage of many of the nation’s greatest players and legendary coach, Brian Going. Hightower was part of a historic time in Aspen Rugby, as the Gentlemen racked up a handful of National and Super League titles. In 1996, he spent a season in Northland, New Zealand to expand his game and his horizons. By the end of that summer, he was selected to the US 7s Team as the squad aimed at 7s World Cup qualification. 1996 was a banner year for Hightower, as he was also called to the US National Team in that

same winter.

Brian’s first cap was vs. Wales at Cardiff Arms Park in January of 1997. He would represent both the US 7s and National Team until 2000, playing in 21 matches for the Eagles, the 1997 7s World Cup in Hong Kong, and the 1999 Rugby World Cup. During his last two years with the Eagles, he also coached at Dartmouth College alongside former international flanker, Stuart Krohn.

Injuries forced his retirement from international rugby, but fortuitous circumstances would allow Hightower to remain in rugby long after his days on the pitch. A chance phone call with teammate Dan Lyle would place Brian in the commentator’s booth at the HSBC Las Vegas 7s in 2011. Hightower would use his voice to try to elevate the game for a US audience by focusing on the players and educating a growing domestic fanbase. Brian’s new role found him in the booth at Soldier Field, pitchside at the World Cup, and on the beaches of Fiji. This unexpected journey would lead to over a dozen years behind the microphone for NBC Sports at the most prestigious national and global rugby events including the 2011, ’15 and ’19 Rugby World Cups, and the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games.

Brian’s career outside of rugby is punctuated by teaching and mentoring local youth. He taught middle school history for twelve years, and coached football as well. In 2016, he became the Ranch Manager and Education Coordinator for the Aspen Valley Land Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving land and fostering stewardship. He is still there, moving water, cattle and fenceposts, and teaching kids about soil. He lives in Colorado, and spends his free time whitewater kayaking, skiing and bowhunting with his wife, Emily and son, Oz.