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Steve Gray


Sweeney Award



Steve Gray was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Ford and Helen Gray in 1948. He attended the University of Arizona on a golf scholarship but struggled with his game and looked for other athletic outlets. In his senior year, 1969, he saw an ad in the Daily Wildcat, the school paper, to play rugby. He thought rugby involved sticks (lacrosse) and with his golf background and love for football, he’d be a natural. It was the team’s 1st year and with no coach (and no sticks), they just scrimmaged and then headed to a bar. His thoughts were, “This is a lot more fun than golf!”

Over the course of his career, Gray played every position in the backline. His club career was quite extensive, having played for the University of Arizona, UCLA, Los Angeles Rugby Club, West Rand (South Africa), Merthyr (Wales), Vail RFC, the University of Miami, OMBAC, and Sacramento RFC.  

Gray was a member of the first USA Eagles 15s rugby team during the modern era in 1976. He was also the captain of the first Eagles 7s team that went to Hong Kong in 1980. Over the course of his international career, he earned six caps in 15s and 18 caps in 7s. He played with the Overseas International Rugby Team that played Wales in their Centenary Season Series in 1981.

Gray has successfully coached several clubs in his career. His first endeavor was with the Los Angeles Rugby Club from 1979-1980 and UCLA in 1981.  During his term, both LARC and UCLA were league champions. From 1985-1987, he coached San Diego State University and was a player coach for  OMBAC 7s. OMBAC was crowned National Champions in 1985 and placed third in 1986, while SDSU went on to win a National 15s Collegiate Championship in 1987.

He moved north in 1987 to work as a professor at California State University Sacramento. Between 1997 and 2000, Gray coached Davis High School. Davis HS were league champions in 1999 and third in the Northern California Playoffs in 2000. He coached UC Davis for several years between 2001 and 2013, including the 7s team. UC Davis won the DII National Championship in 2015, while Gray was serving as Coach Coordinator.  In 2009, he coached River City High School and in 2012, Rio Linda, both located in lower socio-economic areas.

In 1984, Gray sparked his high-level coaching career with the Pacific Coast Grizzlies 7s Team. In 1985, he led them to a National All Star Title. He coached the USA National 7s Team in selected tournaments in 1985-1986, 1993, and 1989-1999. The team earned a second place finish in the 1993 Lisbon International 7s Tournament and in 1986 they won the Plate at the Hong Kong 7s.  

Beyond both his playing and coaching career, Gray has remained a contributor to the game. Since 2010, he has been a World Rugby Educator and Trainer, presenting rugby coaching certification courses and training coach educators for USA Rugby. He particularly loves working with the many new coaches who are entering youth rugby, ensuring the future of the game in this country.  In 2011, he became a certified referee. He has worked with both the USA Women’s and Men’s National 7s teams at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA in an effort to develop a USA Rugby 7s course. In 2014, he presented the USA Rugby 7s course to coaches in California.

Gray was inducted into the San Diego State Sports Hall of Fame in 2006. Although he no longer plays rugby, he remains a competitive athlete, having taken up Crossfit. He has qualified for the CrossFit Games twice in the Masters 60+ Division. He now helps train CrossFit athletes at his son’s gym (CrossFit Analog) in Sacramento,

He recently started a faculty early retirement program at California State University Sacramento where he teaches in the fall and takes the rest of the year off to enjoy time with his wife, Jackie, sons, Andrew and Jesse, daughter-in-law Marlo,  and grandson (and future rugger) Woodson.