2021-22 Kevin Higgins College Scholarship Recipient: Elijah Palmer
After years of participating in football, Elijah Palmer strived for more and was eager to gain an edge on other competitors. He felt stuck in a performance rut, until he found rugby. After he was introduced to the game, Elijah hit his stride and became a force on the pitch. Not only did his coordination, speed, and strength finally click, but he also felt a sense of gratitude for how rugby seemed to impact every avenue of his life.
“Rugby lit a fire in me that I previously did not have and gave me confidence to pursue excellence. Rugby taught me leadership skills and provided structure to my life. I started getting good grades, participating in service projects, and even finished up my Eagle Scout Award. I strived to be the best player on and off the field. I’m grateful for rugby and how it changed my life,” said Palmer. Elijah played for the Tempe Rugby Club and appeared on the pitch in several matches for the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy U16 and U18 teams. With the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy, Palmer helped his team win the North American Invitational 7s in 2019 and 2020 and the Los Angeles 7s championship title in 2020. He also earned a roster spot on the Canada BC tour with EIRA in 2019 and the Spain Invitational tour in 2021. In 2021, he was named a U-18 All-American. “I’ve worked with a tremendous number of outstanding young men over the past 20 years and Eli ranks among the best. His leadership style, calm and collected under pressure, his respect for the game, teammates, officials, and opponents has been exemplary and authentic.
As Eli starts his college career at the University of Arizona, I’ve no doubt he will continue to grow as an outstanding rugby player and quality young man,” said Salty Thompson, Director of the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy. Elijah graduated from Red Mountain High School in Mesa, Arizona with a 3.8 grade point average. Aside from rugby, Elijah lettered in track, swim, and football. On the gridiron, he served as team captain, earned a football scholar award for academic excellence, and was named first-team all-state for his play. He was an active member of student council, the cultural ambassadors club, and the Red Mountain High School student section for athletic events, known as the “Red Sea.” As an active member in his local community, he served over 200 hours of community service during his high school career. In 2019, Palmer earned Eagle Scout honors, a highly prestigious recognition among Boy Scouts of America. His well-rounded nature and athletic distinction have earned him a scholarship to continue his academic and athletic career at the University of Arizona. Elijah has transitioned seamlessly to the challenges of being a collegiate student-athlete and is already making his mark on Arizona Rugby. “He is a fantastic player and person, one of the leaders of the Freshmen class, and one of the most committed we’ve seen in my time here. Eli has a great approach to the game, while also being highly coachable.
He was selected for the North American Lions and will compete at the Dubai 7s with them which he is of course very excited for but also taking the right approach with his professors on to make sure he can do this. I challenged him that if he wanted to attend this event, I would only sign off if he put in a good semester in the classroom and got his professors to be on board and he’s done both,” said Sean Duffy, University of Arizona Director of Rugby. He intends to pursue a career in engineering and would like to own his own business one day, with hopes that he can combine his business endeavors with his passion for helping others. Above all Elijah has expressed that, “My main goal is to continue expanding the game and making it a well-represented and recognized sport in the US. Later in life I want to share what I’ve learned through coaching. My dream is helping America become a rugby powerhouse and giving kids the same opportunity as I had”.