Athlete Spotlight: Matthew Hennig

Christopher Dacanay
Sports Editor

On his way back from St. Louis, Missouri, immediately following the rugby team’s semifinal regional match, Matthew Hennig took time out of his hectic schedule to share his experiences with the team.

Hennig is a senior majoring in accounting. He is originally from Newport, New Hampshire, but his interview took place electronically while Hennig was more than 1,000 miles away from his home.

The team had just completed the semifinal match for the Central Regional Championship, losing to Saint John’s University in a devastatingly close 34-31 match and closing the regular season.

The rugby team has been through a lot this season, having a 6-4 overall score. In the Allegheny Rugby Union Championship, the team won some key games but lost the championship match. Most recently, they lost their first game and won the consolation finals, placing them third in the Central Regional Championship.

Regarding this season, Hennig said, “We’ve had a lot of bumps in the road this season, but we’ve kept a winning season and played with vigor. I’m immensely proud of my teammates and grateful for the gift of Franciscan rugby.”

Hennig said, “I was chosen as the forwards’ captain this semester and I’ve done my best to step up in this position for the men on my team.

“I seek to lead our men in training and playing with absolute passion and utmost dignity,” Hennig said. “I help run forwards’ practice and guide our players during games to play the best rugby we can muster.”

Hennig was also named “Man of the Match” for one of this season’s games. This honor amounts to a most valuable player of the match award, distinguishing Hennig for his determination.

Hennig is a forward, which means he has to run through the middle of the field, braving the opposing team’s tackles in order to gain territory. Defensively, Hennig has to tackle opposing team members who try to gain their own territory.

As a forward, Hennig also participates in scrums — piles where players compact their bodies and heads tightly together in order to gain possession of the ball. These occur typically when a foul has been committed.

Hennig first began playing rugby four years ago as a freshman. Playing for Franciscan was Hennig’s first introduction to rugby. He has played rugby for a total of three years, excluding his junior year when the season was interrupted by COVID-19 restrictions.

Hennig said he started playing rugby because “My father played and I hoped to find a challenging sport that helped me glorify God through pursuing true masculinity.”

Hennig also played football and wrestling, which prepared him for the rough and tumble of rugby. Hennig’s patron saint is St. Patrick.

The comradery and authentic Catholicism are Hennig’s favorite parts about the team. Hennig also enjoys the unique difficulty of rugby and the “gratifying sense of fighting with your brothers on the pitch.”

Balancing academics, daily life and rugby requires depending on God for all things, Hennig said. He admits that he is not the best at this, but he seeks to continually trust God more in all aspects of life.

Hennig was drawn to Franciscan by the authentically and passionately Catholic culture. He said, “Being Catholic is the most important aspect of my life. I hope I can become a better servant to God every day.”

In addition to rugby, Hennig also enjoys reading, hiking, camping and fishing.

In the future, Hennig hopes to raise a family and be the best father he can be. This vocation is what drives Hennig’s pursuit of accounting, which he sees as a useful field that can reliably support a family.

Though the rugby season is over, the future is bright for Hennig as he continues to seek God in his life.


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