Athlete Spotlight: PJ Ernst: Puns, prayer and playing rugby


“Recently, I’ve been getting into dad jokes a lot, and I really love when someone sits in a recliner, and they say ‘Ah, yes. Me and this recliner go way back,’” senior Patrick “PJ” Ernst said, followed by a laugh at his own joke. 

Anyone who knows Ernst knows that prowess on the rugby field is far from his defining characteristic. Among other things, Ernst, a history and education major, enjoys laughing at dad jokes and singing at Mass.  

But as his team’s 8-man and occasional flanker, his skill on the pitch is certainly a notable aspect of this rugger’s time as a Baron.  

“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” Ernst said of the sport. “There’s a lot of suffering meant for a common good because you bleed and sweat with your teammates. … I love that especially at Franciscan because we know that … we’re playing for the glory of God, and we praise that wholeheartedly.” 

Ernst has played at Franciscan University of Steubenville for three years, previously as team captain and currently as president, after transferring from Ohio Northern University. He discovered a love for rugby in high school, where he also enjoyed football, wrestling and throwing shot put and discus. 

His love for the sport has grown as much as he has, and he finds it helps him to stay well-rounded as a student and a Catholic. 

“It’s been a process,” he said, “but I’ve come to know that in working hard in rugby, in working hard to win a game, to communicate well with my team … it’s served me very well in academics and in my prayer life because I know that Christ, Jesus Christ deserves my all. He deserves my communication; he deserves everything I can give him. And I’ve learned … in giving him all, it’s imperative that I give all in rugby, academics, so on and so forth.” 

Ernst certainly has been dedicated to his team this semester as they welcomed a new coach and earned an undefeated conference season. In the future, he will continue to give his all to Christ as he enters seminary in his home diocese of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Despite being out for a few weeks due to an injury, he plans to return to the pitch to help his teammates in their upcoming conference championship games. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *