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The City Journals

Former Ram Ngata and Warriors play joke on rugby community

Apr 23, 2019 02:51PM ● By Greg James

Professional rugby in Utah is into its second season and the Utah Warriors have found home field advantage at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman. (Photo courtesy of Warriors Rugby)

By Greg James |  [email protected] 

The Utah Warriors and former NFL superstar Haloti Ngata shared some fun moments as an April Fool’s Day prank.

“Rugby was always my first love,” Ngata said in a press release. “It taught me how to be a better football player which proved out in my college and pro career. I am honored to sign with the Warriors and make an impact.”

The prank was an effort to raise awareness of the Haloti Ngata Family Foundation which helps underprivileged high school students matriculate into higher education. The prank announced that he had signed a player contract with the Warriors for the 2019 season.

The response went viral almost instantaneously. Inquiries and stories popped up from rugby publications nationally and worldwide.

Later that evening Ngata released a statement via Instagram thanking the Warriors and giving more information on the nature of the contract.

“We had a lot of fun today (April 1st), talking about me signing with the Warriors. While I love rugby, I’m not actually playing with the team, but they are making a donation to my foundation,” he said.

The Warriors were overwhelmed with responses to the initial announcement.

“The quantity of calls, emails, and texts we received was incredible,” Warriors General Manager Kimball Kjar said. “Hopefully, this transfers into something viable for the foundation to work with.”

Proceeds from all tickets and merchandise sales will be donated to the foundation.

Ngata retired from the NFL on March 18. He climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and displayed a banner that read “I am retiring on top.”

As a first round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2006, he later earned a Super Bowl ring in 2013 and also played with the Lions and Eagles.

He was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl five times in his career and attended Highland High School where he was a three year starter. In 2001, he was named Utah Gatorade Player of the Year. He eventually signed a letter of intent and attended the University of Oregon.

In high school he played rugby and helped Highland to a national championship.

The Ngatas created the foundation in 2015. It is operated in partnership with the Salt Lake Education Foundation. It carries on the vision of Ngata’s late mother, Ofa, by providing college preparation resources to high school students in the Salt Lake School District. The fund has provided ACT preparation classes for 600 students since its inception. More information on the Ngata foundation can be found at www.ngatafoundation.com 

In 2017, Ngata was awarded the NFL’s Walter Payton award for his off the field work in the community.

Major League Rugby (based in Salt Lake City) announced expansion. The league will add three teams to the schedule. The total number of teams in the MLR is now at 12. New teams will be introduced to New England, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.

The Warriors returned to Zions Bank Stadium on April 27 to face the Austin Elite Rugby squad. They defeated them 17-9 in their first match of the season. For tickets and team information visit www.warriorsrugby.com