Student makes place on COCC rugby team

Merlin at the match against OIT. Photo: Gina Rickets/COCC Broadside

Merlin Tom is working toward his Master Automotive Technician Certification at Central Oregon Community College.

When he completes the program, “I’ll probably try to get on at dealership,” Merlin was saying last week.

Earlier this year, Merlin became a student-athlete at the college, joining the COCC Bobcats rugby team.

Merlin played football at Madras High School. He was a lineman on both offense and defense.

His decision to try rugby was a little unexpected. His mother was concerned at first, as rugby is known as a rough sport. The players wear no pads or helmet like in football.

“It can get pretty rough,” Merlin says. “And there is some risk of injury, mostly cuts and bruises.”

He became interested in playing when friend Gabe Swazo mentioned Merlin might be good at it. Rugby requires more all-around conditioning, where football often requires physical size, Merlin says. There are no breaks in rugby, as there between downs in football.

On the Bobcats, Merlin plays forward and loose head prop, mainly defensive positions. The team is part of the Pacific Northwest Small College Men’s League.

During the fall they played teams such as Reed, OIT, Seattle, Gonzaga, the University of Puget Sound and Oregon State.

The Bobcats had a great season, going undefeated in league play.

Merlin is looking forward to playing when the next season begins in the spring.

He grew up in Warm Springs. He moved to Madras during his senior year at Madras High School. His mom is Mabel Jackson, and his dad Merlin Dean Tom. Since Merlin started playing rugby for the Bobcats, his family members have become fans of the game.