LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Many of the 34,000 college rugby players in the United States didn’t begin playing the sport until arriving on their respective college campuses. Iona’s Nick D’Allara is one of those many.
A multi-sport athlete in high school, it wasn’t until this past August that D’Allara’s older brother and captain of the Iona College Rugby team, John, brought him to the pitch for training and his first taste of rugby. Four months later, D’Allara’s first season of rugby, which included Honorable Mention selection to Rugby East’s All-Conference Team, has concluded. Now the second-row forward has his sights set on a new undertaking in joining the Marines, but this challenge isn’t to appease his brother. D’Allara’s downrange to boot camp in January was inspired by another family member – his father.
Prior to wearing the maroon and gold for Iona, D’Allara played baseball, basketball and football at Nanuet High School in New York. His unwavering commitment to athletics was due to an appreciation for the teamwork, solidarity and sacrifice that sports evoked in him. These are values important to D’Allara, not because they’re enriched in sports, but because they were passed down to him by his father who knew all about sacrifice. D’Allara’s dad, John Sr., was a member of New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit and surrendered the ultimate sacrifice when he tragically lost his life while saving others’ as a World Trade Center first responder on Sept. 11, 2001.
John Sr.’s passing in the line of duty played a part in D’Allara’s decision to sign a contract with the United State Marine Corps back in June.
“I’ve always wanted to be something bigger than myself,” said D’Allara. “The camaraderie of the Marine Corps is 10 times deeper than any sport.”
Not needed in Pariss Island, S.C., until Jan. 8 for his initial training regiment, D’Allara decided to spend his final months as a civilian studying, making friends and living a typical college life at Iona. What D’Allara didn’t know is that he’d be packing down with his brother and the rest of the Iona forwards during the 2016 Rugby East season.
While in high school, D’Allara made a few trips to the Iona campus to watch his brother play rugby on Saturdays. Still, even after seeing just how much John Jr. took to the sport, it wasn’t until the night before two-a-day training sessions began in August that D’Allara requested a crash course on the sport from his brother and committed to the Iona Rugby program.
“I love the sport, especially because of the people I played with,” D’Allara said of his season with the Gaels. “The community here is an unbelievably great group of guys.”
Not only did D’Allara immediately enjoy rugby, but he was good at it, too. Earning a starting spot at lock, Nick impressively made Rugby East’s Honorable Mention side, while John Jr. finished his collegiate career by earning a spot on the conference’s 2nd-Team. In addition, D’Allara obtained plenty of impressionable knowledge from his course curriculum and made a host of friends, both on and off the rugby team.
The brief but invaluable time at Iona has also better prepared D’Allara for the Marines, especially the rugby aspect of his college experience.
“Rugby kept me in shape and it’s a tough sport,” noted D’Allara. “You’ve got to be tough to play it and I think it has helped me.”
Iona Rugby is not only a family affair for the D’Allaras because John and Nick are often running in support of one another. Their mom, Carol, attends all of the home matches as an avid supporter and team photographer.
As D’Allara concludes his time at Iona, it was surprising to learn that he didn’t expect to return to rugby in the future. However, his intentions were made clear when he explained why he might never play the sport again.
“I can’t image playing rugby in any other colors than Iona’s,” D’Allara adamantly said.
Whether D’Allara returns to the pitch or not, he’ll have already laced up the boots with his brother and is weeks away from honoring his father by applying the commitment to sacrifice he taught him.