When the U.S. men's rugby team took the field at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo last month, a former Hoosier and Trine alum was among them. Joe Schroeder was the first Olympian in the 137-year history of the university, previously known as Tri-State University.
Easily recognized by fans on TV and social media because of his distinctive mullet haircut, Schroeder told James Tew, Trine's senior director of content and communications, the style was a tribute to his brother, Will, who died a year and a half ago. Schroeder said his brother “rocked the mullet” and inspired him. “Once I made it to the U.S. team, he was just pumped for me. ... I can look in the mirror right before a game and remember him, and it helps me get motivated.”
The U.S. rugby team won its first match against Kenya on July 26 and eventually finished sixth, three spots above its ninth-place finish in Rio de Janeiro in the 2016 games. And Schroeder put a goal on the board in the team's final pool play match against South Africa, pointing skyward immediately after in memory of Will.
Like other Olympic athletes, the rugby team had to leave Tokyo within 48 hours after the finish of their competition. So Schroeder is now back visiting with family in Indiana and enjoying a brief hiatus before the team's five-tournament schedule begins anew in mid-September. The future includes a World Cup tournament in South Africa in 2022, the 2023 Pan-American games, and qualifying for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Schroeder hopes to be a part of that 2024 team and told Tew he is looking forward to playing before big crowds, watching other Olympic competitions in person, and sightseeing in Paris.
For now, he has the memories of Tokyo. “To be in that 12 that's running out on the field and to represent your country at the biggest stage possible, there's quite a bit more emotion there,” he told Tew. Also unforgettable: the oppressive heat that had Schroeder and his teammates gulping slushies and doing special breathing exercises; the quiet echoing from the empty stands; the lockdown restricting athletes to their practice venues, the Olympic Village and their competitions.
It was an incredible experience for the Trine alum. “Once you walk out into the lights, you just feel the presence there because you know how many people are watching from around the world,” he told Tew. “There are cameras everywhere.”