Gonzaga rugby player Jonathan Kim is family to his teammates

Gonzaga senior rugby player Jonathan Kim runs with the ball in a match against Boise State.

Family is perhaps the most invaluable aspect of life itself; the love that is shared brings about opportunities to grow as a person through life lessons and can be relied on in times of need.

For senior rugby player Jonathan Kim, family has been the backbone of a life filled with both good and bad experiences.

“The one big thing that really has driven most of my philosophies in life is my family,” he said.

Along with his rugby ability, Kim has brought the values of hard work and connecting with people in the course of his journey at Gonzaga.

“My dad has always taught me to never burn bridges, never dig yourself into a hole and just leave the world as an option,” Kim said. “Show up, make friends, work your hardest and see where you’ll get.”

Kim's passion for rugby originated from his father, Steve. When he was in fifth grade, Kim traveled to Australia with his family after his father was assigned there for work. After being heavily exposed to the game on the trip, Kim was fascinated by the sport so much that, when he returned home to San Diego, he joined a local club team.

It was during this time that rugby began to grow in popularity in Kim’s community, and more teams began to form.

Kim started playing rugby year-round by the time he reached high school. In the winter, the school season was in play, and in the spring, Kim played with his club team, which lasted through summer.

“Rugby just kind of became my thing,” Kim said. “Even in middle school, all the way through high school, everyone just kind of knew me as the kid who played rugby.”

Kim had the opportunity to go back to Australia his junior year of high school to play against teams of the same age group from different cities. His team traveled to Brisbane, Perth and Sydney, and while the games didn’t result in wins, Kim still enjoyed spending time with his teammates in an foreign environment they had never been to before.

“I was lucky that it wasn’t my first time there, but for a lot of my teammates, it was,” he said. “So, it was diving into the culture, meeting so many people and going to so many cool places that I never thought I’d be able to go to.”

In Sydney, Kim and his teammates took bus tours around the big city. The team spent most of its trip in Brisbane, visiting local hangout spots and taking a trip to Gold Coast, a hub for beaches and tourist attractions in Queensland.

Host families opened their homes to the team during their trip. Kim stayed with two different families with  teammate Sean Devins.

“Both families were so welcoming,” he said. “They went out of their way to show us around and teach us a lot about their city.”

Such a bond was forged among Kim and the families that he plans on staying with them this summer when he visits again. This time, he plans on bringing his roommate and teammate at GU, Harrison Eagle, who has had an impact on Kim since he stepped foot onto GU’s campus four years ago.

During freshman orientation weekend, the two met while playing soccer on Mulligan Field. Immediately after seeing his size and stature, Kim asked Eagle if he had considered playing rugby before. After expressing interest, the two have bonded over the sport ever since.

“It turned out to be one of the best friendships I made here,” Kim said.

It was this friendship­ — in part — that convinced Kim to stay at GU after having second thoughts about the school during his freshman year. Being far from home was difficult for him, so he considered transferring to a school closer to San Diego.

But, along with Eagle, Kim was introduced to a group of senior rugby players that changed the culture of GU rugby going forward. Not only were they responsible for  the growth of rugby on campus, but Kim was also impressed by the camaraderie of the seniors, from the start to the end of his freshman year.

“It was those guys, the way they treated me my entire freshman year,” he said. 

Kim recalled when a senior offered him a place to stay while his dorm was closed, as well as a chance to play rugby for the first time at GU.

“If I hadn’t met those seniors, Eagle or my other housemate, Julian, I don’t think I would’ve stayed,” he said.

When it was time for those seniors to leave, Kim felt the culture was passed down to him and his class to carry forward.

“The difference that they had, and what I’m trying to embody now, is that they turned it from a club team into a family,” he said.

It has always been family that connected Kim with his passion, but this time, it was his rugby family.

Kim’s involvement with the program includes a mix of everything. From team president to player and coach, he has invested a lot of time and effort into the club that welcomed him years ago.

“On the field, he serves as an example,” Eagle said. “Pretty much as a player who fundamentally knows the game and how to lead the team.”

However, it’s been challenging for Kim at times. Whether it’s working with outside resources or other teams for scheduling, it isn’t always smooth sailing. But Kim said these struggles taught him valuable lessons about how to deal with tough situations.

“The one thing I’ve learned through doing all of this is you can work so hard to make everything perfect, and it might not always be that way, but you just got to keep working hard anyways,” Kim said.

This is another mindset passed down from his father, who Kim said has similar work ethic.

“When he sets his mind to something, he does it,” Kim said. “And he doesn’t think of himself, ever.”

Both traits can be found in his son. 

Cole Forsman is a staff writer.

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