Oscar Wilkins was inducted into the Memphis Rugby Hall of Fame in 2016 for his playing ability and for establishing the sport of rugby to Memphis.
Presentation By Arlan “Ace” Eilert
Oscar was a 1966 graduate of Booker T. Washington HS in Memphis. He was also a 38 year employee of the BNSF Railroad where he achieved many honors in education and where he pioneered several skilled services.
Oscar is a first year co-Founder of Memphis Rugby and joined in August of 1968. He was one the first five Back Rugby players to play in the South. He started playing Rugby on a dare from one of his friends. We’re forever glad he took that dare.
He played in first Game by a Memphis team. That match was on an October 1968 trip to Huntsville, AL. That match was against at the Redstone Arsenal team. An early rain storm left 6” of rain on the field. Therefore, we thought the match would be called; however, Redstone said that they never cancelled a game. That game was a mud bath. We lost our first match 10 to 0.
Oscar played the position of Wing Three-quarter. He had three bothers that also played: (Melvin, Sylvester and Floyd). He had two sisters (Susan & Alfreda), his wife Linda, and his Sister-in-law Nancy that played for the Memphis Belles RFC. His family contributed greatly to Memphis Rugby.
Oscar’s Rugby Accomplishments include:
1) One of two Black players first every selected to the USA National Team-1969 (Legion Field in Birmingham – England 7 and the USA 5)
2) He played on the first integrated Rugby team in the South
3) He never missed a one-on-one tackle in 12 years of Rugby
4) He could run a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds
4) He was never out run in 12 years of Rugby
5) He was never caught from behind in 12 years of Rugby
6) He could out jump anyone on any of his teams
7) He invented our (lineout & standoff bullet-pass)
He was given several nicknames over the years: “Designated Driver” “Bail Bondsmen” “Guardian Angel”. He was given these nicknames because he is and was a man of Faith and never drank, never smoked cigarettes, never cursed, never ran with wild women and never did drugs. Consequently, Oscar never participated in any partying or singing contests. Oscar tolerated that from our team and stood in the back of the room. Because of his responsibility and loyal steadfastness other players started giving him their car keys, wallets and credit cards; therefore he earned these nicknames.
In his 12 years of Rugby, Oscar played on 4 Rugby Clubs: The Wanderers, the Bulls, Ole #7 and the Memphis Rugby Club-The Gold. He also played on the 1976 unified tournament team the Memphis Mad Dogs.
Oscar played in one tournament outside the country. It was hosted by the Canadian Anglos from Windsor, Canada in 1977.
The Wanderers were playing Huntsville in Huntsville in March of 1969. Oscar was moved to 8th Man-Lock at half time. With less than a minute to go in the game, he awarded 2 minutes for an injury. Since he was the injured player no one expected him of any more effort. When the ball came out of the scrum he broke away and got the ball, faked to Standoff and went to the weak side. He got passed their Winger & hurdled over the head of the Fullback and into the End zone for the winning score. Oscar won that game. Big John Roberts carried him off the field on his shoulders. Oscar won that game.
The Wanderers were playing Huntsville in Memphis in July of 1969, Oscar was moved to Wing-Forward, his first time in that position. He was able out jump all players on both sides the whole game without any assistance or support. Up till that time no one realized Oscar could jump that high until that game. That game was played on 7/21/69. That was the day the USA landed a man on the moon. This game became known as our Man-on-the-Moon-Game.
The Wanderers were playing UT in Knoxville, spring of 1971. It was less than a minute to go in the game and UT was leading. Instead of running the clock out a UT player kicked a grounder over into our goal. Oscar playing Winger scooped the ball up ran from End zone to End zone up through the middle of the field untouched for the winning score. Phil Wyatt started yelling “Oscar is our Jim Brown”. Oscar won that game.
The Wanderers were playing the Atlanta Renegades at half time in the Liberty Bowl – 8/21/71. The Pro game was a boring low scoring defensive game. Our half time Exhibition was anything but boring. During an opportunity in the match, Oscar playing Winger was able to scoop up the ball and run End zone to End zone along the sideline untouched through many missed tackles. With that run Oscar the entire stadium was on their feet with a roaring cheer. Unfortunately, his run was called back for stepping on the touch line. While we were walking off the field and passed the Denver team, their Quarterback leaned over to Oscar and said, “You Rugby guys are crazy.” All the rest of us smiled because we knew he was right.
It is with pleasure that I present to you the next member of the Memphis Rugby Hall of Fame, Oscar Wilkins.