Tanner Graham Again Named Rugby MVP

Tanner Graham Again Named Rugby MVP

SOCORRO, N.M. – Tanner S. Graham has become the first player to have his name etched onto New Mexico Tech’s Jeremiah Wright Memorial Trophy a second time as New Mexico Tech’s top rugby player. The eldest son of Debbie and Shannon Graham of Alamogordo, New Mexico was followed closely in a recent team vote by sophomore flanker Nigel Ruckhaus of Anchorage, Alaska.


Tanner Graham (left) was named the Player of the Year for the NMT Rugby Team for the second consecutive year.



Tanner Graham delivers a stiff-arm to a defender in recent rugby action.


Jeremiah Wright Trophy is awarded in the memory of former NMT Rugby Club captain Jeremiah Wright of Raton, N.M., who died in a motor vehicle accident during his senior year in 2002. The trophy was constructed by Jeremiah’s high school coaches in 2003 and is on display at the NMT gymnasium. Since 2004 Wright Trophy honorees have been awarded engraved pewter mugs and had their names affixed to the trophy. They are Mark Kelly, Rob Harrison, Phillip Turner, Seth Daly, Matt Majors, Matt Nelson, Jay Herrera, Isaiah Sanchez, Enrique Koerdell, Blaine Trujillo, Jason Lee, and John Mark Stiles.

Tanner Graham was an all-state high school football player and played a year at West Texas A&M before transferring to New Mexico Tech in the spring of 2015. Blessed with power, surprising speed, and a knack for the subtleties of an otherwise rough-and-tumble sport, the 6’ 2”, 225-pounder hit the rugby field running and by the end of his third semester in May 2016 was voted by his teammates to receive the Wright Trophy.

On that occasion Graham credited his success to hard work, goal-setting, mind and body maintenance, and analysis of the sport. His most recent observations reveal the constant improvement and personal growth that continue to characterize his achievements.

“After receiving this prestigious award last year, I thought about how I could get even better. I decided I would make an honest effort to be head captain. Being naturally pretty quiet, I knew this wasn't going to be an easy task. I knew I was going to have to get out of my comfort zone.

“Every match, I learned something new. I learned having to balance the energy of my own play with that of directing the teammates around me. I learned I should not let those two things depend on each other. If I’m not personally playing well, I still have to lead the team. The captain must always display an image of strength, even when losing.

“I experienced many feelings, from completely destroying another team to getting completely blown out, and also the joy of a hard-fought comeback win. I learned you must respect each of those scenarios because you never know which of those might happen each match. I also learned that these rugby lessons have parallels to real life. You must always enjoy the good times with knowledge of the bad. But just as important, you must push through the bad times knowing it’s not going to last forever. Getting out of your comfort zone is something that everyone has to do if they want to grow.”

On May 20 Tanner Graham leads the rugby squad into their last appearance of the season at the 18th annual Celtic Sevens Tournament at Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta Park. Up to four graduates (Paul Quintana, Jason Lee, Jay Herrera, and Brian Arko) are expected to help fill out a 12-man roster otherwise left short by the summer recess. Seven-member teams in high school girls’ and boys’, women’s, and men’s divisions will compete throughout the day adjacent to the Rio Grande Valley Celtic Festival.

Teams from the four-state area are entered in the men’s tournament, including an elite developmental squad from Denver designed as a stepping stone toward the USA national sevens team. Among Denver coach Howard Kent’s unofficial duties will be having a peek at a certain player on the New Mexico Tech team.

– NMT –