John Ellis has been one of the most influential members of Virginia's rugby community for almost five decades;John's leadership began as a founding and original member of the Hampton-Sydney Rugby Team. It was a tough task in those days to field a rugby team, particulary from a smaller school, but they did, playing throughout the Commonwealth, and John was the teamís leader. It was also through Hampton-Sydney that John met Lance Van de Castle, a 4-year starter on their football team. Lance always gave John much credit for his encouragement. It was that Ellisí support that helped develop Lance and others into star players for their clubs and their unions. Working with Lance, for several years, John played a leadership role in maintaining a competitive Commonwealth Cup in Charlottesville.

John also developed into a leader on the field. Over the years, John played on many teams, and for several clubs, wherever in the backfield an experienced player was needed. During his prime playing years, John has stints with two of the state powers at the time; the Richmond Rugby Club and the Norfolk Rugby Club. Later, John became a founding and original member of the Norfolk City Blues Rugby Football Club, which resulted from the merging of the Norfolk Irish and Norfolk Rugby clubs. John was central to building camaraderie between the two former rivals, and became one of the first coaches for The Blues. At the same, playing Fly-half, John captained The Blues B-Side, The Killer Bees, which arguably were one of the next best teams in the state. John then started another chapter by fostering and developing Old Boy rugby in Virginia. This started by partnering players from Norfolk with his former teammates in Richmond. This helped the original Virginia Gentlemen, which had teams principally made up of VRU players who had begun to retire. They competed regularly against MOB and The Washington Poltroons. John then put his support behind Norfolk Blues players who started to wind-down their playing, and launched the Sons of Beaches, which he captained and coached for years. This model of integration worked. In 2002, John single-handedly organized a tour of the SOBs to the Aspen Ruggesfest, which included many original Blues players, along with VRU players and Virginia Rugby Club stalwarts. The team won 5 straight matches (4 in one day) to win the 45+ Masterís bracket of the tournament, beating the Denver Barbarians (whom The Blues had lost to in the Di Finals Four), Colorado and Florida teams, as well as the California Bald Eagles, whom they beat a second time in tournament finals.

Essentially, this was the same team that went on to form the Virginia Cardinals, which notably has earned a national reputation their numerous championships. John continued his personal streak by leading a Cardinals/Sons of Beaches reunion team to the 55+ Aspen Ruggerfest Championship in 2012. John hasnít stopped. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Virginia Rugby Football Foundation, participates in the banquet awards program annually for the Norfolk City Blues RFC, is the D3 commissioner for the Cardinals Collegiate Rugby Conference, supports coaching at Hamden-Sydney, and is on the Advisory Council for Old Dominion University Rugby. Clearly John is still leaving his mark on rugby. Respectfully submitted,
Mike Herron


An absolute Yes! Reading Mike's letter of recommendation, I thank John for his work in building the game. Obviously much of his hard work is the foundation for the enjoyment and continued development of the game, not just here in Virginia but Nationally. Thanks for your hard work and Success!
Cheers Bill
Virginia Rugby Union Hall of Fame