MACCABI USA RUGBY Release
Philadelphia, PA, January 28, 2019 – The Maccabi USA Rugby Family is pleased to announce the induction of Aaron Blatt, Gary Puterman, and Jon Velie into the Maccabi USA Rugby Hall of Fame on Friday, March 1, 2019, in Las Vegas. The ceremony will include the USA Rugby Sevens, part of the World Series of Rugby. Following the ceremony, Maccabi USA Rugby alumni, current, and future players will represent Team USA in the Las Vegas Invitational tournament.
“We are inducting three great men into our Hall of Fame class,” said Jeff Simon, part of the Maccabi USA Rugby Hall of Fame Committee. “The three men embody the qualities of commitment, sacrifice, winning, and camaraderie. There were so many great choices, and as we do, we debated it heavily, but two of the leaders from the 1997 gold medal team and a three-time player who came out of retirement to win gold in 2017 is a fine way to continue the tradition for a team, a family, and a people who have so much great tradition.”
Aaron Blatt represented Team USA as a hooker at 2001, 2005, and 2017 World Maccabiah Games. He helped the USA earn two silver medals in 2001 and 2005 and came out of retirement to lead the team to gold at the 2017 Games. Aaron began his rugby career in 1994 at San Diego State University and was captain from 1996-1998. He was selected to the Southern Cal Griffins All-Star and Collegiate All-American teams in 1997 and 1998 and once again in 2002 and 2003. Most of his rugby career was spent playing for Santa Monica Rugby; he served as captain from 2002-2009. During Aaron’s tenure, Santa Monica won back to back National Championships in 2005 & 2006, he was named MVP five times, and was inducted into the Santa Monica Hall of Fame in 2012. He was selected as an Eagle for a tour to Russia in 2005 but declined because the tour dates conflicted with the Santa Monica National Championship.
Gary Puterman represented Team USA as a fullback and scrumhalf at the 1997 and 2009 World Maccabiah Games. Gary was a key member of the 1997 Open Men’s Rugby Team that won the first-ever gold medal for the USA in Rugby. In 2009, he came out of retirement and helped the Open Men’s team win a bronze medal. Prior to his involvement with Maccabi USA, Gary represented South Africa at the 1985 and 1989 World Maccabiah Games winning two gold medals. He spent his early years as captain of the U20 team at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He also played for the U20 Provincial Transvaal team and the U20 and Open teams at South African Universities and Santa Monica Rugby from 1992-2002. During his years with Santa Monica Rugby he was captain for many years and was named Back Player of the Year four times, he was also inducted into the Santa Monica Rugby Club Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was selected to represent the Southern California Griffins in 1995 and 1996. In 1998, Gary played for the USA Eagles on a successful tour of Portugal and Spain.
Jon Velie represented Team USA as a scrumhalf at the 1993 and 1997 World Maccabiah Games and as captain of the gold medal-winning Open Men’s Rugby Team at the 1995 Pan Am Maccabi Games in Argentina. Jon was a key member of the 1997 Open Men’s Rugby Team that won the first-ever gold medal for the USA in Rugby. Jon began his rugby career in high school playing for the Oklahoma University Rugby Football Club went on to play at University of California, Berkeley. In 1988 he won the USA Rugby National Collegiate Championship and was an All-American in 1987, 1988, and 1989. Jon was a member of the 1991 National Club Champion Denver Barbarians, the 1994 National All-Star Champion Western US Mustangs, 1991 National U-25 All-Star Champion Western Mustangs, 1990 National U- 25 National All-Star Champion Pacific Coast Grizzlies and played internationally in 1994 for Atlantis in Spain. Most of his career (1983-2000) was spent playing with Oklahoma University RFC; he was Head Coach at Oklahoma University from 1999-2006. Jon was also a Selector for USA Rugby All-Americans and served a Manager for the All-American’s Ireland Tour in 2001. Jon was inducted into the Oklahoma University Rugby Hall of Fame in 2012.
The World Maccabiah Games, first held in 1932, are an international Jewish multi-sport event held quadrennially in Israel. Rugby was first introduced to the World Maccabiah Games in 1985. Team USA won gold in 1997 narrowly beating South Africa and won the first gold in Sevens Rugby in 2013. In July 2017, Team USA won another 15’s gold medal over South Africa.
The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held Friday, March 1st from 8 P.M.-11 P.M. at the Excalibur Hotel.