Austin Gilgronis added the number one Major League Rugby collegiate draft selection, Conner Mooneyham, for the 2021 season after the Dallas Jackals postponed their entry into the league until 2022. This set up a Jackals dispersal draft in which Mooneyham was selected by the Gilgronis. The 24-year-old center/fullback/wing (25 in March) is 6’0″ and 200lbs.
Connor is from Rocklin, California, and moved to Magnolia, Texas while he was in high school. He began playing rugby when he was 12 years old in Northern California and continued playing in high school at Rocklin High School and then at Magnolia High School. He also played high school football.
After his 2014 graduation, he enrolled at Life University in 2014, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration and Management Degree in 2020. During this time period, he left Life University to serve on a mission trip to Argentina with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 2016-2018. When he returned he resumed playing rugby as a starter.
He is a two-time National Champion in 2016 and 2019, was invited to the MJAA Camp in 2015, was named to the Collegiate All-American second team in 2019, and was a part of the D1A 1st Team All-Mid South Conference in 2020.
Conner will now join the pack in Dallas ahead of the 2021 MLR season.
Austin Gilgronis Comments
“I’m excited to be able to stay in Texas and I’m excited about the AGs – this is a team that’s really starting to put it together,” says Mooneyham. “I’m just excited man.”
AGs Head Coach Sam Harris had Conner Mooneyham right at the top of his recruiting board ahead of the Collegiate Draft this summer, but the Dallas Jackals snatched him up with the first overall pick. “I scouted through a list of 278 Collegiate players and Conner was in my top five – and some of those five weren’t draft-eligible, so yea you could say he was right at the top,” laughs Harris. “He’s a penetrating ball carrier which is a big plus because there’s not many of those going around and he’s got a really good frame, so he can put more size on him.” Coach Harris believes Conner Mooneyham will fit right into AG Assistant Coach Mark Gerrard’s backline. Going into the supplemental draft, Harris didn’t feel the AGs had to fill any specific needs but he implored that Mooneyham provides good coverage in the backline. “He’s a really good, young player that Mark [Gerrard] can groom, and [Conner] can fill two half holes at 13 and 15; two positions where we have only one specialist each in our squad.”
Mooneyham played his highschool rugby in Magnolia, TX a suburb of Houston, and is glad to be staying in his home state following the shakeup of the supplemental draft. The young center traveled to Austin many times in his high school days and even had his senior prom in Austin. Mooneyham will not only find comfort returning to a familiar state but also in joining a solid young troop of AG players in the top team. “Adding Conner is us building upon this young brigade we have in our squad,” says Harris. “We’ve got the first pick [Conner Mooneyham], the fourth pick [Lui Sitama], the 16th pick – that’s Mason Koch – and the guy that truly could’ve gone number one in Cam Dodson, and then you add Sid Shoop who’s younger than all of em’.”
It was important for Coach Harris and Coach Gerrard to inject youth into the squad. “Building around the youth and bringing the youth through the team is something Mark [Gerrard] and I are really keen on,” says Harris. “We want to have young energy in the team.” From the two coaches’ playing days they both elaborate the importance of a steady balance of veteran wisdom and youthful energy.
Teammates For Life
Mooneyham’s experience playing in the Life University system will certainly have him prepared for the professional ranks, much like the 15 other Life University players in the MLR. “The Life University system is a really good production line for players, they come really well-educated and with a great skill set,” says Harris. In signing with the AGs, Mooneyham reunites with his former Life University roommate Christian Ostberg. The two former teammates stayed connected as each man traveled the globe playing rugby these last six years. While Ostberg cut his teeth playing professional rugby in Europe, Mooneyham went on his mission to Argentina and won two national championships at Life University. Today the Texas locals and former teammates are reunited under the AG banner.
“I love that I can bring players back home to Texas, and yea it’s awesome that we get to bring Conner back home to play for his home state,” says Harris. “And there’s plenty more players out there on my radar that I’d like to bring back to Texas.”
Welcome to the AGs, Conner Mooneyham!