By: Taylor Bettencourt
With 20 years of experience in rugby, Coach Ken DeLucia was given the opportunity by the Athletic Department to do two things that he truly loved: getting involved in his faith in a dynamic way and coaching young men in the sport that he has dedicated much of his life to. It was the attraction of these two things that led Coach DeLucia here to Franciscan.
DeLucia grew up in a devout Catholic family in a small town outside of Pittsburgh called Wilmerding. DeLucia recalls how involved his family was in their local parish.
“I grew up a small town kid, Roman Catholic, going to church every Sunday. Our family has done work for the church for years,” said DeLucia.
Eventually, DeLucia left home for college on a scholarship to play football for Northeastern University, but was forced to transfer out due to poor grades after two years. Luckily he was able to play another season of football at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, but suffered the consequence of poor grades again. Due to this DeLucia decided to give up football, but his passion for athletics drove him to start a rugby club with some friends at Clarion.
It was here that DeLucia’s rugby career took off: playing for the Pittsburg Harlequins, on and off for 13 years, as well as a few seasons with the Austin Rugby Club and the Pittsburg Rugby club. DeLucia’s biggest career move came when he was able to play semi-professional rugby in New Zealand.
“I played a season in New Zealand, and that was probably the best rugby experience ever. I got to play against a really good level of competition while I was there. It was the second best experience of my life next to getting married.”
But as DeLucia left home for college and rugby, his faith life began to decline as well. It wasn’t until DeLucia starting dating a strong Catholic woman – who would eventually become his wife – that he began to get involved with his faith again.
“When I went away to college I sort of went away from my faith. But when I started dating my wife, I give credit to her, she was going to church regularly, so that in turn got me re-interested in going to church regularly.” said DeLucia.
After becoming more involved with his faith and two days after his wedding, DeLucia got a call offering him the head coach rugby position at Franciscan.
“The opportunity presented itself,” said DeLucia, “I wasn’t looking to coach anywhere to be quite honest. And my wife just told me, ‘Ken let’s take a step back and look at this situation. You have an opportunity to be involved with your faith and do something that you’re passionate about, and coach rugby. You need to join both of those.’ She said it made perfect sense and I agreed with her.”
Finally, after an interview, DeLucia was hired as the new head coach of the men’s rugby team. But unlike the normal time commitment a coach makes, Coach DeLucia takes it a step further as he makes the commute from his home and work in the Pittsburgh area to Steubenville for rugby practice every day. But whatever the sacrifice, DeLucia continues to give his all to the team.
“I’ve just got to be focusing on what’s important, and that’s mentoring the guys. It’s about helping these guys have the guidelines to become better young men.”