Glendale Youth Rugby coordinator Jamie Burke had an eventful 2020.
Like millions of other people across the globe, Burke’s year featured several ups and several downs. While Spring 2020 was a time in which most people would like to forget, it was when Burke earned one of the most prestigious honors of her rugby career.
It all started with a call from president of the U.S. Rugby Foundation Brian Vizard.
“I had his phone number saved in my phone, I don’t remember why, so when his name popped up on my phone I was like, ‘Huh, that’s weird.’” Burke recalled. “He called me and in the spring to let me know that I had been inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame and to let me know that I was the youngest inductee which was an honor and very surprising.
“When he told me I was taken aback,” Burke remembers of the phone call. “ I had anticipated that just because of my career at some point, I just didn’t think yet because I’m still in coaching and I’m still relatively young in my overall global rugby career so it was quite the surprise.”
Burke, who turned 40 in October 2020, is right to think that the call would come sooner or later. Dubbed the best women’s tighthead prop of all-time by Rugby World, Burke was a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. A winner of the 2003 Woodley Award – awarded to the top college rugby player in America – Burke went on to be the most-capped women’s Eagle of all-time and compete in three Rugby World Cups.
Even with a resume as polished as hers, the call came as a surprise.
Despite earning such a prestigious honor, the reality of the year that was 2020 sunk back in when it came time for the induction ceremony. In normal times, the U.S. Rugby Foundation puts on a large induction ceremony in the international ballroom at the Infinity Park Event Center accompanied by a celebratory dinner. The 2020 celebration was supposed to line up with the USA vs. Canada men’s test match that was scheduled to take place in August. The ever-evolving Coronavirus pandemic prevented that from happening, but just as so many others have, the event evolved.
The new, virtual event just so happened to coincide with the USA women’s XV’s Stars vs. Stripes intrasquad scrimmage while Burke was a part of the coaching staff and daily training environment. That meant that she was away from her partner, Monica, and their daughter during the induction ceremony.
Instead of watching the event alone, Burke gathered into a room with a handful of the women’s Eagles front-rowers to watch the ceremony. To her surprise, Monica had raided their basement and hired an event planner to decorate a room in the team hotel with all of Burke’s rugby memorabilia. Surrounded by her awards, medals, caps, jerseys, and the players that she’s helping forge into the next era of Hall of Famers, Burke joined American rugby royalty.
It was at that moment that it hit her. It began to build in the week prior when her Hall of Fame cap and ring came in the mail. But the fact that she became a Hall of Famer sank in when the ceremony began.
“I said it in my speech on the show, but I know a number of the other inductees from prior years because they had been my coaches. Candi Orsini, Jen Crawford, Kathy Flores, Alex Williams, they were my coaches when I was a national team player and a club player. It’s surreal to go from the folks that I had idolized as my mentors and things like that to being put in that same category.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Burke said of what the induction means to her. “It’s an incredible honor to be identified for any aspect of your career. For me to have gotten that honor as a rugby player was very special.”