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How Listening Got Old Glory DC To Land The Beast

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How Listening Got Old Glory DC To Land The Beast

Tendai Mtawarira, Tim Brown, and in the distance, Andrew Jackson in DC.

The signing of Tendai Mtawarira went, as the saying goes, gradually, then suddenly, as Old Glory DC of Major League Rugby somehow managed to bring in the most famous prop in world rugby as much .

While the news broke over this week, the process took about ten months, and started with a chance meeting.

The Beast? Seriously?

Old Glory Pathway Director Tim Brown ran into Kisset Chiregrande of Kyros Sports (and also Head Coach at William Paterson University) as he was scouting college teams. Chiregrande represented young prop Larome White, and they discussed White for a while, and then Chiregrande said, "what about Tendai?"

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The suggestion was completely out of left field, and while Chiregrande had been quietly discussing The Beast with some clubs, it was a surprise to Brown. But, he added, "I feel like I was the only one who took him seriously. Immediately my feeling was, I'd kill to have Tendai involved with our team."

There followed a long series of discussions. Mtawarira wanted a good contract, for sure, but he had other desires, too.

Old Glory DC Signs The Beast, Tendai Mtawarira 

"You're talking about a guy who could almost write his own ticket in France or Japan," said Brown. "But he really wants to help kids and he wanted to make an impact on youth. He wants to be a role model, and he wants to be a pioneer, and after he met with Paul [Sheehy] and the ownership group, he saw that's what we wanted too."

Extra Help Steps In

Partly standing in the way is Major League Rugby's salary cap, but there are ways to deal with that. Backing for Eagle Impact Rugby Academy came in to sweeten the pot and address part of Mtawarira desire to help grow the game, this time as an ambassador for EIRA.

EIRA founder Robin Reid met with Mtawarira in South Africa. "I was leaving that Sunday afternoon so he said, 'Sunday morning I am going to church, so come to church.' So I did."

The minister started his sermon by welcoming the World Cup-winning star to his place of worship, and the crowd went wild for that.

"Afterward, we sat down," said Reid. "We've say two or three words and someone would come up for an autograph. Then two or three more words and someone came for a selfie. It's like that everywhere he goes. He's a legend and he means so much to those fans."

The agreement with EIRA was sealed, and Mtawarira is also looking at some additional business opportunities.

Eagle Impact Signs Tendai Mtawarira As Program Ambassador

"He's an extraordinarily good businessman," said Brown. 

Getting the Measure Of the Man, And The Club

Mtawarira visited DC and toured the city with the Old Glory leadership. He wore shorts even in freezing weather.

"I think that's all he wears," said Brown. "But it's clear he wants to make DC his home. He's looking for a home for his family. He looked around and saw the traffic and said 'I think I'm going to get a bike so I can get to training on time.'"

As usual, Mtawarira is able to see an obstacle and find a way around it. 

Another key component was of course whether Mtawarira would fit in. Head Coach Andrew Douglas sat down with Mtawarira early on in the process because if a player with The Beast's stature and the head coach aren't going in the same direction, you can have trouble. No trouble here.

"They got along immediately," said Brown. "They have the same approach and they hit it off right away. Their meeting ran 45 minutes past schedule and that crushed the timing for the rest of the day, but it didn't matter, because it showed how well they got along."

(See the photo at left of Mtawarira shaking hands with Douglas at their first meeting.)

It's all about how personal relationships are important, and if you're looking for an experienced player who is a leader, you've got to know what he stands for.

"We were looking for a character guy, someone who is a great player, but also a role model to the players," said Brown. "We got that and more. He really cares about what he can do to help kids; that's very important to him."

Seeing The Beast Up Close

We asked Brown what impact Mtawarira will have among the fans, he was quick to say that The Beast will be there for the fans from the get-go.

"Want to see The Beast in action, or meet him, he'll be there at the games, so buy a ticket," said Brown. 

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Whether playing or not, Tendai Mtawarira will be at the games, and season ticket-holders will have a special opportunity for autographs, selfies, or just a chance to get close to the huge star.

Old Glory Season Ticket Packages

So the story of signing The Beast, then, was a little about rugby, and a lot about listening to the man and what matters to him. And the reward for Old Glory is a player who will do great things for the club and sport when he plays, or on any regular Tuesday night.