Competing on the field is nothing new to BYU rugby-star-turned-football-player Jonny Linehan, known to teammates as “Jonny Rugby.”
Linehan showed off his rugby skills on the when he faked a punt on against East Carolina, converting a 4th-and-3 from the Cougars’ 39-yard line. The drive would result in a touchdown. His 43.4 punting average currently ranks him at 34th nationally.
Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Linehan came to the United States to attend BYU and play rugby after his mission. He has already been part of several rugby national championship teams, was named championship game MVP and was named as an All-American. After seeing Linehan’s skills on the rugby field, BYU football coaches believed they could utilize Linehan’s kicking services on the football field. He now plays football as the team’s starting punter.
But Linehan didn’t know much about football prior to coming to the U.S.
“When a game would come on TV in New Zealand, I would always watch it,” Linehan said. “I didn’t really understand all the rules, but I always thought it would be neat to play in such an explosive game.”
Teammates say Linehan brings an energy and positive attitude to the team.
“I try to pump up my teammates even though I only do a little on the field,” Linehan said. “From my experience, it’s really helped me when someone has been there pumping me up. I know that even when I’m not playing my best on the field, I can still do my part off the field.”
Linehan immediately impressed in his college football debut against Nebraska on Saturday, Sept. 5., hitting punts of 64 and 57 yards.
“From not knowing how the rugby transition would work and then being his first college game, he was another one that didn’t seem too worried about anything other than he was just having fun,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after the Nebraska game. “He was one of the differences in the game. Our punter was very, very good and I was pleased with that.”