Janniel Badeas clearly remembers the words his mother told him when he informed her about his decision to play rugby at Saint Ignatius.
Badeas became enamored with the sport in grade school. His cousin snapped his leg playing rugby, so Badeas researched the sport. He learned about it and fell in love.
His mother told him, 'If you get injured, it's not on me, find your way to the hospital. Don't play, you're going to get hurt.' Badeas was raised in a single-parent household, so his mom's words held plenty of sway. Even still, Badeas chose to risk it and play.
Four years later, Badeas has committed to play Division I rugby at St. Bonaventure University, becoming a first-generation college student.
"It feels pretty good. I'm the first one in my family to experience college athletics and committing to college," Badeas said. "It's an amazing experience I never thought I would have when I started playing during freshman year."
For ordinary people, hearing about a gruesome injury leads to a vow never to play that sport. For Badeas, hearing about his cousin's injury had the opposite effect.
Badeas decided to find out more about the sport that injured his cousin. Badeas purchased the game "Rugby World Cup 2011" to learn the rules, and quickly fell in love.
"At the time, I was playing football. I thought, 'Let me check out this rugby thing.' I bought a video game and learned the rules by playing the game," Badeas said. "It was a terrible game, because rugby games are underdeveloped compared to soccer, but I somehow learned the rules. I started watching YouTube videos. Then I started going to Arrupe. That's when I first touched an actual rugby ball. I thought, 'Ahh, this is it!' I bought my first rugby ball, which is still at my house -- it's really old."
Badeas eventually chose to attend Saint Ignatius, where he couldn't wait to play rugby.
"One of the first things I did was sign up for rugby," said Badeas. "That's what brought me here. I knew I wanted to play rugby, even though I had never played in an actual game before. I started playing as a freshman, and it was amazing. I loved it so much I stopped playing football and dedicated myself to rugby."
Badeas soon become a great player.
Establishing himself as a hard-nosed, hard-working player, Badeas earned a spot on the A-side by his junior season. Badeas played with the Rugby Cats in South Africa during its trip overseas for a world rugby tournament last spring.
But last season, his mother's words 'You're going to get hurt,' came true. Badeas fractured his metacarpal in his hand, and then sprained his ankle upon returning.
"I felt terrible, because I love the sport," Badeas said. "Last night, I was up until 1 in the morning watching the Harlequins vs. Wasps. I live and breathe the sport."
Despite the injuries, Badeas made connections along the way.
Badeas met St. Bonaventure's rugby coach and several others who made his journey to the present day possible.
"I met the coach during my sophomore year on my summer travel team," Badeas said. "I was thinking about going to Ohio State or one of the big ticket schools. I put it in the back of my ahead. Then during my junior year, I went on a bus trip to visit colleges, and St. Bonaventure happened to be on the way, so I checked it out. I liked the campus, it looked just like Ignatius, with more trees and bigger. I went back later for a rugby visit, and I ended up falling in love with the team. The brotherhood is amazing."
Alex Chura and Juan Pen both committed to St. Bonaventure last spring, another reason Badeas chose the Franciscan school in Allegany, New York.
Over the last four years, Badeas has become very close with his teammates, including Chura and Pen.
"Rugby is a sport where you need to rely on your teammate right next to you. You have to rely on the person next to you to make the tackle or to make a run," said Badeas. "We spend lots of time with each other, we joke around, and the bus is always fun. Being around each other, the camaraderie and the chemistry is great. An egg-shaped ball brings us together, which is crazy."
The idea of attending a smaller school sold his mom on the idea. The smaller class sizes appealed to both Badeas and his mom. Badeas likes getting to know his teachers and being in a smaller learning environment.
A bright student, Badeas plans on studying computer science. At the moment, Badeas is learning Java. With the opportunity to attain a college degree, Badeas has a bright future ahead. He hopes to be a good example for his younger two siblings in grade school.
"When we read the [admissions] email [from St. Bonaventure], and it said, 'Welcome to the family,' my grandma started crying, and everyone started crying. My mom couldn't believe the sport she didn't want me to play got me a scholarship and into college. Being the first one to experience college is something my family and I cherish. I'm humbled that I have the opportunity to do this when no one else in my family came close to this. It's affecting us in a good way. There is a ton of emotion."
Badeas is most grateful for his mom and his family for making it all possible.
"I want to thank my Mom. Without her, I wouldn't be here or in the school," Badeas said. "I'm thankful for my whole family, but especially my mom. She's the one who wakes me up early and drops me off at school and makes sure I'm there on time. I couldn't have done this without my mom struggling every day. I owe it all to her. She's amazing. Basically without her struggling every day when it was me and her, I wouldn't be here sitting talking about this."
On behalf of Saint Ignatius Athletics, congratulations, Janniel! We can't wait to watch your success continue at St. Bonaventure and beyond.