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Michigan State grad student Ashton Jordon was already too busy…then rugby came calling

Jordon tries to run and keep the ball while her opponents attempt to tackle her.
Molly Schneider
Jordon tries to run and keep the ball while her opponents attempt to tackle her.

Jordon didn’t know she loved playing club rugby, until she was introduced to the sport last fall. Now she can’t get enough.

Michigan State graduate student Ashton Jordon can either be found in the stables nurturing her horses or on the field bumping and bruising in a heated rugby match.

In fall 2023, Jordon told herself she wasn’t going to add anything to her plate, as she was already busy as an Animal Science student. She wanted to relax. A friend, however, asked her if she had ever played rugby and told her that she should try it out.

The rest is history.

Jordon’s Belgian won Grand Champion Belgian Mare at the Jackson County Fair.
Ashton Jordon
Jordon’s Belgian won Grand Champion Belgian Mare at the Jackson County Fair.

“I went in, I asked the stupid questions, and I watched a lot of videos. It took me about a month to understand, and I still remember the exact practice it all clicked. I was so confused but I laugh looking back at little Ashton after seeing how much I’ve progressed,” Jordon, a native of Jackson, said.

Jordon was hesitant joining a new team at first because of past experiences and feeling like she didn’t fit in, but that was not the case this time around.

“I had never felt more welcomed. It’s so fun with this group of people because I feel like I can be myself. The rugby community is insane. You can go anywhere around the world and tell locals you play rugby, and they will let you in. It’s so hard to explain how good that feels. Rugby is a very solid place to be,” Jordon said.

Teammate Brooke Hanson shares her love and appreciation for Jordon.

“We are very lucky to have her on our team. She is a natural leader and has learned more about the game so she can help us. She’s going to succeed in whatever she does, and she has a crazy drive,” she said.

Jordon made it as one of the eight substitutes in the beginning of the season and then she transitioned to a starter after that game. She is now the captain of the sevens team and has absorbed so much from valuable players around her.

“Our very first game of fifteens was against Purdue, and I had a line break and I stiff-armed somebody. That moment made me realize how fun it was,” Jordon said.

Jordon questioned her coach when he asked if she wanted to be a captain, but her fellow teammate Sara Hanson, Brooke’s twin, feels she is an exceptional leader.

“It’s only her first year playing and it did not take long for her to get the game, especially since it’s so complicated. She has played the role of captain really well, and she’s a really hard worker that always stays positive. She meshes with the team really well, and we love calling ourselves the triplets because we all look alike,” Sara said.

She grew up on her family farm in Jackson, Michigan, which is where her love for horses kicked in.

“Both sets of grandparents had beef cattle and then my dad’s side had horses as well. I’m working on getting the family name back out there, but nothing has really changed since, besides me being in charge of my own animals. They are my pride and joy,” said Jordon.

Jordon takes her Belgians to the Jackson County Fair every year. Her family has been taking them since the 1950s and her young Belgian won Grand Champion Belgian Mare the past two years.

“I hope to eventually go to bigger shows and spread the word about draft horses. I also have an off-the-track-thoroughbred that I am training for barrel racing,” Jordon said.

Jordon worked on WinStar Farm for the Kentucky Equine Management Internship from January to June 2021.

“This was during foaling season, so I was able to work with and take care of lots of high-end mares and foals in the thoroughbred industry. I also learned the horse racing industry is something I want to be a part of in the future,” Jordon said.

Jordon was an energetic kid. She played soccer and basketball, but softball was the sport that stuck out. She made the varsity team her freshman year and became a starter her second year.

“This was a sport I could go to school for, so I went to Jackson College and played for a year. I decided I didn’t like it or the environment. I really just missed my nerdiness, so I transferred to MSU,” Jordon said.

Jordon had a difficult time feeling at home before coming to MSU, but as soon as she arrived, everyone welcomed her with open arms and now she has made lifelong friends.

“I ended up joining the marching band here and I was immediately punched in the face with passion and kindness. That’s where I needed to be. The next four years after that were the best, and now I’ve been here for six strong years. I wouldn’t change anything,” Jordon said.

Jordon participated in the Spartan Marching Band during her undergraduate years and was an alto saxophone squad leader. She also joined Spartan Brass during the first year of her graduate studies.

Jordon in the Spartan Marching Band at Michigan State.
Mark Hansen Photography
Jordon in the Spartan Marching Band at Michigan State.

“I was the corresponding secretary for our band fraternity, which was really fun. I talked to other chapters, got to plan meetups, and I met some really cool people. I also teach alto saxophones at my old high school in Napoleon, Mich.,” Jordan said.

Being busy is an understatement for Jordon. It’s not just academics, sports, and extracurricular activities for her. She is very involved with younger children and wants to see them succeed. She coaches a travel youth softball team and also helps guide kids at the Jackson Area Career Center.

“She’s going to have her ducks in a row in a way that lets her successfully navigate the things that she is committed to doing. She stands out from her peers in that way, in probably every setting. Her ability to take care of herself and help other people make her a leader automatically. She rubs off on younger people, said Associate Director of the Spartan Marching Band, Dr. Arris Golden.

Jordon has learned that having the will to try new things and going outside of her comfort zone has helped her discover who she is as a person.

“My experiences are why I am the way I am. I am very much a go getter, so if I am interested in something I will go and do whatever it takes to get it. Four or five years ago I wouldn’t have done that, but now I feel so confident in myself. I have never been happier, more comfortable, and confident in who I am and what I’m doing,” Jordon said.

Jordon hopes to take rugby to the next level after leaving MSU, but the door is still wide open for many possibilities. She plans to continue in a leadership and coaching capacity. She also wants to bring her softball skills back into the mix by joining a slow-pitch softball team this summer.

“She has goals, and she is going to do her thing. She does what she says she is going to do. She is going to find her way and if something doesn’t work, she will find another route,” Dr. Golden said.

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