Young Memphian to present match ball at 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Eight years ago, Memphis Inner City Rugby set out to expand athletic and academic opportunity for the 901 youth.

"We really believe deeply in our student athletes and effect that a sport can have on them when it's fused the right way with education and great coaching and great mentors," said Memphis Inner City Rugby Executive Director Shane Young.

A program that 12-year-old Jamiyah Brown is making the most of, as she's not just one of the best players on her team, but also one of the best leaders.

"I like Rugby because sometimes I get excited and I like to run around when we win a game, so I just run around the field until I'm tired. I like catching and scoring touchdowns," Brown said.

"She's amazing, Jamiyah is a leader she is spirited, nothing can get her down and she's brave cause she's one of the only girls on her team but she is the best player, in my opinion," Young said.

"She brings leadership, she brings talent, integrity. She's the hard working kid everyone wants on their team and in their classroom to be honest. Don't let it go to her head but she's pretty fast, super fast, strong, athletic, she can do more pullups than me," Jamiyah’s coach, Allison Hitchcock, said.

Jamiyah was introduced to rugby by her principal one year ago, and now she's getting an opportunity of a lifetime, representing not just the city but the entire country.

Jamiyah's coach nominated her and today DHL surprised the 12-year-old at practice. Letting her know she won a trip to Japan and will represent the match ball ahead of the USA-France World Cup match this October.

"When I opened the box, that's when I realized it was something about rugby. I thought was going to lose, because Ms. Hitchcock said the letter was going to come in the mail but it never came. So my brother kept saying you're not going to get it. So, that's why I was surprised," Brown said.

"Any time a young person is able to go out of the country or even out of their own state to experience a different culture, see people in a different setting or travel, I think those are life changing opportunities," Hitchcock said.

"Just as a student athlete to be able to experience that at such a young age and pioneer a sport that no one else in her community has played before and now to be going to Japan to represent all of us on the biggest stage in the world of rugby, we are just so proud of her and no one is more deserving than Jamiyah and her family," Young said.

While she hasn't been around entirely too long, Jamiyah says Friday was one of her favorite days yet.

"I was excited because I get to go to a new place," Brown said.

This will be Jamiyah's second time flying on a plane, and it'll be just a little bit longer than her previous trip to Florida.

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