Joe Buenavista never had any intention of playing rugby, but when he sustained a football injury in his second year at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983, it wasn’t too long before he made a name for himself in the sport.
Thirty-seven years after his first rugby game, the 1981 Terra Nova graduate is being honored by the U.S. Navy by being named to the Navy Rugby Alumni Association Hall of Fame Class 2022. The induction ceremony will be held Oct. 2 in Annapolis, Md., at the Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Buenavista graduated from Terra Nova in 1982, having played football, soccer and track all four years. He was a member of the 1981 Terra Nova “Junkyard Dogs” football team that won the North Peninsula League championship.
Ironically, he joined classmate Bill Byrne as an appointee to the U.S. Academy. Both Byrne and Buenavista played football for Navy. Both Byrne and Buenavista’s children (Gianna Buenavista and Joe Byrne) were classmates of 2021 at the Academy. Both Bill and Joe were captains of their respective sports their senior year at Navy and both wore No 15.
“This is just how it happened. It was not planned. How’s that for having God look out for two sons of Pacifica?” said Buenavista.
Buenavista was named captain of the USNA Rugby Union team his senior year and was named the Navy Rugby Most Valuable Player for 1987. He was the leading scorer for the season, scoring both tries (touchdowns in rugby language) and through kicking for points. He was also selected to the1987 Potomac Rugby Union All-Star team.
After the Naval Academy, he was selected for the next five years for both the All-Navy and Combined Services Military National Team (Military All-American team). While stationed in San Diego, he also played for OMBAC Rugby and won three national championships between 1988 and 1992. It was an elite team of domestic, international and a handful of Navy players.
“As the years have passed, memories fade and it becomes less and less about the on-the-field exploits, and/or, even the award itself. It is the celebration of goodness with the special people in your life that make these moments so meaningful and so precious,” said Buenavista, who was inducted into the Pacifica Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
“I lost my mom just a couple of weeks after the Pacifica Hall of Fame induction, and I lost my dad in February to COVID,” he said. “I am sure that both would have been excited to be here, and I take comfort in the thought that they know.”
After leaving the Navy, Buenavista returned to the Bay Area where he lives today.
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