Twenty-three-year-old Ryan Santos has come a long way from when he first set foot upon the hallowed halls of Harvard University in 2018. As a wide-eyed Fiipino-American college freshman, one thing was certain back then, and that was his passion for the sport of rugby. Coming out of the International School Manila (ISM) as a highly decorated student-athlete, he carried a stellar list of accomplishments across multiple sports, including soccer, baseball, basketball, and track and field.
Of all of them, rugby continued to play a vital role in his formative years at Harvard. As a freshman, he was elected vice-captain of the men’s rugby team by his teammates, and would eventually go on to captain the team during his sophomore year. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the longest-serving captain in the program's history. Established in 1872, Harvard rugby is the oldest rugby program in North America.
Ryan also joins Jaime Alfonso Zobel de Ayala as one of two students with Filipino descent to have captained the team. Under Ryan’s stewardship, Harvard rugby achieved its highest ever finish—second place in the USA Collegiate Men’s Rugby D1-AA National Sevens Championships in 2022.
“Rugby has enabled me to travel around the world and to truly immerse myself in new environments. These academic and athletic experiences have given me an expanded worldview and a fond appreciation for diverse friendships,” he says.
Among his other notable recognitions are being selected as a 2023 Division I All-American—being considered as one of the best collegiate players in the country—and as an Academic All-Ivy in 2021 and 2019, a qualification reserved only for student-athletes of Ivy League schools who appeared on roster for A-side matches and maintained an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher, among other strict criteria.
Making it onto the global arena
Just before graduating this May, Ryan was selected as a part the USA National Rugby Sevens program—a ticket to participating in some of the most prestigious global rugby competitions, such as the World Rugby Sevens Series, the Rugby World Cup Sevens and the Olympic Games.
Ryan makes rugby history as the first Harvard alum to make it in the USA men’s national rugby sevens team, as well as being the first player born in the Philippines to be part of the team.
“It is the realization of a life-long dream to pursue a global professional career in this sport that I truly love and am passionate about,” shares Ryan. “Being part of the US national rugby team is daunting but exciting and challenging at the same time, and I am definitely up for it.”
The selection process is extremely rigorous, with prospective players from across the United States attending a multi-week, high-performance camp at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center in California. It is from these grueling camps that selections for tournaments are made.
Ryan was recently selected to make his debut for the national team at the Toulouse Sevens and London Sevens—the ninth and tenth stops on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, an international circuit of 10 tournaments across 10 different cities, including Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton, Sydney, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Hong Kong and Singapore.
All these achievements in rugby cap off Ryan’s exhilarating Harvard journey, culminating in successfully earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a secondary degree in Economics, with his senior thesis also awarded high honors. His academic performance has earned him an offer to pursue postgraduate studies at Cambridge University. However, he is currently intent on pursuing his lifelong dream of being an Olympian.
Paying it forward
Ryan’s ultimate objective is to bring pride to his Filipino heritage and to give back to the Philippines. He plays an active role in the Makati Mavericks Sports Foundation along with his younger brothers Reed and Rand (instagram.com/santosbrothers_rugby).
The Mavericks was established together with their father, Santos Knight Frank chairman, CEO and owner Rick Santos, along with some family friends at ISM. The organization’s objective is to help propagate rugby in the Philippines as well as to find and hone Filipino talent in the sport.
One of its special outreach programs focuses on discovering potential among marginalized sectors of society such as orphans and out-of-school youth. Ryan’s early exposure to such social development programs has also greatly influenced his long-term career goals. “I hope to work in emerging and frontier markets using business and public policy as a catalyst for socio-economic development,” he explains.
Keeping personal connections
As Ryan heads out to the proverbial “real world” outside of college, he knows that these accomplishments will work to his advantage. However, personal connections are what he values above all else.
“Harvard is a global institution with a diverse body of students from all walks of life. While I have had the privilege to learn from some of the most renowned professors and academics in the world, I have probably learned more from the conversations and the experiences I have had with my peers outside of the classroom,” he says.
“The friends I have made all over the world and the fond moments we have shared together will last a lifetime. No matter where you go, always remember where you came from and who helped you get to where you are,” he concludes.2023-05-25T16:41:34Z dg43tfdfdgfd