Michael E. Diffily
Michael E. Diffily
Hometown: Yonkers, NY
Team: Rugby

Michael E. Diffily '67
 Yonkers, NY
Year Inducted:
Other Sports Played:

Like many of the United State’s finest rugby players, Michael E. Diffily ’67 started out in football. The all-Catholic-league end from Yonkers, New York, was recruited by football coach John McLaughry and played two seasons for the gridiron Bruins. But the course of a college athletic career was permanently altered in the spring of Diffily’s freshman year. “I went to an organizational meeting for rugby one day,” he recalls. “A few weeks later, I was walking through Faunce House and was surprised to see my name on a rugby playing list.” He started that weekend on the Brown “C” team and by mid-season was a regular at wing forward on the “A” team. Diffily went on to play the popular club sport at Brown for seven years (including several postgraduate years of play), and in the process, left an enduring mark as a great offensive player in a position that is often viewed as primarily a defensive one. He set an Eastern Rugby Union and Brown single-season scoring record in the spring of 1965 with 17 tries (a try is the equivalent of a football touchdown). That mark still stands as the most tries scored in a single season by a forward. Diffily also set Brown records for most tries in a game (5), most career tries by a forward (113), and longest try (105 yards). In the spring of 1968 he was selected for the college All-American rugby team. Diffily’s favorite memories, however, are of team triumphs – the Brown Rugby Club has one of the best winning records of any University athletic team and is a perennial tournament champion. “The most exciting point of my playing days,” Diffily says, “was winning the Eastern Rugby Union championships in 1966. We were undefeated that season, and in our final game we beat the perennial Eastern power, Old Blue of New York, 16-6.” Diffily scored one of Brown’s tries in that victory. “Mike was the most devastating wing forward of his era,” says David J. Zucconi ’55, founder of Brown rugby and a fellow Hall-of-Famer. “He dominated the game. Not only was he a fast, aggressive defensive player, but he also created offensive opportunities for himself and others. My memory of a typical Diffily play is that the other team has won the ball in a scrum and the ball is going out to their fly-half. But Mike is already slashing towards them. He crushes their player to the ground, picks up the ball, and runs down the field for a Brown score. He created havoc in the opponent’s backfield. I think he had perhaps the greatest season a forward has ever had in 1965 when he scored 17 tries.” Diffily continued to play rugby after leaving the Brown club. He was a founder of the Providence Rugby Club in 1970, served as its captain and president, and helped lead the PRFC to the New England Championship in 1975. Diffily was chosen for the New England Select Side (all-star team) in the spring of 1977. Several months later he injured his knee in an exhibition game and was forced to retire from the sport. He now works as a college vice-president in Boston and lives in Little Compton, Rhode Island.