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Crossing The 101

116 pages1 hour


This is the remarkable story of Rob Holder, who through rugby, his own personal setbacks, his family and his faith provides inspiring lessons of how we should value humility above ambition, honesty above stature, altruism above entitlement. Most of all, Rob’s story teaches us that people should not be judged by color, class status _ or even their rap sheets. It is also an inspiring story of the Polynesian community in East Palo Alto. Across the dividing Highway 101 from the upper-class, even opulent city of Palo Alto. East Palo Alto was recognized in 1992 as the murder capital of the United States. It was none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation that came up with the statistics, on a per capita basis, that cemented East Palo Alto with this dubious distinction.
With firm direction from coach Holder, these Polynesian young men from these poverty-stricken, drug-infested, gang-riddled East Palo Alto neighborhoods would soon become a remarkably disciplined unit that would win the USA Men’s Rugby Division II National Championship _ and bring honor and pride to East Palo Alto.
Perhaps, no player embodied how Rob and rugby changed so many lives of these troubled East Palo Alto players than Folau Niua. A high school dropout who had come to understand jail time during his youth, Niua showed up by chance at Rob’s first-ever rugby practice in East Palo Alto. Although Niua had limited competitive rugby experience, he was a natural athlete and Rob envisioned him as his fly half – a position Niua had never previously played. But on the eve of his first season opening game, Rob read in the paper that Niua had been arrested after he was involved in a fight at a party. Although a relatively minor offense, Niua’s criminal record and lack of legal or financial support meant missing Rob’s first season before it started. Niua eventually got it together, though, and with Rob working out satisfactory arrangements with Niua’s parole officer so his fly half could travel out of state, he eventually became the star of the national champion Razorbacks.
Today Niua, 31, is the starting fly half for the USA Rugby National Sevens Team, nicknamed the Eagles, who will play in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
A teammate of Niua's on the USA Rugby National Seven's Team, Rob's son Will Holder is another notable character in the story. Affectionately known as "Palagi," Will played for the high school Razorbacks, many of whom he met in Dad's Stanford Rugby Camps, because, in his words, "I'd rather not play against them." Will crossed the 101 and the experience had a major impact on his life.
Klis has worked as a Denver Broncos sports reporter for 9News KUSA-TV – Denver’s No. 1-watched television station – since April, 2015. He previously worked 17-plus years with the Denver Post. Among his awards, he was named Colorado Sportswriter of the Year in 2012 and 2013; he was the winner of the Associated Press Sports Editors “breaking news” category in 2013 for his coverage on Elvis Dumervil’s “fax fiasco” departure from the Broncos; and earned a top 10 APSE award for his coverage of the drive-by murder of popular Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams on Jan. 1, 2007.
Klis and Holder became friends during a period when they lived in the same subdivision, on the same street, in Golden, CO. At the time, Holder was making a 75-minute, one-way commute to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs where he coached the Zoomies’ rugby program. This is Klis’ sixth book.
Rob Holder has been married to the former Ann Wanner since 1989. They have four children – Will, Katie, Emma, Lizzie – and live in Stillwater, Minnesota.
Rob and his wife both attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they both graduated in 1989. It was while Rob and Ann were stationed in Germany during the end of the Cold War that Rob decided to join the Frankfurt American Rugby Club. The rest, as they say, is in the book.

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