highland rugby coach to receive pioneer of progress award


Highland Rugby Club coach Larry Gelwix has recently been named a recipient of the 2008 Days of '47 Pioneers of Progress Award. With an 18th national championship title and the upcoming theatrical release of Forever Strong, a movie based on the team, his legacy is continuing to make its mark.

Selected in the category of Sportsmanship and Athletics, Gelwix is one of six modern-day Utahns named this year's Pioneers of Progress. This nomination continues a long line of other distinguished participants such as: Steve Young, Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan, LaVell Edwards, and Rick Majerus among many others.

The tradition of granting the awards began in 1995 and has continued to recognize outstanding individuals whose lives carry forth the pioneer legacy of industry and integrity and whose work benefits present and future generations. Recipients are first nominated by their fellow Utah citizens and then selected by the Pioneers of Progress Awards Committee.

"I am honored to receive this award," Gelwix said. "I have a great deal of respect for those who have been named in the past and am honored to be included with such a distinguished group."

Gelwix has served as Head Coach of the Highland team on a volunteer basis for 33 years. Highland has compiled an unprecedented 379-9 win-loss record since 1976, including 18 national high school championships in the last 23 years. They just finished their 2008 season with a perfect 19-0 record, including the USA Rugby national championship.

His consistency, success and unique team culture is what sparked the interest of a movie studio. Fascinated by the ethics and leadership style of Gelwix, they approached him in 2005 about making a film about the Highland Rugby Club.

"I got a call from the studio, who after finishing a film in New Zealand, had fallen in love with rugby and wanted to do an American rugby film," said Gelwix. "They said they would like the film to be about Coach Gelwix and the Highland Rugby team, which was very flattering."

Forever Strong is the story of Rick Penning (Sean Faris, Never back Down) who lived life just like he played rugby; fast, hard-hitting and intense. When life on the edge lands him in jail, a case worker (Sean Astin, The Lord of the Rings) offers him a chance to get back in the game by playing for his rival rugby team. Reluctantly, he joins Highland Rugby where he must adopt the unique code of conduct that Coach Gelwix (Gary Cole, Office Space) enforces, or finish out the full term of his sentence locked away. An unlikely brotherhood forms forcing Rick to choose where his loyalties lie as he heads home to rejoin his team, coached by his strict father (Neal McDonough, Minority Report) as they prepare to play against Highland for the National Championship.

For exclusive photos and interviews with Coach Gelwix, the trailer of the film or behind-the-scenes information please visit the press room at ForeverStrongMovie.com.

Forever Strong will be released by Crane Movie Co. in theaters September 26.