Paul Santinelli calls the City of Colusa his home. With his wife, Kathleen Langhi, and two dogs, together they enjoy the small town atmosphere immersed with community events and a good game of rugby.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Boston, Santinelli his original journey to Colusa County was for a hunting and fishing trip.
“I visited Colusa in 1999 for the first time while I was traveling to hunt the refuges. I remember all of my gear blowing out the back of my pickup truck on Lone Star Rd. Decoys and moto ducks everywhere!,” said Santinelli, “I drove into town to Randy Brookins, a local duck picker and told him what happened. He laughed hysterically (as did everyone in his shop) for about ten minutes. Then, he introduced me to Duck Beckley, who laughed and took my gear and fixed it. That was when I knew I found a new home.”
In 2002, Santinelli moved to Colusa County.
“After meeting so many of the people in the community and developing long lasting relationships, I would say the people that I met along the journey really brought me here. It’s a great town, with great people and history,” said Santinelli. “I am always amazed at how deeply rooted the families in Colusa are. So many generations of hard working people who have maintained a small town atmosphere in a country influenced by technology and economic growth.”
When Santinelli was just 11 years old he held his first rugby ball. Since then his sports enthusiasm has only grown, having played ice hockey in college and rugby well into adult hood.
“I held my first rugby ball when I was 11 on the east coast when my brother captained the Fordham University RFC. He was my hero growing up and I always wanted to do whatever he did… follow in his footsteps,” said Santinelli.
So he played rugby in Boston for Mystic River, and Charles River RFC. He then moved to California and played for the San Fernando PAXOs. the San Francisco Golden Gate, and later the Colusa Rugby team.
“My life was a rugby tour until my mid 30’s and then I took time off,” he said.
Back in 1999 when he met Duck Beckley, he met a young man who made an impact on his life.
“I met this little guy named Cody Beckley, who we took hunting and fishing when he was growing up. Who would have thought that he would have become such a great friend and influence on me when I was 44,” said Santinelli.
In 2010, when Beckley commented that he was starting the Colusa Rugby Team back up, Santinelli had some reservations.
“I avoided the temptation… until 2014,” said Santinelli, “My only regret… I didn’t join them when they started.”
He added that the Colusa Rugby Team has a unique group players and fans. “A real family,” he said.
“I had three great seasons with them and a 2015 NCRFU and State Championships and another opportunity to play in the USA Rugby Nationals,” said Santinelli, “I will cherish every moment, every match and every run towards the sidelines with those guys. They hold a very special place in my heart.”
With a demanding work and travel schedule, Santinelli concentrates his efforts on expanding the rugby community and helping out the youth of our community.
“I try to do my part in helping as many people and groups as I can. I have a strong passion for helping kids in the community with their projects, groups and endeavor,” said Santinelli.
In 2015, Santinelli helped develop several youth rugby clinics.
“We recently started a women’s rugby club (CCWRFC) in 2016 and will start competing in 2017,” he said. “I am helping to coach the women’s club with several other players and coaches.”
When asked about his favorite event to attend in Colusa County, the decision was difficult to pinpoint just one event.
“I love watching Colusa High School football on Friday nights and the Colusa Cowboys on Saturday mornings. But, if you make me pick one, I would have to say every Saturday from January through April. Because Saturday’s a rugby day and those days are special. Walking out onto the pitch with your brothers and seeing an entire community there is support,” said Santinelli.
He added, “I had a coach from San Francisco tell me that he always feared and looked forward to playing in Colusa. He said the environment on the pitch with the fans and supporters was like walking into San Quentin to play a match… loud and proud of Colusa. But he loved it because when the 80 minutes were over, the social was like an Irish wedding – everyone is family, and nobody leaves hungry or thirsty from a Colusa social.”
For Santinelli, Colusa County is unique to him because of the history, the wildlife, and its people.
“This small community has the history, power, and passion of a large city. The people are the key element of Colusa, and they make it a great place to visit and an even better place to live,” said Santinelli.