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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, August 2, 2004

Island doctor teammate to Kerry, Bush

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By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

LIHU'E, Kaua'i — A Kaua'i man can make the claim that he played sports alongside both President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.

Dr. Monty Downs, of Kaua'i, displays photos of the teams on which he played with both President George W. Bush and his rival, Sen. John Kerry. Downs went to prep school with Kerry and was at Yale with Bush.

Jan TenBruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

Dr. Monty Downs, an emergency room physician at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, said both were competent sportsmen, but neither was a star.

Downs, 58, said he is no longer in contact with either politician.

He and Kerry were classmates at St. Paul's, an Episcopalian prep school in Concord, N.H., where the two played on the lacrosse team in 1962. Downs played rugby with Bush at Yale in 1968, when Bush was a senior and Downs was in the college's medical school.

"They were both good teammates to have, practiced hard, played hard and fooled around a bit when they could," Downs said.

Downs was raised in Trinidad, where his father was a doctor. He was sent off to New Hampshire for school, experiencing both temperature and culture shock as he switched from a warm, barefoot island lifestyle to an urban, stolid East Coast way of life.

Downs recalls that Kerry's preferred sport was ice hockey, but in the spring he played lacrosse, a field game in which a ball is passed using a long stick with a pouch at the end. Kerry played an offensive attacking position where "he wasn't our goal-scoring star, but he covered his position and put in his shifts reliably," Downs said.

President Bush can be seen at center top in this photo of the 1968 Yale rugby squad. Monty Downs is kneeling second from right.

In 1962, John Kerry, No. 23, and Monty Downs, No. 29, played on the lacrosse team at a New Hampshire prep school.

Photos courtesy Monty Downs

When they were about 12, Downs recalled, Kerry told him of his desire to be president of the United States. That kind of admission didn't endear him to classmates, but "he backed up his ambition with hard work and determination to improve himself and his ability to do a good job. "

Kerry was a star in one endeavor: the St. Paul's debating team.

"He was this incredible debater. It was fun to go to debates as a spectator just to watch him handle the opposing team," Downs said.

On the Yale rugby team, Bush was fast and friendly.

"He had good foot speed, which was a big requirement of his wing position. I don't recall him making any game-breaking plays, but he was there where he needed to be," Downs said.

Rugby was a club sport at Yale, but the team would play Harvard and other schools in the region.

"After the rugby game, there was always a party, a keg or two of beer and colorful rugby songs. ... I remember him well. He was just so damn friendly," Downs said.

The men socialized around rugby games, but didn't see much of each other otherwise, and Downs said he doubts Bush would remember him. Kerry probably does, he said, because they were classmates for five years in a class of 90 students.

Downs said that he sat with Kerry during the famous televised 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate. At that time, he supported Nixon and Kerry backed Kennedy.

Although Downs won't say which candidate he supports today, it's not too hard to figure out.

"I do have an opinion, one that is consistent with my working-class mentality. I'm more on the liberal side of things," he said.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 245-3074.