One man’s Rugby journey from Kent to California

Ayomide Adelusola moved to San Diego State from the United Kingdom in 2021 and found his home as the university’s rugby president
Photo Courtesy of Cedrick Ndondo-Lay
Photo Courtesy of Cedrick Ndondo-Lay

Standing on a kitchen table, holding a massive speaker above his head, Ayomide Adelusola is instantly recognizable. 

In the midst of a Super Bowl party, the speaker blares Taylor Swift’s seminal hit “Love Story,” and he sings along with it, belting the words out with conviction and a surprising amount of tunefulness. But his accent is not American, it’s English.  

Adelusola — or “Ammo” as he likes to be called — is blasting Taylor Swift in the most American of situations, the center point of his own Super Bowl party. It’s the result of a decision he made when he felt he had no reason to stay in England, he needed to find something new. 

The 23-year-old junior found something new in the suburbs of San Diego, an 11-hour flight away from his birthplace of London and the county he calls home in Kent. Ammo needed a pathway out and a quintessentially British sport gave him the route to California: rugby.                                                            

Ammo is a big guy, perfectly built for rugby. He stands at just under six feet with a broad chest and wide shoulders on top of thick legs that seem purposely designed for running through tackles and bringing down potential try scorers. 

“At school, I was always one of the bigger guys,” Ammo said. “Even though I loved football, they immediately put me on the rugby pitch and I was a natural. I’ve just played constantly from then to now.”

Ammo is the current president of the San Diego State Rugby team, a role he took on in his second year in the U.S. and has made into his own. 

Within that role, he is responsible for organizing the team’s travel plans, hotels, tournaments, kit and “a whole lot of paperwork. Ammo has risen to the challenge and the club has gone from strength to strength, with an active membership of 60 players and three coaches, making SDSU rugby one of the biggest club teams on campus.  

In 2023, Ammo was chosen to be a part of the California Grizzlies that went to Chile on tour last year. The Grizzlies were composed of the best 30 players from around California and Ammo was the only selection from SDSU. 

“Ammo is just such an open and friendly guy. It’s no wonder he’s succeeded as rugby president,” said Jack Lewis, an exchange student at SDSU from the U.K. who met Ammo at a birthday party. “He was just so welcoming and easy. He really helped me settle in here.” 

For Ammo, rugby has not always been so much of a “Love Story” as it may look from the outside. The player who represented his home county of Kent at the age of 15 and led one of the most successful club rugby teams in the country found himself slipping away from the sport in his teenage years.  

Ammo played for Saracens Academy in London when he was 16, a chance to be developed by one of the better teams in the country. He was cut when he was 18 and joined the Leicester Tigers academy shortly afterward. He was cut from Leicester as well at the age of 19. 

“The final round of cuts, I got dropped,” Ammo said. “Those were the people who were going to be potentially making money and I just wasn’t big enough, wasn’t good enough.”

Rugby academies in the U.K. are hotbeds for talent development and intensely competitive places, where players are pitted against one another to succeed. They also have a reputation for having toxic environments where players who are cut feel lost and lack a purpose without rugby. There is only a 0.036% chance of becoming a professional rugby player in the U.K., leaving a vast pool of players with unfulfilled dreams. 

“Oh, it’s tough, man. It’s very much a clique. Like, who do you know? Who knows whose dad? And stuff like that,” Ammo said. “Being cut, it was definitely hard because I was really brought in, trying to do something with rugby. Initially, it’s tough, I went back to the partying side of university a little bit more after.” 

Rugby pulled Ammo back into the fold and onto the pitch. He was cut from Leicester while attending the University of Lincoln, but he quickly joined the on-campus rugby club. This allowed him to find his love for the sport and focus as an athlete again. 

So why is Ammo in San Diego and not Lincoln? He could have been the rugby president at Lincoln, led his own soccer parties and sung along to Adele if he wanted, but he isn’t doing that. 

“There was just something about England at the time,” Ammo said. “I was done. I was done with Lincoln. I did not like it. The rugby in the area was good, and it was an easy commute to Leicester. But I was just not enjoying it.”

America offered a new challenge, something different and exciting. Away from the rolling green fields of Kent, the small city charm of Lincoln, lay California, San Diego, and the adventure ahead. 

“The appeal of America, you know. It’s busy, it’s sunny and there’s a lot more to do compared to the countryside back home. I needed to get out,” he said. 

So, Ammo studied and passed his ACT, learning subjects that were never covered in his U.K. curriculum. After looking at several schools in the states, he decided on SDSU. The combination of quality of life, sand, sea and the weather drew him to SDSU. He hasn’t looked back since. 

Ammo gained an academic scholarship to SDSU off the back of his performance on the ACT and secured preferred entry due to his rugby skills and experience. 

Scholarships aren’t available for rugby at SDSU yet, but this is something that Ammo predicts will happen in the next five to 10 years, opening the door for many more athletes to make the jump across the pond. 

Ammo has coached his teammates on the field and led them in chorus off it, the life of the party and the driver behind the growth of rugby at SDSU. A force to be reckoned with, he is on track to graduate in history, economics and international security and conflict resolution.  

The boy from Kent, chewed up and spat out by an academy system, found a home in San Diego. On a table, blasting Taylor Swift, he found his love of rugby again, balancing the social side of university with the athletic prowess that brought him to SDSU and the U.S.