The Coast News Group
Kyle Rubin, a San Elijo Hills resident, lets a pass fly while competing for the San Diego Growlers in the American Ultimate Disc League. The Growlers (9-3) are headed to Utah this weekend for their AUDL playoff opener. Courtesy photo
ColumnsNewsSportsSports Talk

‘Glue guy’ sticks in ultimate league

The Frisbees are out, but not the dogs.

“It’s not like that,” Kevin Stuart said with a laugh. “This is a combination of soccer, football and basketball.”

Stuart coaches the San Diego Growlers of the American Ultimate Disc League.

Promise, it wasn’t named for disgruntled Padres fans.

Instead, it’s a squad of athletes trying to advance a Frisbee, or disc, downfield through the air to score touchdowns.

Among the Growlers’ high-flyers is San Elijo Hills’ Kyle Rubin.

“If you would have told me five years ago he would be in this spot,” Stuart said. “I might not have believed it.”

Rubin, 28, is at the ready. It’s been that way since 2017, when he just missed making the roster.

Since, his contributions have climbed, like a teammate going for one of his well-placed passes. Traveling with the disc isn’t allowed, but taking different paths to Saturday’s playoffs is OK.

“I was a practice player and I just kind of worked my way up through the ranks,” Rubin said.

The Growlers (9-3) finished in third place in the West Division and Rubin set career highs in goals (22) and assists (15). San Diego looks to avenge two regular-season losses to the Salt Lake Shred in Saturday’s playoff matchup in Salt Lake City.

It’s a single-elimination postseason, with the payoff to the winner a chance to keep flipping this summer.

We salute Rubin’s perseverance and who doesn’t like tossing a Frisbee in the summertime? Although this is a sport at a different level.

“It’s like being with the top 1 percent of the players in the world,” Rubin said. “And everyone does it for fun.”

Think of an 80-yard football field with 20-yard end zones and that’s where the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Rubin and pals frolic. Points are scored for reaching the end zone on passes and there’s plenty of action from start to finish.

“It’s fast-paced,” Rubin said. “There’s not a lot of downtime.”

Rubin was sandwiched between fifth and sixth grades when spotting a Frisbee at summer camp. He’s been attached to one since, and that includes it weighing on him when he was a Poway teenager seeking a higher education.

“For me to apply to a college,” Rubin said, “it had to have an ultimate Frisbee team.”

He landed at UC Santa Barbara, where he played for four years and was left yearning for more.

That led to his journey with the Growlers, a member of a 25-team professional league scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada.

With the flick of a wrist it provides an avenue for Rubin and colleagues to keep discs in the air.

“His game has obviously developed and I think his work ethic is his biggest strength,” Stuart said. “He’s like a glue guy for us.”

The Growlers have firepower with Jonathan Helton, a two-time AUDL MVP, and Travis Dunn, three-time All-Star. It’s up to Rubin to lead them to open spaces with his efforts.

“He does the dirty work to set them up,’’ Stuart said. “He’s that cog in the wheel that makes the machine go.

“Maybe he’ll see someone cutting deep. But he knows someone has a better arm so he’ll make that extra pass. He’s so unselfish that he’ll let someone else make the big throw by setting him up.”

What the Growlers, whose home field is Mission Bay High School, don’t supply is a big paycheck. The players get a taste of the modest gate and after the season there’s seldom a comma in their final wages.

“I’m an engineer during the week,” Rubin said. “And a semi-pro athlete on the weekend.”

There are many travel perks, Rubin adds, and he’s having a blast.

So the Growlers fight on, hoping their game has some bite. With or without the dogs.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports