Spc. Michael Desouto, a native from Milwaukee, Wis, recalls his childhood filled with various sports and physical activities, including traditional American sports like football, baseball, basketball, and track. His journey into rugby began during high school, a time when the sport was gaining momentum in the United States.
As a high school freshman, Desouto joined the Wisconsin Rugby Selects, an all-state team, and received an honorable mention as a High School All American. After graduating from high school, he initially pursued work instead of college. During this period, he played for different clubs, including the Milwaukee Barbarians, a Division 1 men's club at the time.
His passion for rugby led him to Notre Dame College in Cleveland, Ohio, where he became one of the first athletes to join their rugby team. Later, he transferred to Lindenwood University, known for its prestigious rugby program, and graduated with his bachelor’s while achieving a national championship win in 2015.
Throughout his college years, Desouto embraced summer rugby, participating with renowned teams like the Kansas City Blues, known for their exceptional program. He even ventured into coaching and played with the Alaska Rugby on the Alaska Mountain Rugby Grounds. Subsequently, he joined the Austin Blacks, “another remarkable rugby program with a fantastic group of players.”
His journey eventually led him to the military, where he transitioned from the Army Reserves as a firefighter to active duty as an 11B (Infantryman), with aspirations of attending Special Forces Assessment and Selection. Currently stationed at Fort Campbell with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, he is engaged and enjoys activities such as beach outings with his dog, hiking, skateboarding, and weightlifting. Beyond his military service, Desouto envisions pursuing a master's degree and a career in corporate wellness, promoting healthier lifestyles among employees.
Desouto's love for rugby lies in its physicality and the need for well-rounded skills in offense and defense. Yet, what he values most is the camaraderie among teammates, a unique bond that transcends other sports.
“I think being part of sports and then being part of a program with such elite guys around me, it definitely raises the bar and the expectations of things that I wanted to do after I graduated college,” Desouto said.
Making the All-Army Sports program, requires an application and a detailed rugby resume. Upon passing this hurdle, Desouto attended a trial camp in Fort Carson, Colo., where participants undergo rigorous training and evaluation. Out of just 16 attendees, 13 made the official team for the prestigious RugbyTown 7s tournament, a global competition featuring elite rugby talent.
Returning to rugby after a hiatus since 2018 was challenging, with physically demanding trials and practices, compounded by the high altitude in Colorado but Desouto appreciated support he received from the coaching staff and medical professionals to maintain peak performance.
The RugbyTown 7s tournament is comprised of initial matches against armed forces teams, competing for the armed forces championship. The All-Army Rugby team had dominated this championship for over a decade.
Following this victory, they progressed to the quarter-finals, competing against teams comprising the nation's and the world's best rugby players, including numerous professionals. While they secured the Armed Forces Championship, the team also achieved 6th place overall out of 25 teams. Desouto credits his rugby journey and experiences with elite athletes for instilling resilience and motivation.
“I believe that sports prepare individuals for life's challenges and opportunities. My time at Lindenwood set high standards for my post-college ambitions, with my Army career representing the next chapter in my journey. This job, no matter what your MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] is, requires resilience.”
Joining the All-Army Rugby team stands out as a highlight of his Army career. Desouto considers it “a dream come true,” a rewarding experience that contributes to the All-Army Sports. He encourages anyone passionate about sports and competition to explore opportunities like the All-Army Sports program, emphasizing the importance of self-motivation, humility, and dedication in achieving their goals.