Aimee Ramos is Unafraid to Try
Aimee Ramos, ’23 Biomedical Engineering, represented the United States last summer on the US National U-23 women’s rugby team, the Eagles. She is in the development pool to potentially play again this summer. Photo courtesy of Aimee Ramos.
Aimee Ramos, ’23 Biomedical Engineering, discovered competitive rugby by mistake. A lifelong athlete with a passion for soccer and volleyball, Ramos stumbled into a women’s rugby practice while looking for a club soccer team in 2017. She couldn’t have predicted that five years later, she’d be representing the United States on the national under-23 team.
“There’s so much I love about rugby,” said Ramos, who plays scrum half, a position she described as a cross between a midfielder in soccer, a point guard in basketball and a football quarterback.
“It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s also very technical; you have to read what your opponent is doing and be able to manipulate the space. The culture of rugby is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced — one minute you’re on the field going to war, and afterward you’re grabbing a bite and talking about the game like you’re on the same team. It’s very inclusive.”
Her meteoric ascent through the sport started her first year at San José State, before the women’s club team was assigned a coach or had joined a league. She encouraged 20-25 additional players to play, and together they joined the collegiate West Coast Rugby Conference. Together with a few other Spartan rugby players, she recruited Kinesiology Lecturer James Fonda, who has directed the men’s rugby program since 2012, to coach the women’s team.
“Aimee has turned into an exceptional rugby player, leader and of great character,” said Fonda. “She has worked both on and off the field to become what she is today. She has been assigned some of the toughest positions to play in rugby and has excelled to bring her game to another level.”
As if that weren’t enough, Ramos’ hunger for rugby led her to compete on Life Chiropractic College West’s women’s club team in Hayward. Her athletic career was interrupted, first by the pandemic, and again in summer 2021, when an elbow to her face cracked her orbital bone, requiring facial reconstruction. For three months, she was forced to sit out all physical activity, a true sacrifice for someone accustomed to training twice a day and competing in fast-paced matches for up to 90 minutes at a time.
The same tenacity that makes her such a strong player served her well as she recovered.
“I have a hard-working mentality,” she said. “If I say I’m going to do something, I know I’m going to do it, or I’ll do everything I can or I will fail miserably. I’m not afraid to mess up, and that helps because playing reserved or scared can be very detrimental in such a quick sport. I’m very calm in the chaos.”
Not only did Ramos bounce back — she helped lead the Spartan club team to conference championships in spring 2022, where she also won the Most Conversions Award, before becoming national champions last May. Between her outstanding performance on both the SJSU team and the Life Chiropractic West team, she attracted the attention of scouts from the Women’s Premier League (WPL), the professional women’s rugby league.
And then, the final weekend of June, Ramos displayed peak rugby performance when she competed for two teams in one weekend, including two matches in one day. A few days later, she was recruited to the USA Under-23 Eagles squad, the highest developmental league for women rugby players in the nation.
By July, she was representing the United States at the WPL National Championships in Montreal, Canada. The speed of her ascent through sport is not lost on her.
“I thrive in a challenge, because it makes me want to work harder to understand something or do it better,” she said. “It has sparked my competitiveness, especially going up so quickly.”
Ramos is currently eligible to be picked by the WPL. She is also in the development pool for the senior national team, and if selected, she could represent the United States in the next World Cup. Once she graduates from SJSU, she’ll return to the Life West team, and from there — the sky’s the limit.
“I decided to step out of my comfort zone and it has opened so many opportunities and doors for me in my athletic career,” she said. “I truly believed I’d never play sports again after high school, and I never imagined myself in a position where I could potentially play for and represent the United States of America. My biggest takeaway is to not be afraid to get involved or try something new.”
Scrumming off the field
Ramos has maintained a full course load in biomedical engineering while working out daily, practicing weekly and competing most weekends. Her focus on medical devices is in part inspired by her grandmother.
“Growing up, I was always her caretaker,” she said. “I would stay home all summer to make sure she was okay. She would always tell me to become a nurse or a doctor.”
Ramos loved to build things with her hands. She would spend afternoons building mini skate parks out of tech decks, cardboard boxes and two-liter bottles.
“Biomedical engineering is a way for me to help people so I can honor my grandmother in that regard, but I can still fulfill my own desires of building and making things,” she said. “It’s the perfect combination.”
The same fearlessness that she displays on the field carries over well to the corporate world. For her senior project, Ramos worked on a team to create a sensor that can detect the neurotoxin that causes botulism in humans. Together they presented their prototype at the 2023 Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference. Following graduation, she hopes to design artificial organs or prosthetics.