Video: Yusuf Abdullah ’19 moonlights as professional athlete

Yusuf Abdullah ’19  is not set to graduate for another couple of years, but he already has his sights set even further in the future. To 2024, when his current passion may reach the apex of sport; the Summer Olympics.

A large percentage of Abdullah’s time outside of an Oglethorpe classroom is used pursuing a path in Ultimate Frisbee. The business major spends almost as many hours practicing and playing Ultimate as he does in lectures.

“Easily 12-14 hours a week,” Abdullah says of his time on the field. “I’m always thinking about Ultimate. It’s pretty much my life now.”

The dedication has paid off. Abdullah has been a professional Ultimate player since 2016, spending nights and weekends during the spring and summer with the Atlanta Hustle, a team in the southern conference of the American Ultimate Disc League, the highest level of Ultimate competition in the country.

And while he’s gotten to travel with the team to matches against conference rivals such as the Raleigh Flyers and Nashville Nightwatch, Abdullah is still a student, having to spend some of those nights in hotel rooms finishing papers and assignments.

The draw for Abdullah towards Ultimate was the way it utilized so many aspects of other activities. Ultimate is a hybrid of more “traditional” sports, as it is played on a football field, utilizes the movement of soccer, some rules of basketball and has its own brand of flight physics unique to flying discs.

“The throwing aspect still amazes me how people can do some of this stuff,” Abdullah says.

Play begins with a “pull,” essentially a kickoff, where a disc is thrown from one team to another. The receiving team then moves its way back towards the opposite end zone by passing the disc between team members. After catching a pass, a player may not move their feet besides around a pivot foot. A point is scored when a pass is caught in the opponent’s end zone. If a team drops the disc, or the team on defense intercepts a pass or knocks the disc to the ground, possession changes teams and play resumes in the opposite direction. Games generally consist of four quarters.

For as basic of a premise, and not helped by lazy stereotypes assigned to Frisbee enthusiasts, Ultimate is a fast-paced, strategic sport that requires as much, if not more, stamina than soccer, as it does not allow players on the field any opportunities to take a rest.

“Whether you have the disc or don’t, defense or offense, you’re always running. You always need to be able to get open, or always need to be covering your man,” Abdullah explains. “It’s non-stop.”

Abdullah first began playing Ultimate while in high school. He matriculated away from other organized sports such as soccer and basketball to focus primarily on Ultimate by the time he transferred to Parkview High School in Gwinnett County, Ga. when he was a senior.

Through playing in local youth clubs and tournaments, where he also met fellow Oglethorpe undergrad and frequent practice partner Stephen Myers ’20, Abdullah was introduced to the Hustle, which began play in 2015. After a season spent roving the sidelines as a “disc boy,” Abdullah was invited to try-out for the senior team, making the cut last year.

Now Abdullah is a bit of a defensive specialist, often coming in for shifts after the Hustle have scored. In his own words, Abdullah says the job can be “gritty” but is extremely satisfying when you fully extend out for a big pass breakup or deflection. And all this doesn’t mean he doesn’t get in on the offensive fun.

“I love getting up, jumping on top of people to grab a disc,” Abdullah gleefully remarks about one of the stronger parts of his game.

Around campus Abdullah has introduced several groups of students to Ultimate, including his fraternity, Chi Phi. He wants to be able to garner enough participation for a full-time club by the time he graduates.

Until then he’ll continue on with the Hustle, and working for local Ultimate company VC Spin, where he helps manufacture and fulfill merchandise orders.

Always remembering he’ll only be 28 years old when the 2024 Olympics roll around. Or in Yusuf Abdullah’s mind, the perfect Ultimate age.

Atlanta Hustle Schedule

You can catch Yusuf in action during Atlanta Hustle home games through July.

  • Saturday 5/13 Grady Stadium 7pm vs Nashville
  • Saturday 5/27 Lakewood Stadium 7pm vs Jacksonville
  • Sunday 6/04 Grady Stadium 5pm vs Austin
  • Saturday 6/17 Grady Stadium 7pm vs Raleigh
  • Friday 7/14 Grady Stadium 8pm vs Nashville
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