Grand Canyon University women’s rugby player picked for NIL deal with Degree deodorant

Amaya De La Cruz was one of just 22 student-athletes selected nationwide and the only women’s rugby player.
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 10:37 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Sixteen months ago, college sports changed forever when the NCAA approved a Name, Image and Likeness policy that allowed student-athletes to make money on endorsement deals. One of the most unlikely candidates to take advantage of the changing landscape is Amaya De La Cruz, a women’s rugby player at Grand Canyon University.

“Whenever someone hears that I play rugby, they’re always like, ‘you play rugby?’” said De La Cruz. “Because I still feel like I’m kind of a cheerleader on the outside.”

The GCU junior was a cheerleader from age 8-18. “I was on the sideline cheering on the football team, and I kind of wanted to be the one on the field like actually, you know, tackling people and running up and down and scoring points and everyone’s cheering for you,” she said.

Now, De La Cruz is that person. She’s one of the smallest players on the field, standing just over 5 feet, 5 inches tall, but she thrives in the physically-demanding sport. “Last year,” she recalls, “after the best tackle I’ve ever made in my whole entire rugby career, someone hit their knees in my head. I cracked my head open and I had to get staples put in. But everything’s okay.”

GCU women’s rugby coach Lindsey Mahoney laughs when asked to describe De La Cruz. “Especially her first season she came into the program and I was like, ‘she plays rugby?!’ She was so small but she’s full of heart, she’s full of character, she’s full of energy. She’s just like a little light bulb.”

The little light bulb is now one of the Lopes’ leaders. De La Cruz was named to an all-tournament team in the spring and said she’s felt empowered from the first day she put cleats on. “As a girl, you don’t really feel like you can tackle people or hit people or like give someone a mean stiff arm,” said De La Cruz. “But I like had it for the first time in that first practice. And I was like, ‘I love this. I’ve been missing out my whole life. Like, this is what I’m supposed to be doing.’”

De La Cruz shared this story of her 180 from cheer to rugby with Degree deodorant. The brand then picked her to be part of its NIL Breaking Limits team. She was one of just 22 student-athletes selected nationwide and the only women’s rugby player.

“I am a really strong advocate for like, you can literally do anything if you just put your mind to it,” she said. “No matter what size you are, which shape you are, your experience, if you just really go in at 100%, like, you could break any boundary that there is.”

She is breaking boundaries and limits in more ways than one. De La Cruz is also the first GCU club sport athlete to earn an ambassador deal. “You hear all the time, you know, these NCAA huge DI teams are getting sponsorships and all these cool opportunities but the fact that, you know, me a club athlete and a rugby player -- like those are two things that no one really pays attention to,” she said.

Until now.