Five Players in the NFC North Who Play Esports

Clay Matthews – LB Green Bay Packers

The former USC star interned for a day at Sledgehammer Games, one of the rotating developers of Call of Duty. While there, he donned the exoskeleton from Advanced Warfare a COD game from 2014.

Like any intern, he had to take his licks. The exoskeleton helps power him to do everything from package deliveries to coffee runs. He did caution the group before the job began.

“I want you all to treat me like any other intern, but, once these four hours are up, I’ll return to being Clay, and I’ll remember everybody’s faces so…”

If I was a developer at Sledgehammer, I wouldn’t be messing with the six-time pro bowl LB wearing an exoskeleton, but that’s just me.

Blake Martinez – LB Green Bay Packers

Martinez hasn’t been around to accumulate as many pro bowls as counterpart Matthews but in 2017 he finished tied for third in the NFL in solo tackles. That ferocity extends to the virtual arena where Martinez is a successful DOTA 2 player.

Typically NFL players prefer shooters like Call of Duty and Fortnite, or sports simulation games like Madden, NBA 2K and FIFA. Martinez opted for a different genre, one that makes up some of the most popular esports worldwide: MOBAs.

Multi-player Online Battle Arenas are generally PC-exclusive and the two most popular examples are League of Legends and DOTA 2. He’s no slouch, boasting a rating that puts him in the top 30% of players worldwide.

Martinez has become an outspoken proponent of esports in the Packers locker room; he has even stated his desire to get the Packers ownership group invested in an esports franchise. It’s a move that has been made by multiple NBA teams but no NFL team has put its weight behind an esports franchise – yet.

In an interview with Moonduck Studio’s Elimination Mode III (EM3), Martinez likens DOTA support players to NFL captains, talks about succeeding through teamwork and even – after a bit of deliberation – puts out his old, slightly inappropriate username. I’m not going to write it, but trust me; it’s worth the watch. (Username at 20 min)

Kyle Long – G Chicago Bears

The three-time pro bowl lineman and ex-Oregon star (Sco Ducks) is, like Martinez, an ambassador for esports in his locker room. He once jokingly said that a PED test was unnecessary because he got his arm muscles from “years of holding an Xbox controller.”

Long has been a gamer for years and has attended many esports events, he was a featured guest at MLG’s Columbus Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) Major in 2016.

He’s a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to games; there are people who have played with him in every game from Call of Duty to Rocket League.

As far as football families go, the Longs are royalty. Brother Chris is a star Defensive End for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles. With their competitive nature there were probably some heated video game moments growing up, the only question is if HOF father Howie joined in.

Tarik Cohen – RB Chicago Bears

The Bears elusive back streams games on Twitch under the username “Tarikcohen” and seems to prefer shooting games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. He doesn’t take any crap from Twitch comments either.

“[A Twitch comment] said ‘this the only place where Tarik can get some dubs.’ Boy you stupid, we beat the Steelers, we beat the Ravens, both of them playoff teams. Now what you want to talk about??”

Besides Twitch, where else can a fan talk directly to an NFL player? And get called stupid in return?

Golden Tate / Ameer Abdullah – WR / RB Detroit Lions

Tate and Abdullah are two key pieces on the Lions offense. Fans of video games may remember when the two broke out a gaming celebration after scoring a touchdown against the Packers on Monday Night Football.

The two were pretending to control two teammates who were boxing when Abdullah tried to push Tate while playing. It’s happened to anybody who has played a lot of games with friends, sometimes the competition is so intense, you gotta take drastic measures to get the win.

There is no indication who’s idea the celebration was, but Tate is a known esports aficionado, in college he used his Pell Grant check on Call of Duty.

He says COD is how he stays connected with former teammates like Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch. He’s even considering in investing in a franchise and said when Reggie Bush was in Detroit, it was something they had talked about.

Personally, I dream of the day NFL players run the majority of the Call of Duty Pro League. With LA Rams Guard Rodger Saffold’s Rise Nation being one of the top teams in 2018, it might be more realistic than it seems.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

Two Madden Competitors Killed in Shooting at Jacksonville Tournament

Normally GLHF stands for “Good Luck, Have Fun,” a positive message in often-toxic game chats. It’s a statement that represents gaming in the best way and is emblematic of what the owners of GLHF Game Bar were hoping for when the venue hosted a Madden Classic Qualifier attended by many of the best players in

Normally GLHF stands for “Good Luck, Have Fun,” a positive message in often-toxic game chats. It’s a statement that represents gaming in the best way and is emblematic of what the owners of GLHF Game Bar were hoping for when the venue hosted a Madden Classic Qualifier attended by many of the best players in the world.

Instead, the bar experienced one of the worst tragedies in gaming history. On Sunday, a competitor in the Madden tournament at the bar in the Jacksonville Landing Complex took out a handgun and opened fire.

Three people are dead, including the gunman. The other two victims were Eli “Truboy” Clayton and Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson who were both competing at the event. Robertson, best known as “SpotMe” in the community was the Madden Classic 2017 Champion, the event the two players were trying to qualify for in this tournament.

11 other attendees were injured according to the Jacksonville Police Department. The injured people included oLarry2K, a player for Bucks Gaming in the NBA 2K League who underwent surgery Monday after being shot three times. He is unsure whether he will be able to continue playing video games after the surgery.

Other Madden players were also injured including Complexity Gaming’s Drini Gjoka who was hit in the thumb. There is a video of the incident that includes a horrific moment with one of the victims competing in the game when a red dot from a laser sight appears on his chest. I will not link the video because of its graphic nature.

The motive is not yet clear, but the shooter – David “Bread” Katz of Baltimore – won Madden tournaments in 2017 and considered himself one of the “best players in the game.” He competed for the Buffalo Bills in the 2017 season of the Madden Club Championship.

EA CEO Andrew Wilson released a statement Monday afternoon that said in part:

“First and foremost, it is an unthinkable tragedy that Taylor Robertson and Elijah Clayton, two of our top Madden competitors, lost their lives in this way. They were respected, positive and skilled competitors, the epitome of the players and personalities at the heart of our community.  Their love of competition was evident through their participation in our events over the past few years.  We are committed to supporting Taylor and Elijah’s families through this difficult time, and we send our deepest sympathies to their loved ones, to those injured yesterday, and everyone affected.”

The statement went on to say that the subsequent Madden Classic Qualifiers have been canceled until the company runs a comprehensive review of safety protocols.

After the event, an outpouring of support has surfaced for the families of the victims. A GoFundMe was set up by esports organization Gankstars and non-profit Joint Forces Operative to help cover medical and funeral expenses. In addition, Optic Gaming will be holding a Madden live stream from 2 PM to 8 PM CT on Friday with all donations going to aid the families of the victims.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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Antonio Brown Announced as Madden 19 Cover Athlete

EA announced today that Antonio Brown will be the cover athlete for next year's Madden, set to release in August. The cover of the game is highly coveted by NFL players, requiring both skill and widespread fan recognition. It has been a super-superstar every single year, except 2012 when EA allowed the internet to vote

EA announced today that Antonio Brown will be the cover athlete for next year’s Madden, set to release in August. The cover of the game is highly coveted by NFL players, requiring both skill and widespread fan recognition. It has been a super-superstar every single year, except 2012 when EA allowed the internet to vote and ended up with Browns RB Peyton Hillis

“I am beyond honored to be on the cover of both Madden games,” said Brown in a press release. “There’s a lot of milestones athletes dream of… appearing on the cover of this year’s games, it’s clear that business is not just booming, but I’m also among the all-time greatest with these honors.”

The list of past cover athletes includes Ray Lewis, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Barry Sanders, and Brett Favre. It’s effectively a list of some of the top players throughout history. 

Brown is the fourth wide receiver to be honored after Larry Fitzgerald in 2010, Calvin Johnson in 2013 and Odell Beckham Jr. in 2016. Since Eddie George became the first player on the cover, after they ran out of good images of Madden himself, there have been seven QBs, five RBs, four WRs and three defensive players. 

“AB has taken the league by storm the past few years and is arguably one of the best wide receivers to ever play in the NFL,” said Joshua Rabenovets, Sr. Brand Director at EA SPORTS in a press release. “His game is hot, he’s got a ton of personality on and off the field – he was an easy choice for the Madden NFL 19 cover.”

One thing possibly on Brown’s mind could be the Madden cover curse. It’s a funny topic and likely entirely coincidental but a large percentage of the players who have graced the cover have had serious injuries in the following two years. Recently Richard Sherman (Madden 2015, injured 2017) Odell Beckham (Madden 2016, injured 2017) and Rob Gronkowski (Madden 2017, injured 2017) have all fallen victim to the curse. Maybe 2017 was just a bad year in general though. Hopefully Brown doesn’t fall victim to the curse because there is no doubt he is one of the most electric players in the NFL. 

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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Five AFC North Stars Who Are Gamers

JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Smith-Schuster is one of the NFL’s most vocal proponents of esports. He made headlines last March when he squaded up in Fortnite with Ninja, Drake and Travis Scott in a twitch stream that broke the individual record for viewers on the streaming platform.

Even before joining

JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR Pittsburgh Steelers

Smith-Schuster is one of the NFL’s most vocal proponents of esports. He made headlines last March when he squaded up in Fortnite with Ninja, Drake and Travis Scott in a twitch stream that broke the individual record for viewers on the streaming platform.

Even before joining that stream, Smith-Schuster signed an apparel deal with esports organization FaZe Clan. FaZe originally started as a Call of Duty trick-shot clan. They were immensely popular in the “golden age” of COD on YouTube and have since expanded to represent top players in a variety of games.

At only 21 years old, Smith-Schuster was the youngest player in the NFL in the 2017 season. Like other fans of Call of Duty, he probably tried to emulate the insane moves pulled off by members of the group considered COD’s most elite snipers.

While Smith-Schuster probably never progressed to the level of pulling off a double-ladder spin quick scope – shown here by FaZe Fakie – he did play the game on “insane,” the highest sensitivity possible which requires a deft touch on the joystick. According to his teammates, he’s the man to beat in a Steelers locker room that offers plenty of competition

Le’Veon Bell – RB Pittsburgh Steelers

Another key part of Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense, Bell is also a huge gamer. He is relentless on the field and, while growing up, was relentless on the sticks as well.

“My mom used to have to take the game from me ’cause I would play it so much,” Bell told SB Nation. “Call of Duty is what got me started, I got so addicted to the game, I’d do my homework before school so that after practice I would be able to instantly go home and get on the game. When I was younger, it was Grand Theft Auto, but now it’s mostly COD and Madden.”

Now, not only is Bell a fan of the game, he is actually a character in COD:WWII. Alongside teammate Alejandro Villanueva, Bell was featured in the game’s “Headquarters” mode.

“Oh, I’ve always been a “Call of Duty” fan, but I didn’t expect to ever be in the game,” Bell told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’d never even thought about that. It was crazy that I had the opportunity to do it. I’ve been playing Call of Duty for years, since I had PS3.”

For him and Villanueva to be in the game took seven hours of motion capture over two days. The motion capture is the most extensive for a COD game to date as the franchise returned to its gritty, realistic roots for WWII. Before that version, the series had taken a futuristic vibe with titles like Black Ops III and Infinite Warfare.

Alejandro Villanueva – LT Pittsburgh Steelers

He was mentioned alongside, Bell but he has a unique perspective on Call of Duty that few NFL players can share. After graduating from West Point, Villanueva served in three tours in Afghanistan where he was awarded a Bronze Star, for rescuing injured soldiers under enemy fire.

A common thread in his life, from being an Army Ranger overseas to now being a starting left tackle, has been Call of Duty.

“I was [in Afghanistan] in 2011, ’12, ’13, ’14 and ’15, so I played every single game that came out,” Villanueva told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I played all of them. Whatever one was the new one, I was playing.”

On the surface, people may be surprised that soldiers spend their free time playing a model of war, but Villanueva explains that video games are a symbol of home. Villanueva, who was entered the army as a second lieutenant, often played with enlisted soldiers.

“When we were doing the real thing, we were still playing video games,” he said in the same interview. “Enlisted soldiers, they’re young guys who just got out of high school. You graduate from high school, you’re living your high-school life, and then a year and a half later, you’re in Afghanistan and doing the real life.”

Baker Mayfield – QB Cleveland Browns

Finally moving away from Pittsburgh, we turn to Cleveland’s new bastion of hope. The No. 1 overall pick, Baker Mayfield, lit up offenses at Oklahoma and now will lead a Brown’s offense that has the potential to be explosive for the first time in years.

Now that he has won a Heisman, and been drafted first overall, it’s hard to imagine Mayfield doing anything other than football. But, according to his college roommate Sooners fullback Jaxon Uhles, Mayfield once considered a career as a pro gamer.

“He told me at one point he was about to quit football when he was in high school and just play video games; become a professional video gamer,” Uhles told NCAA.com.

Mayfield’s dedication is obvious, going from a three-star recruit to a Heisman winner, so it’s hard to bet against his success in the virtual arena. As for what game Mayfield would be competing in? It would likely be Halo.

“One-on-one, I don’t think there’s anyone on campus who can beat me,” Mayfield told NCAA.com. “I’m gonna put that out there.”

While Halo’s competitive scene has fallen off since Mayfield’s high school days, many old pros in that scene have found a new home in Fortnite. Most notable is Ninja, who was one of the best Halo players before being vaulted to international stardom as the streaming face of Fortnite. Mayfield also made the switch and can be seen getting dubs in the game on his Instagram account with his girlfriend on his back.

AJ Green – WR Cincinnati Bengals

Green was mentioned in the AFC East iteration of this series when he went head-to-head against LeSean McCoy in a Call of Duty: Ghosts Grudge Match. While McCoy won that contest, Green didn’t take it sitting down, accusing the Bills RB of screen peeking.

“You cheating mayne, you been watching my screen,” Green said in this video.

Green is a huge fan of the game and says when football season ends, Call of Duty season begins.

“That’s all I do, I play Call of Duty non-stop,” Green told the PostGame.

In addition to COD, he also plays a lot of NBA 2K. That is similar to many other players around the league. They typically play shooters and sports simulation games like Madden, NBA 2K and FIFA.

This is part seven of our division-by-division look at some of the star gamers around the league. If you want to read more here are the completed divisions: AFC East, AFC West, NFC South, NFC North, NFC East and NFC West.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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Five Players/Owners in the AFC East Who Are Involved With New Sports

Rob Gronkowski – TE New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s favorite target plays Call of Duty the same way he plays on the football field: Aggressively.

“I like to run right up on you when I play,” Gronk told Jon Robinson at ESPN, "I'm the type of gamer who wants to grab the

Rob Gronkowski – TE New England Patriots

Tom Brady’s favorite target plays Call of Duty the same way he plays on the football field: Aggressively.

“I like to run right up on you when I play,” Gronk told Jon Robinson at ESPN, “I’m the type of gamer who wants to grab the shotgun and go looking for you. It’s just not me, it’s not my personality, to sit back somewhere and wait for the action to happen. I’m out there making things happen.”

He did that interview back in 2012 during the Modern Warfare 3 era of COD. Back then he called the graphics amazing, saying “it feels like you’re out there in real life.”

Since Modern Warfare 3 there have been six COD titles with the next – Black Ops 4 – set to release in October. If Gronk thought the graphics were good back then, COD WWII probably blew his mind as it is by far the most realistic title to date.

Robert Kraft – Owner New England Patriots

Kraft is one of the most recognizable owners in the league and is also one of the few who have bought into esports in a big way. When Blizzard created the Overwatch League and opened spots for regional franchises, they put a $20 million price tag on each spot in the league.

In doing so, they priced out all but the largest of the endemic esports organizations and it’s clear Blizzard was focused on getting traditional sports owners to buy into esports.

It worked. The OWL attracted ownership groups led by Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov from the Sacramento Kings, Jeff Wilpon from the New York Mets, and Ed Snider from the Philadelphia Flyers. It also included NFL owners Stan Kroenke and Kraft whose Kraft Group bought into the league and named the team the Boston Uprising.

The Uprising was a middle of the pack team most of the year but went on a tear in Stage 3 when they went undefeated through ten games. On the back of that performance they made the first Overwatch League playoffs and will face off against Snider and the Philadelphia Fusion in the first round beginning on July 11th.

Kiko Alonso – LB Miami Dolphins

The former Duck star – as an Oregon graduate I am obligated to mention the university when I can, it’s in the student handbook – Alonso has made a name for himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL, despite battling injuries and trades throughout his five years in the league.

He has been on three different teams going from the Bills to the Eagles in exchange for LeSean McCoy (more on him later) and then to the Dolphins for a first round pick. When moving around so much, it can be hard to bond with teammates but when arriving in Miami, Alonso used Call of Duty to mesh with fellow linebacker Jelani Jenkins.

“We’ve been playing some ‘Call of Duty,’ Jenkins told ESPN’s James Walker. “We’ve actually gone out to eat a little bit. He lives right near me. He lives by the beach. We just hang out. We have a lot of time off with this phase, so we get a chance to just kick it.”

It’s a team-building exercise that is popular around the league with players on every team playing Call of Duty and most playing with their teammates.

Teddy Bridgewater – QB New York Jets

When he joined the Minnesota Vikings, Bridgewater began studying the playbook immediately. He did so by playing Madden with the Vikings playbook which he imported into the game. It was a strategy he also employed while at Louisville, and it seemed to work out well for him there.

“I try to take as many reps as I can, whether it’s on a video game, playing Madden or in the playbook, just drawing it or just visualizing it in my head,” Bridgewater said to ESPN’s Ben Goessling in 2014. “I try to just maximize every rep I can get and every opportunity that I can take.”

As he was recovering from his nasty injury in 2016, the closest Bridgewater could get to actual reps was through Madden. At the very least it allowed him to keep testing routes and make sure his field vision was still on-point.

Considering it’s a strategy he employed through his last two stops, he has likely already imported the Jets playbook into his game and is working through the new offense. He showed flashes of brilliance through his first two seasons in the NFL but now will join a crowded QB competition with Josh McCown and top pick Sam Darnold for the starting position in New York.

LeSean McCoy – RB Buffalo Bills

Even though Shady called out Kiko Alonso on Instagram after the two were swapped in a trade, they do share a commonality in bonding with their teammates over Call of Duty.

“[When I was the Eagles] we will all just link up, we call things out in game and that’s your teammate so you kinda bond with them while you play the game,” McCoy told The Post Game in this video.

McCoy was facing off against Bengals WR AJ Green in a Call of Duty: Ghosts grudge match during that video. They also faced off in Madden, which Shady won.

“I’ve been a fan [of COD] for so long. I’m not a big game guy but I get up for Call of Duty. Wherever I go I gotta have Call of Duty tucked away,” McCoy said in the video. “Madden update I beat [Green] so now I gotta figure I’ll beat him in COD.”

McCoy won the grudge match with a score of 4-1 but Green wasn’t taking the L sitting down.

“You cheating mayne, you been watching my screen,” Green said to McCoy, jokingly.

Anybody who has played video games against their friends knows the arguments screen-peeking can cause, and it’s true for these guys as well, they just happen to also have 13 combined pro bowls.

This is the sixth article in a series looking at the overlap of the NFL and esports. All the NFC divisions and the AFC West can be found here.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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The Intersection of the NFL and Esports: AFC West

The overlap between the NFL and video games is massive. The players are actively gaming in their free time and many of the owners are directly or indirectly invested in the industry. I am going division by division highlighting star players on the field who also have a love for video games/esports.

Marshawn Lynch -

The overlap between the NFL and video games is massive. The players are actively gaming in their free time and many of the owners are directly or indirectly invested in the industry. I am going division by division highlighting star players on the field who also have a love for video games/esports.

Marshawn Lynch – RB Oakland Raiders

BeastMode is an investor in NRG Esports, an avid Call of Duty and Fortnite player and was even a character in a scene in Call of Duty Black Ops III campaign.

At NRG Esports, Lynch joined a star-studded investor group that contains Alex Rodriguez, Shaquille O’Neal, Ryan Howard and Jennifer Lopez, among other athletes and celebrities. The organization was started by Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov and has top-level talent in a variety of games including Overwatch, Rocket League and Fortnite.

He has been an outspoken advocate for Call of Duty for years and Treyarch – the developer of Black Ops 3 – rewarded him by putting him in the background of a scene in the campaign. Lynch called it “one of the highlights of my career.”

(He’s at the back table, sitting on the left, drinking aggressively)

He can also be found playing Fortnite and crashing Conan’s Clueless Gamer set to rip the heads off some fools in Doom.

Von Miller – LB Denver Broncos

The Clueless Gamer video that Lynch crashed was supposed to be between Josh Norman and Miller but if BeastMode wants in, he gets in.

Miller is also a huge gamer himself and thinks that gaming is a natural extension of NFL players competitive instinct.

“As athletes, we compete over everything, and a game like ‘Call of Duty’ is about as competitive as it gets,” Miller told ESPN’s Jon Robinson in 2012. “With the competitive aspect of the game, you can be down a couple of kills and you just want to come back. That’s what draws all athletes to ‘Call of Duty.’ There is just so much competitive spirit involved.”

He has been a gamer his whole life growing up on Tecmo Bowl and Contra as a kid. In addition to shooter games he also plays a lot of sports games but – at least at the time of that ESPN interview – said FIFA and NBA 2K were bigger communities than Madden.

“Everybody plays “FIFA.” Sure, there are guys on the team that love “Madden,” but what people might not realize is “FIFA” has the biggest online community out there, and “2K13” might be second.”

FIFA’s success as an esport has a lot to do with pure fluidity, it’s likely the best sports simulation gaming experience on the market.

Eric Berry – S Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs safety has battled more off-the-field adversity than just about anyone in the NFL. Most football fans will remember his fight with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma that forced him to miss multiple years; but what they might not know is the role that video games helped play in his recovery.

“The thing that kept me mentally sharp was playing video games. That’s the way I was getting reps,” Berry told SportTechie’s Mark J. Burns. “A lot of people don’t understand that visualization is one of the most powerful things you can do. Doing that through a video game where you put yourself through a situation in a first person point of view and you see it from a big picture point of view from how things work together, it can work wonders.”

Especially for someone missing the football field, Madden is the closest thing he could get for a while. In addition to Madden he also plays Call of Duty and told Burns that game can help with decision-making and critical thinking.

“The cerebral part of gaming, some people don’t look at it as a skill, that’s definitely a skill — to be able to think, react and maneuver so quickly,” Berry told Burns.

Tyreek Hill – WR Kansas City Chiefs

Hill is one of the most explosive players in the game today but when he’s not at practice or studying the playbook, he’s dropping into Fortnite games. According to comments on his Twitch stream on Reddit, he’s actually pretty good.

I play like three hours (at a time),” Hill told Deaundra Allen at the Kansas City Star. “I’m getting ready to set up my camera tonight so I can Twitch and people can see me play the game.”

His stream name is “imfasterthanya” but only has 2,100 total views as a channel. Especially during the offseason players need a way to fill time. Many find it through video games and studying the playbook, and for Hill it’s in that order.

“After I get done playing Fortnite, I try to schedule in some downtime for my playbook, watching film and watching other receivers,” he told the KC Star.

He plays with guys on the team like new quarterback Pat Mahomes and also talks trash to other AFC playoff rivals like Le’Veon Bell.

Joey Bosa – DE Los Angeles Chargers

Bosa has already made a name for himself as one of the standout young defensive stars in the league after the Chargers took him third in the 2016 NFL Draft. Coming from a national championship at Ohio State, Bosa was the man around Columbus. But following a violation of the school’s athletic policy, Bosa opted to shy away from the limelight and get a one-bedroom place off campus that had “little more than an Xbox, DVDs, and football gear,” wrote Sports Illustrated.

It was a place free from distractions, and for Bosa, a lifelong gamer, it was exactly what he needed. He finished the season as a first-team All-American and the Buckeyes went 12-1. The SI article doesn’t say what he was playing during that time, but according to an interview he did with Inverse, he has been a Call of Duty fan since he was young.

“I’ve been playing video games my entire life, ever since I had the Nintendo 64 that my grandma got me,” Bosa told Inverse. “Then I got my PS2 and have just been moving onto playing Call of Duty, and I’ve been a big gamer all of my life, me and my friends. It’s been a big part of our after-school time hanging out. It’s kept us off the streets and out of trouble.”

He found a reprieve from distractions through video games while growing up and while at Ohio State. Now he still plays with his friends back home, mostly Call of Duty, Rocket League and FIFA. I’ll bet head coach Anthony Lynn prefers him doing that than getting into the many distractions in Los Angeles.

This is part five of our division-by-division look at the overlap of the NFL and esports/gaming. The articles come out bi-weekly and the NFC can be found here with the West, North, East and South.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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5 Players in the NFC South Who Play Esports

Cam Newton

Carolina's Newton isn’t just a star on the field; he’s also put the challenge out there for his fans to see him in the virtual arena.

In the old video for Gatorade below he says “don’t try me with the sticks, 'cause these thumbs right here, you don’t want to see it, you don’t

Cam Newton

Carolina’s Newton isn’t just a star on the field; he’s also put the challenge out there for his fans to see him in the virtual arena.

In the old video for Gatorade below he says “don’t try me with the sticks, ’cause these thumbs right here, you don’t want to see it, you don’t want no problems. Whether you’re 13, 12, 21 years old, I’m gonna find you on Xbox Live and destroy you. I have a PlayStation too, I have a GameCube, and I even have an Atari. If it has online gaming, I will find you.”

Newton isn’t messing around with the challenge. He also wasn’t messing around when he sold his likeness to Hugo Games so they could build a mobile game based off his signature dab. When the company decided not to pursue the game, Cam came calling for the remaining $800,000 they owed him. In 2018, the two parties agreed upon terms for a settlement according to Cam’s lawyer, as reported by the Jasmine Brand.

Mike Evans

Evans has the second largest contract of any NFL wide receiver at $16.5 million per year. The deal is for five years, $82.5 million with $55 million guaranteed. But what was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ superstar wideout doing when he received news of his latest contract?

Playing Fortnite of course.

“I was on the phone with my agent and he called me and it’s one of those games that you can’t pause. If you play with teammates, you can’t let them down. If somebody gets knocked down you got to revive them,” Evans told Buccaneers.com. “I just muted the TV and I was on the phone with my agents and we were talking about the deal and it was great. I lost that game, but that was awesome news.”

Like most other 24-year-olds, Evans got caught up in the Fortnite craze. He hasn’t had as much time to practice his skills though. “I’ve played so many, and I win one in every 50 … that shit is hard.” If he’s playing solos, that’s actually pretty good. If he’s squadding up with Bucs teammates, they might need to work on their game. Still, they have better things to focus on.

Drew Brees

The New Orleans Saints star quarterback once won the Madden Bowl, but told the Hollywood Reporter that he has been playing football video games ever since Bo Jackson dominated Tecmo Bowl in the 90s.

Madden has come a long way since Brees did that interview in 2013. It was one of the first esports to be pushed into the mainstream by ESPN, but initiatives like the Madden Bowl and Madden Nation ultimately faltered. Now there is a new push for Madden as an esport through the Madden Club Championship.

He also helped distribute the educational game “Financial Football” throughout New Orleans schools. Aimed at increasing financial literacy in kids, the game uses a football field with each question advancing the ball towards the end zone.

“You’re just adding this competitive element to it where you’re having to answer these questions in order to move the ball down the field in order to score touchdowns, and it’s just a great way to learn,” Brees told the Hollywood Reporter.

Christian McCaffrey

Like his QB Newton, McCaffrey’s quickness on the field also extends to his thumbs. He’s been playing Call of Duty since he was a kid growing up in Colorado with his three bothers. Like many people, he first fell in love with the game during the Modern Warfare era, according to an interview he did with Uproxx.

While at Stanford, McCaffrey claims he reached the seventh prestige in Modern Warfare 2. For people unfamiliar with the series, that’s a lot of Call of Duty. Recently he was a beta tester in the latest World War II installment of the franchise.

Since joining the Carolina Panthers in 2017, he has used gaming to help connect with sick kids. Last Halloween, he went to the hospital to play Call of Duty while dressed as Captain America.

Mark Ingram

For Ingram, being on the cover of NCAA 12 wasn’t just an honor, it was a title he had to defend.

“How am I going to be on the cover and have somebody whoop me? It’s a matter of pride,” Ingram told ESPN’s Jon Robinson in 2011. “I wanted to win last year, but this year, I have to win. There’s no way I’m going to be on the cover of a game and lose.”

He backed up his words, beating every other college player in NCAA Football 12 at the EA Sports Draft Night Premiere Party. Ingram has come a long way from his days at Alabama to now being half of the most dynamic backfield in the NFL alongside Alvin Kamara.

He shares similar gaming habits with many other players, preferring football games and shooters like Call of Duty, which he plays with Saints teammate, star defensive end Cameron Jordan.

On The Ringer’s Achievement Oriented podcast, he compared gaming to being a football player. “All your fingers and your thoughts have to be moving together. Even on the [football] field you always have to be aware. If you hesitate for a second, you’ll probably get knocked out.”

This is the final NFC division piece of this eight-part series before the AFC series begins next week. If you are interested in reading the rest of the NFL’s interest in esports, here are the NFC West, NFC North and NFC South installments.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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5 NFC East Players/Owners Involved with Esports

Odell Beckham Jr. – WR New York Giants

The star wide out made a sizable investment in Vision Esports back in February. Kevin Durant and the St. Louis Cardinals joined him in a $38 million cap raise for the ownership group that is behind esports organization Echo Fox, (owned

Odell Beckham Jr. – WR New York Giants

The star wide out made a sizable investment in Vision Esports back in February. Kevin Durant and the St. Louis Cardinals joined him in a $38 million cap raise for the ownership group that is behind esports organization Echo Fox, (owned and operated by former NBA player Rick Fox) video game record keeper Twin Galaxies and media company Vision Entertainment.

It isn’t clear what games ODB plays himself, but if he’s invested in esports, he’s likely a gamer as well. He could, however just be a shrewd businessman who knows opportunity when he sees it.

If he is a gamer, it’s likely that he is playing Fortnite – along with the rest of the world. One of the purchasable in-game skins called “Brite Gunner” bears a striking resemblance to the star receiver. As such, he’s become the subject of a lot of clickbait videos that claim to be playing with the receiver, when in actuality, they are just playing with the skin. (See screenshot below.)

 

Jerry Jones – Owner Dallas Cowboys

He’s not a player, but as owners go, Jones is one of the most recognizable in the league. In 2017 he bought – along with real estate mogul John Goff – one of the longest running esports organizations, CompLexity Gaming.

He moved the organization to Texas where he also had a hand in developing the largest esports arena in North America. Technically in Arlington, the stadium is 100,000 square feet and is only about a mile from AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys.

Founded in 2003, CompLexity is ancient in the esports world. It fields teams in CS:GO, Call of Duty, Rocket League and Fortnite, to name a few.

However, it is not present in the two largest franchise-based esports leagues in North America. Riot’s North America League Championship Series (NALCS) and Blizzard’s Overwatch League (OWL.) The buy-ins for those leagues are $10 million and $20 million respectively. The majority of teams in both the NALCS and the OWL are backed either fully or in-part by traditional sports owners. Those include NFL owners Stan Kroenke (Los Angeles Rams) and Robert Kraft (New England Patriots)  as well as NBA owners Andy Miller (Sacramento Kings)  and Wesley Edens (Milwaukee Bucks).

Derrius Guice – RB Washington Redskins

The rookie running back is projected to be the starter for Washington this season. He was drafted in the second round, 59th overall, but many thought the LSU star would go in the first round.

So why’d he slide?

There were rumors about his professionalism and maturity, but they didn’t come from LSU, which assured he would pass every test of character. The other, more inexplicable reason is that he is “addicted to video games.”

“I never saw a concern with that until I started seeing reports that said I probably game too much,” Guice told Fox Sports reporter Garland Gillen before the draft. “I was still getting my workouts in, I was still ready for pro day, I don’t see what the problem is. A lot of people in pro sports play video games, so I don’t see why you would be worried to draft someone who does.”

Honestly, if I was a coach, I would much rather my players be dropping into Fortnite games than dropping Jägerbombs. You can’t workout 24/7, and if the rest of the time is spent being competitive online, seems good to me. That sentiment was echoed by fellow gamer and teammate in the backfield Chris Thompson.

For a player who outrushed Jacksonville Jaguars’ star back Leonard Fournette in 2016 at LSU, Washington may have come out like bandits with the seventh back taken in the NFL Draft.

Oh, and for fantasy players, he’s projected as a 4th/5th rounder. Like former teammate Fournette, he could be a steal as an RB2.

Dez Bryant – WR Free Agent

While not technically in the division anymore, the former Cowboys star is a huge Madden fan. In 2017, he played against Dave Grunfeld from NFL.com. It was a close game with Grunfeld taking an early lead but eventually losing to Bryant.

“It’s the best simulation of the game out there,” Bryant said when asked about how it compares to an actual game.

In the third quarter, in true Dez fashion he looked past the wide-open check down and threw a corner route to his virtual persona in triple coverage. And, in true Dez fashion, he caught it.

As he waits to find his next team destination, he probably is playing a lot of Xbox. A huge fan of DragonBall Z, it’s likely Dez has checked out the new fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ, which recently announced the formation of an official tournament circuit after becoming a favorite title in the fighting game community.

Zach Ertz – TE Philadelphia Eagles

Before the Eagles took down the Pats in the Super Bowl, Ertz and some of his teammates took on a different challenge —  playing troops stationed overseas in a variety of esports.

It came from the non-profit Joint Forces Initiative, which helps connect athletes and celebrities with military members all over the world.

“It builds up the morale,” said airman Jonathan Cunningham to FOX29 photojournalist Bill Rohrer. “If you’re able to be happy when you’re out there. I’ve been there. Little things like this just bring up the morale and perform better for the Air Force, the Army, what have you.”

Receiver Mark Hollins played Overwatch and defensive end Steve Means played Madden. Means ended up throwing a touchdown to the virtual Ertz, while the real one stood over his shoulder, watching the action.

Joint Forces founder Greg Zinone told Rohrer how gaming can help bring people together.

“What that controller does in their hand, with just playing a video game for that long. It breaks down barriers and it is like you are almost playing your best friend in the basement,” Zinone said.

This is the part three of our division by division look at esports in the NFL. For future reading here’s Clay Matthews, Kyle Long and the NFC North. And here’s Richard Sherman, Todd Gurley and the NFC West. 

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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New Jersey Allows Esports Betting With massive restriction

When New Jersey became the first state to allow sports betting after the Supreme Court decision, they initially said there was no betting on "high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games." 

A few days later - after an outcry from the esports community - they amended the law saying that betting on

When New Jersey became the first state to allow sports betting after the Supreme Court decision, they initially said there was no betting on “high school sports events, electronic sports, and competitive video games.” 

A few days later – after an outcry from the esports community – they amended the law saying that betting on esports events is allowed, so long as every participant in the tournament is 18 or older.

In traditional sports that isn’t a problem. Very few players in any sport have the ability to compete at the highest level before being able to vote. In esports, without a physical requirement, many people as young as 13 have been successful in their game. Players like Scrub Killa in Rocket League and Mongraal in Fortnite have been able to compete at that young age.

Still, they are the exception not the rule. But, because of players like them, the entry into the most popular esports leagues and events is often below that age threshold. For example, League of Legends’ LCS is 17, Rocket League’s RLCS is 15.

DOTA 2’s The International, which boasts the highest prize pool in esports, has no age requirement either. Epic Games hasn’t released competitive details for Fortnite but with the games massive popularity in teens, 18 would prevent a lot of the player base from competing.

Their are two main third-party tournament organizers in esports, Dreamhack and ESL. Dreamhack has no minimum age requirement, so it’s out.

So what does that leave? ESL is still in, so long as the game is rated for 18+. That means first person shooter’s like CS:GO and Rainbow Six: Siege should be good.

In terms of leagues that fit the age requirement, there are three big ones in America. The Overwatch League which boasts the highest franchise fees in esports at $20 million is good – just don’t bet on Shanghai. The Call of Duty World League which is a favorite of many NFL players and the NBA 2K League are both eligible as well.

Betting on esports is a huge business with people already wagering in-game items on games. There will be demand and betting could be the catalyst that raises the age requirement to become a pro in other titles.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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Check Out The New Madden 19 Trailer

The latest Madden trailer dropped at E3 and, while it doesn’t give a great idea of what gameplay feels like, it’s packed with moments.

The trailer primarily focuses on the first and second picks of the NFL Draft - Baker Mayfield for the Browns and Saquon Barkley for the Giants. (Here's how experts across

The latest Madden trailer dropped at E3 and, while it doesn’t give a great idea of what gameplay feels like, it’s packed with moments.

The trailer primarily focuses on the first and second picks of the NFL Draft – Baker Mayfield for the Browns and Saquon Barkley for the Giants. (Here’s how experts across the web felt about those picks.) Here’s the trailer:

It makes sense to focus on draftees because despite updating the graphics or player motion every year, the most significant change in each iteration of Madden is the updated rosters.

EA hasn’t released gameplay videos yet but those will be coming out this week. For now, all we have to go in is testimonials from people at the E3 demo.

One of those people was YouTuber EricRayweather who said, “The animations are pretty incredible, especially catching and hit sticks.”

The new animation style is called “Real Player Motion” and comes from the Frostbite game engine. Frostbite was first introduced into Madden 18 but only in some story modes. Now it appears the engine will be used throughout the game.

This is significant because some of EA’s more lifelike games – FIFA and Battlefield – have been using the engine for years. As EA tries to turn Madden into a true esport, they will need more realism and less easily abused glitches, hopefully the Frostbite engine helps with that.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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Five Players in the NFC West Who Play Esports

Richard Sherman – CB San Francisco 49ers

An avid Call of Duty player, Sherman attended the Call of Duty World Championships in 2016. He had plans to attend the DOTA 2 International – boasting the highest prize pool in esports at over 24 million in 2018 – and teased the possibility of investing in esports

Richard Sherman – CB San Francisco 49ers

An avid Call of Duty player, Sherman attended the Call of Duty World Championships in 2016. He had plans to attend the DOTA 2 International – boasting the highest prize pool in esports at over 24 million in 2018 – and teased the possibility of investing in esports in the future.

In an interview with ESPN’s Jacob Wolf, Sherman said “We’re competitors in every aspect of our lives and we’re always looking for another opportunity to compete, I think [Call of Duty] gives everybody a chance to be good at it.”

It’s that competitive nature that makes so many football players’ gamers and vice-versa, so many gamers football fans.

With Sherman’s move from Seattle to San Francisco, the key piece of the Legion of Boom will be in Silicon Valley – one of North America’s esports hubs.

In that same interview, Sherman said he might be interested in investing in esports one day.

“[Esports] has grown so rapidly over the last couple years, I think everyone is starting to [take] notice and pay attention,” he says. “These guys are out here competing for $2 million [at the Call of Duty World Championships]. That’s real money. That’s as real as it gets. I’m looking forward to seeing how that industry grows and maybe, maybe getting more involved.”

One organization he could consider investing in is NRG Esports. Sacramento Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov founded the team based out of San Francisco in December of 2015. They have a slew of name-brand athlete investors already. Shaq, Alex Rodriquez, Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Howard, and Marshawn Lynch – just to name a few.

Sherman is fully focused on recovering from his Achilles tear and transitioning to a new team. As his recovery progresses and he becomes settled in the bay, look for him to make more appearances in the esports world.

Todd Gurley – RB Los Angeles Rams

Gurley runs through opposing defenses like a freight train and plays Call of Duty the same way.

“I’m aggressive, I don’t really care if I get killed… If I get killed 50 times so be it as long as I get to kill as many people as I can,” Gurley told GamerHub TV at the release party for Black Ops 4 the latest iteration of one of the longest running game series ever.

On professional gamers: “Those guys are beasts out there, I did a thing with Matt Forte and we had like two or three kills and those guys had 15, 20, 30 kills. Those guys are beasts, I totally respect what they do.”

“We had a Rams Call of Duty group chat my rookie year, it’s crazy popular in the league. It’s a game that’s been around for so long that we were all playing that in college and in high school,” Gurley said in the video.

While Gurley is an avid COD player, one of his primary blockers has taken a love for the game to a whole new level.

Rodger Saffold – G Los Angeles Rams

Saffold was one of the first NFL players to make a big push into the esports industry. In fact, he was one of the first traditional sports athletes across all sports to get in. In 2014 he helped to found Rise Nation, an esports organization competing in Call of Duty. Now he serves as CEO and under him, Rise has become one of the dominant teams in COD.

2018 has been good to Rise as the team went 13-1 in the first stage of the CWL Pro League before going undefeated in CWL Atlanta Open to establish themselves as one of the top teams in North America this season.

“When I started figuring out that esports was growing, and I saw they were all over the internet on Twitch — when I saw that there were these huge events — I was like, ‘OK, I need to get into this,” Saffold told ESPN’s Imad Khan in 2016.

In the locker room, his teammates are curious and Saffold does what he can to introduce them to esports.

“I always get questions like ‘Hey, how is our team doing?’ [and] like ‘Hey, what’s going on, what’s going down this weekend?'” he said in the ESPN interview.

Saffold started Rise Nation when the team was still in St. Louis. The move to Los Angeles was positive for his – and Stan Kroenke’s – esports business. LA is the home of major game developers Riot and Blizzard and the site of tournaments year round. His fellow Ram teammates – and now the Chargers as well – have all the opportunity in the world to be involved in esports, with Saffold as a model, that floodgate could open soon.

David Johnson – RB Arizona Cardinals

In addition to being a star running back and top fantasy pick, Johnson is also a huge fan of Call of Duty.

(I promise there are more esports than just COD, it just happens to be the favorite of many NFL players, along with Fortnite.)

There is no doubt that the man was gaming while he recovered from his injury last year. Especially now that he received a custom, portable Xbox system from fellow gamer and ex-NFL player Hank Baskett.

Baskett was at one point named a co-owner of Denial Esports but that company folded because of a history of not paying it’s employees. That’s all happened prior to Baskett’s involvement, he was just caught up in the cross-fire.

Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas – LB/S Seattle Seahawks

Wagner and Thomas both attended PAX in 2015, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. While there they played a couple of games of Madden (Thomas won both by a small margin, 10-7, 7-0) and talked Destiny and Madden ratings with GeekWire reporter Taylor Soper.

“I think I’m a 99,” said Thomas who was rated 95 in that year’s game.

He also wanted to be clear on his geekiness, “I don’t think I’m a geek, I think I’m Earl Thomas.”

Wagner said he had a unique motivation – staying on top of the familial food chain. “I like to play with my nephews a bunch and I need to make sure I stay up with these games so they never beat me,” he told Soper.

Between Wagner, Sherman and Thomas, there were definitely some heated games of Madden in the Seahawks locker room. With 14 Pro Bowl appearances between the three defensive stars, I imagine the games were pretty low scoring.

Mitch Reames

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing for SportTechie. After beginning as a writer for NFP, he’s now the content quarterback for the site.

He also publishes articles in addition to editing, most of his original writing focuses on the intersection of the NFL and esports.

When he’s not playing Fortnite, Rocket League or Hearthstone, Mitch is rooting on the LA Rams, Oregon Ducks and his fantasy team.

Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Reames

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