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 – The intersection of the NFL and esports

After graduating from the University of Oregon’s Journalism program, Mitch began writing about esports for SportTechie.

He identified the potential for content serving fans of both sports and esports, and will be focusing on that fan sector in his writing for NFP.

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