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 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 – 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