North Texas Daily

Freshman esports athlete takes leadership role

Freshman esports athlete takes leadership role

Freshman esports athlete takes leadership role
September 26
10:43 2019

For Matt Shelton, learning a thing or two about the qualities it takes to be an esports athlete runs side-by-side his experience in military techniques and strategies.

“Leadership goes hand-in-hand in both ROTC and eSports,” Shelton said. “ROTC teaches us to be leaders and I use what I learn to apply it to eSports. For example, teamwork is something we work on in both ROTC and eSports, so they both have their similarities.”

Shelton, a freshman in UNT’s Air Force ROTC program, has personal experience with eSports over the last few years, winning local tournaments as a high schooler. On Sept. 12, he was one of 24 students at UNT to sign a scholarship to play for the Mean Green eSports team.

Flanked by his teammates, Matt Shelton, freshman varsity League of Legends player, plays as Sylas at practice in the Nest on Sept. 19, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard

“He plays a key role for us in the ‘Overwatch’ and ‘League of Legends’ video games and he’s what we call our ‘playmaker’ early on in the game,” eSports coordinator Dylan Wray said. “For someone that’s only a freshman and 18 years old, it was incredible to see how much game knowledge and communication he had out of the gate.”

Currently there are local middle and high school, select teams, college and professional eSport gamers that compete in tournaments in the United States. esports has experienced rapid growth in recent years, with large local competitions taking place at AT&T Stadium and the Arlington Convention Center.

Wray feels the esports athletes can leave a positive impact on the school as they are now represented on campus at a comparable level to athletes from other sports programs.

“This kind of opportunity offers the athletes validation,” Wray said. “You look at a game like ‘Rocket League’ and these kids have put in over thousands of hours to get to where they are now. We can look at it the same way with how a football player puts in thousands of hours of hard work towards their craft.”

The Mean Green eSports program is one of 12 varsity school programs in the United States that was chosen to be in the ‘Overwatch’ video game year-long tournament. Other schools that were chosen include the University of Missouri, the University of California at Berkley and the University of Utah. The regulation and league that UNT plays in is TESPA (Texas eSports Association). TESPA is a collegiate video game and eSports organization that was created in 2012 at the Universtiy of Texas. The Mean Green have been ranked No. 19 in the “Overwatch” video game by TESPA.

“It feels good that TESPA has us ranked in the top 20 of ‘Overwatch,’” senior eSports athlete Trevor Exley said. “I enjoy playing with Matt because he makes me want to get better and so we can have the most success with our entire roster.”

Exley’s is confident in the young gamer. Exley is a returning eSports athlete from last year and brings some seniority to the squad. In 2018, Exley was a member of the team that peaked in a TESPA national ranking of No. 11 in a league tournament for the “Overwatch” video game.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say we hold him to a higher standard than anyone else, but an equal one,” Exley said. “[Shelton] understands this might be any of the seniors’ last time playing in this type of team environment for UNT and he wants to be as big of an impact to us as he can.”

After graduating, Shelton plans to stay on the Air Force path rather than pursuing a professional esports career.

“Right now I’m looking to go into active duty in the Air Force as a drone pilot,” Shelton said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m hoping I can stay down that path while I stay in school.

Beyond working on his talents on the sticks, Shelton realizes the importance of leading by example and ensuring that everyone in the program enjoys their tenure.

“The fact that I love playing these kinds of games helps me realize esports is fun,” Shelton said. “But at the same time leading and making a positive impact on all the players is a much better feeling.”

Featured Image: Matt Shelton, freshman varsity League of Legends player, plays as Sylas at practice in the Nest on Sept. 19, 2019. Image by Jordan Collard

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Preston Rios

Preston Rios

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