LORAIN - For any parent who has yelled at their kids for playing video games all day, you might want to adjust that mindset.
Just maybe all that gaming could add up to something big. Just ask Jordan Zakrajsek's mom and dad.
Photos hang above Jordan's computer. Baseball. Football. Basketball. He bowled, too. But you won't find Jordan spending much time shooting hoops outside these days. In fact, he has spent years in his bedroom, playing video games.
"Just always playing video games," Jordan says proudly.
And in the fall, the 2017 Marion L. Steele graduate will be heading to Lourdes University in Sylvania this fall on an athletic scholarship to play on the school's eSports team.
"Wait? What are you doing out of your room? Get back in there! Why aren't you studying?" joked Jordan's dad, talking about the moment he and Jordan's mom realized his passion for gaming.
Just how popular is League of Legends?
Consider this: Nearly 31 million people watched LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in 2016. Pretty impressive. Add to that the 1.76 million unique viewers that watched the game via ESPN's online service, WatchESPN.
But it's not as impressive as what the League of Legends World Championships drew just six months earlier. Roughly 36 million unique viewers tuned in for the final between Koo Tigers and SK Telecom at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, Germany.
Robert Morris University in Chicago became the first school to offer eSports scholarships. And they reached out to Jordan. But when Lourdes University made plans to start a team, Jordan liked the idea of being a little closer to home.
Lourdes is currently building an arena for its eSports team, which makes perfect sense when you consider the enormous following stateside.
"League of Legends, in the past two years with the professional national champions, have sold out Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center for seven straight days. And I read an article that said there will be more League of Legends players in college this year than Division 1 men's basketball players on scholarship," said Rick Zakrajsek.
For his part, Jordan is a trailblazer in the League of Legends world. At 18, he is in the top 0.4 percent of all online players in his division in the United States.
"Sometimes losing those games, after putting in 40 minutes, it's really taxing," Jordan explained of the matches, in which the goal is to destroy your opponent's base while making it past obstacles along the way.
And just like any sport, eSports requires equipment, too. Jordan has gone through four gamer chairs.
"If you sit in it enough, it will get torn up," explained Jordan.
He also upgraded his keyboard to a faster, more efficient, high-tech mechanical one. Rick likened it to getting a better bat, a better bowling ball that would help make your game better.
Rick knows after all. He's a traditional sports guy and has the pictures throughout the family home to prove it. He has played sports and even coached most of Jordan's youth teams. But today, he is undeniably proud of his former baseball, basketball, football, bowling athlete son whose passion has paid off.
"Absolutely paid off for him. Paid off for us as well, obviously with the scholarships," Rick added.
Draft Kings even offers a betting option on eSports. And it's just the beginning.
"These game manufacturers will be looking for people from a marketing standpoint. Coaches to trainers and other universities who are going to start getting into this as well," Rick went on to explain.
Jordan is on track to be a League of Legends legend. But just like traditional athletes experience, scholarships require commitment, hard work, and talent.
League of Legends ranks players in seven tiers. From lowest to highest, gamers are ranked bronze, silver, gold, platinum, diamond, master or challenger. Recruiters don't necessarily look for players at the very top, but rather those they see as talented, with room to grow and coachable.
In Ohio, Tiffin University, Miami University, and Lourdes all have varsity eSports teams. More are on the way.
And if you think eSport athletes will spend their college careers glued to their gaming chairs, think again. Practice time is limited, and athletes must follow a workout regimen and in some cases in a nutritional program.
To learn more about eSports on the collegiate level, click here.
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