In the middle of this scene at the Call of Duty World League tournament is Los Angeles Rams offensive guard Rodger Saffold. He finished mandatory minicamp only the week prior, and he’s tending to his other job as owner of Rise Nation, an esports team that he founded in 2014, which boasts several of the top video game players and teams in the country.
“The lights are crazy; the energy is amazing,” said Saffold, who, at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, stood out among the crowd, wearing a black sweatshirt and a diamond-encrusted pendant with a Rise Nation logo. “It’s also very stressful.”cheap nfl jerseys china nike
For six months a year, Saffold is strictly focused on football. But when the season ends, the nine-year NFL pro fills much of his time with gaming. He grew up loving puzzles. Then during college, he developed a penchant for video games, more specifically “Call of Duty,” the first-person-shooter game.
The structure of an esports organization bears a resemblance to an NFL team.
As the owner, Saffold funds the organization, “like a poor man’s Stan Kroenke,” he chuckled, in reference to the Rams’ owner. He has a partner in longtime friend Kareem Horsley and hired former gamer Jonathan Tucker as general manager.
“In big decisions, we keep him informed,” said Tucker, who first met Saffold in 2014 at a gaming tournament. “Transfers, signings, big-money moves that could affect how we work, we have to consult him. … But as far as day-to-day stuff, me and Kareem do most of it, because it’s just too many things to bother him with.”
Saffold, who studied business management at Indiana, has 10 full-time employees and a roster that fluctuates between 10 and 12 players among seven teams, depending on the games and tournaments the organization is involved in.
To develop his business, Saffold leaned on the friendships he developed within the esports industry. “Just picking everybody’s brain,” Saffold said, “we were kind of able to figure out a formula.”
He also sought the creative input of a Rams graphic designer to develop a Rise Nation logo.nike nfl jerseys cheap china
“I wanted to be involved and invested into something that I have a lot of passion for,” Saffold said. “This seemed to be it.”
Saffold isn’t the only person from professional sports getting into gaming. Earlier this year, the NBA became the first professional sports league to operate an esports league when it launched NBA 2K, which features some of the best basketball gamers in the world.