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How TSU’s esports team is reaching the next level

Written by on April 6, 2024

If you ever doubted the legitimacy or importance of gaming in 2024, then you should be introduced to a group of five Texas Southern University students. Through the power of gaming, they just earned $100,000 in one month.

These five trailblazing students participated in the “Mountain Dew Real Change Challenge” in Atlanta, Ga. in October.

The tournament served as a way to connect with and support the next generation of HBCU content creators and gamers. HBCU students across the nation were invited to compete in the tournament, in which all contestants played Mortal Kombat 1.

While the overall prize pool was $500,000 dollars, $100,000 was split between the finalists.

For TSU esports team member DeAndre Polk, the entire experience was exciting and new, as he had never even traveled outside of Houston prior to this event.

“I personally never traveled out of  Texas before in general. I’ve been in Houston my whole life,” Polk said. “ I went to Atlanta, it was game-changing for me.”

Polk, who majors in civil engineering, is thankful for both the opportunity to have received money from this event and the memories he created.

“I think that it was a good thing for Mountain Dew to give me the opportunity to even get that chance. And it was great that I was able to even place as high as I did because I placed top five,” Polk said. “And I think that was pretty cool for it to see it happen,” Polk said.

Jaylin Bean, another member of the esports team, has been preparing for this moment since he was a kid. His first memories were of him grasping a controller in his hands, playing on V-Tech consoles, and playing games for hours at a time.

“I grew up playing video games, it’s just built into my family,” Bean said. “Even my uncle and my dad, they tell me their stories of how when they grew up, all they do was play video games, and they would like place bets at the arcade, playing Street Fighter and stuff like that. So it really, it was like an inspiration for me, just… you know made me want to do better and play better you know,” Bean said.

For Bean, winning at such a high level this early in his career solidifies that he is on the right path to being great at what he does.

“Honestly, I used to lose a lot, and being able to do the things that I’ve done, it let’s me know that I can be good at video games,” Bean said.

For Kevin Biggens, another team member, he hopes finishing as finalists in the tournament boosts the program’s reputation. .

“I just hope that it gives us a bigger name, a chance to do better for ourselves, get our name out there, and have more opportunities in the future,” Biggens said.

As for Ethan Johnson, who is also a member of the team and a second place finisher, he is content with how his journey to this point went, and wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I think I just naturally found this path,” Johnson said. “My goal was to set some sort of foundation with eSports specifically fighting games.

So I feel like if I, younger me back then, if I just even still tried to continue on that path regardless, I would still be here doing stuff, competing and all that,” Johnson said.

If you would like to join an esports team or any sporting club on campus, complete and submit a sports club application to the sports club office in the student rec center.