After his NFL days end, Redskins’ Jonathan Allen aims to launch video gaming career

The early courtship between Jonathan and Hannah was not always particularly romantic. They officially met at their first party on the University of Alabama campus, but she had seen the huge soccer player in the study room. He helped her go to the end of the festivities, and they ended up ordering pizza and talking late into the night.

Jonathan Allen, the prominent future of the Washington Redskins, would invite her to her bedroom after dinner at Bryant Dining Hall: it was a T-shirt and her schedules often included a late meal. It took Hannah a while to realize that it was him due to a peculiar recurring dynamic: she came and he played video games while watching.

“I’m like, ‘What the hell?'” Hannah said earlier this summer during lunch in Reston, Virginia. “He would say: ‘I need only one hour of playtime.’ And I fall asleep because I have to get up at 4:30. It still says that:” Only one hour of playtime. ”

Jonathan looks and adds with a smile: “I wanted you to know what you’re getting into.”

Hannah, in fact, knew what he was getting into when he said, “Yes.” Family, football and video games are the three passions for Jonathan Allen, and the last two are far from being just a game.

Raising a passion

The typically elegant home of the Institute for Athletes sports agency, the Minneapolis-based firm that represents Allen, with its original glass-wall offices and wooden floors, is packed with children as they move between 20 computers set up as stations. game. Allen is present, along with agent Blake Baratz and 140 high school students in the area, for a weekend game tournament that will mark the smooth launch of IFA Gaming, the agency’s new third arm.

The event is not just a promotional appearance for Allen; He is literally invested in the event. This is Allen’s world outside of football, and that’s why Baratz approached Allen with this vision. IFA already had a talent arm and a marketing arm of its business called Elevation, but co-founder Michael Zweigbaum had the idea of ​​entering electronic sports.

One day, Zweigbaum asked his three children a question: would they rather go to an esports event or baseball game? There was no interest in baseball tickets, and the seed of what would become E-Squared, the brand name of IFA Gaming, was planted.

“I just saw a grand opening in the Midwest so that a really strong esports brand can consult [other] brands on how to activate esports,” said Zweigbaum. “And really, if we are going to consult, we have to reach him and understand him from his childhood and then from his central level. … Our main mission is really to elevate what you want to do within the playing space.”

When Zweigbaum discussed the idea with Baratz, he immediately thought of Allen. They brought him to Los Angeles to meet with people from Next Generation Esports, an independent esports production company that works with E-Squared. Allen now has a stake in the company’s capital and sees this as a post-soccer career option. But their aspirations do not stop there.

“Honestly, what I like about video games is that they are competitive,” Allen said. “If it wasn’t competitive, meh, I probably wouldn’t like it.” It is competitive Football is competitive. Video games, super, super competitive. … I don’t know what my income will be after football for video games. Honestly, I don’t care. I plan to earn enough money playing football, so where it doesn’t matter. But I am so passionate about video games that no matter what I do, I will give everything I have. I feel that when I give something 100 percent, I will succeed in it. I really believe it. I just want to do something I love. ”

Allen’s crush on the games comes from his father, Richard, a career soldier. Richard is the heroic figure of the family, raising his children as a single father after the children fell into foster homes while living with their mother, who had mental health problems. His father was a player and his brother Ricardo III played, so Jonathan also played. It used to be a lot of soccer games: Madden NFL and NFL Blitz. Now he mainly plays first-person shooters focused on combat, another link with his father. If Jonathan hadn’t stood out in football, he would have followed in his footsteps as a military. His current favorite game is Rainbow Six Siege.

And then Allen was in heaven at the tournament, marking his opening with comments that called the launch of E-Squared “a dream come true.”

“If [or not] we were going to have our own brand … we were going to work with Jon in the games regardless of his passion,” Baratz said. “Once we decided that we were really going to get into that and devote our own time, money and energy, it was obvious to involve him.”

His passion for games resonated with the assistance of children. There were sections where Allen sat alone in the waiting area just watching the broadcast of the competition.

“I looked a little at him because he plays soccer and me too,” said William Bainbridge, 15. “I can really admire him and his ability in that regard. And the fact that he has all this other side of his life where he plays sports and plays video games and has a Twitch [broadcast] and so on … just being able to talk to someone who shares similar interests, it’s really nice to see that it’s really possible to balance both. … I think it’s really amazing. It seems really nice and genuine. ”

The game after the game.

Allen wants to be known as the Michael Strahan of video games. The Pro Football Hall of Famer and former New York Giant have forged a post-NFL career as a host of television shows and television personality, freeing themselves from the football world to star in “Good Morning America.” A large part of the country only knows him for his television exploits, not as the player with the sixth highest number of catches in NFL history.

“Michael is like a celebrity, like a celebrity from the A list of shows only,” Allen said. “… Smart. It’s great.”

That is the kind of cache Allen wants in the world of electronic sports. Quickly recite famous players and content creators like Ninja and NarcolepticNugget as people you admire. The first thing he did with his first NFL check was to buy a custom gaming PC that now has 100 gigabytes of RAM, a two-terabyte hard drive and an i7 central processor with two GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards. In simple terms, it is a powerful machine built specifically for marathons of games.

The link between professional athletes and the world of games is already strong. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and investor John Goff bought a majority stake in the Complexity Gaming esports franchise and opened a facility next to the Cowboys headquarters. Complexity players train in the same facilities as Cowboys players, and the organization functions as a traditional sports franchise. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made a multi-million dollar investment in 100 Thieves, another electronic sports organization. The New England Patriots owners, Robert and Jonathan Kraft, joined the Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke as initial franchise investors for the Overwatch League.

Reuters recently reported that global revenues from electronic sports will reach $ 1.1 billion this year. E-Squared is set to be flexible enough to continue holding events, possibly building an arena or sponsoring a team and consulting with athletes, brands or companies on how to grow in games.

“It’s like the cartoon where they light the gunpowder barrel and then the cartoon guy is sitting on top and about to take off,” said Dan White, who has been organizing game events since 2003. “We’ve been saying for a moment “Enter now because you are on the ground floor,” but this is the last ticket. The train leaves the station and, in two or five years, if it is not yet established, it will enter after the lines have been drawn. “

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