PLYMOUTH, Wis. (WBAY) - Lakeland University has joined the eSports world. The university has added eSports to its varsity athletic program. It also named former Green Bay Packers running back Ahman Green as its eSports Head Coach.
Green, the Packers all-time leading rusher, played 12 seasons in the NFL including two stints with the Packers.
Green has always been a gamer and after retiring from football in 2009, his interest in eSports grew.
"I've been watching it, following it for about 7-8 years and prior to that just being a gamer, myself reading magazines, reading articles where everything has been going," Green said. "It's always been underground tournaments. When I was a college student at the University of Nebraska, my teammates. I'm running to Blockbuster video to go rent a copy of Madden 1995 so we can play in a tournament in my dorm room so it's always been there."
Lakeland will have a co-ed team and will be a part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) along with 150+ other colleges nationwide.
"The great beauty about eSports is that it involves everyone and everybody. There's no exclusion from it. Man, woman. White, black, Asian. It doesn't matter. You are a part of it. You are a team," Green said on Wednesday. "That's the part I love about it I could be at E3. I could be at Comic Con and I run into somebody and their face just lights up when they recognize who I am. And their face just goes like, why are you here. I'm a dork just like you."
Lakeland currently has an eSports club with more than 30 student members which helped fuel the interest in starting a varsity team.
"Many people say that eSports is not a sport. (Ahman Green) sees it as a sport and I do too. I wrote a whole paper on it and for him to identify as a gamer, it makes me feel more comfortable. It makes you more accepted," Lakeland sophomore Robert Xiong said.
The University will renovate an existing 3,000-square foot space to be used by the eSports team while also adding 18 gaming stations, six consoles and a lounge area for spectators.
Green hopes to change the stereotype of gamers. He plans to practice with them in the offseason while also putting students on nutritional programs and teaching them good health habits.
"I want to change the narrative what we know about gamers. Gamers are tucked down in their mom or dad's basement, out of shape. High cholesterol, high blood pressure ... A lot (professional teams) have their eSports players on nutritional programs -- on training programs so I want to resource that as well here," Green said.
Green added he won't be doing a football-type bootcamp but he wants his players to be healthy.
Lakeland's team will compete in games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, Paladins, Rocket League, Smite, Fortnite, CSGO, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, etc. Additional games will be added in the future based on student interest and additions made by NACE.
The program is currently asking students to fill out a questionnaire regarding the eSports program. The university plans on starting the eSports competitions next fall.