The four teams gathering at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the campus of Arizona State University have all taken unique personal and competitive paths to get there, but to a player, they’re each thrilled to be taking part in the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship.

Beyond the chance to claim $50,000 in scholarship money as the 2018 national champs, many of the players seem just as excited to connect with each other over the culture of competitive Overwatch. Overwatch League was a dominant topic and these players are serious about the platform they have over this Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship weekend to share thoughts on their place in the broader Overwatch scene.

For UC Irvine’s Sebastian “SelecTT” Vasquez, the biggest pro esports event of his young career has given him the opportunity to connect with his pro football hero, however remotely.

“I played junior varsity football in high school and I was always trying to find somebody [to look up to] that was small. At the time Tyrann [Mathieu] was at his peak at LSU and he was just doing crazy things and I was watching his highlights,“ recalled Vasquez. “He was like 5-7 running over people. I liked what he was about and I liked his attitude.”

When the art major and Mercy main indirectly shared his thoughts on Twitter, he was surprised to see his immediate esports aspirations catch the attention of a certain all-pro defensive back.

“That was crazy when they asked me what would I do if he responded and today I woke up, and sure enough, he retweeted my tweets and said ‘yo, good luck out there,’” said Vasquez.

For the players not looking to shout out pro football heroes, there were plenty of thoughts on the burgeoning pro scene and the Overwatch League. The program begins its second stage the week after the Fiesta Bowl Collegiate National Championship, but it’s clearly has the attention of college players.

Alex “Paigwut” Dam is a senior on the UC Berkeley team looking to repeat as back to back collegiate champions in Overwatch. He keeps a close eye on what pro Overwatch players are doing week to week as he looks for a competitive edge.  

“We watch Overwatch League because we enjoy the game, but at the same time, we like to get ideas from the pros. We’ll say ‘hey this looks like a good idea. Let’s try it out for our team,’” says Dam. “I main [Moira] so I’ve learned new ways to use her Fade jump to do different things and use it to jump off of things like jump off the motorcycle on Numbani.”

For others, there’s no mincing words about what opportunities might come out of a weekend of college esports like this. Ernie “Jinora” Lum is still a junior majoring in biochemistry at UC San Diego, but he would be thrilled if flex supports like him could lead to spot in to an amateur selection event, also known as a draft, for Overwatch League.

“It’s hard for ordinary players, like me, to get their names out there. So some of us have the drive to become pro, but where do we start?’ asks Lum. “ In the NBA Draft they pick out who’s the number one player and that’s the number one player, right there. If Overwatch League had something like that, I think that would be a great way to incorporate collegiate level into the pro level.”

Again, every player at the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship is locked in and ready to battle for the top scholarship prizes. However, just like a lot of student gamers on campuses from the University of Toronto to UC San Diego and everywhere in-between, their thoughts and dreams reach far beyond the test that’s right in front of them.