Blackburn Makes History as 1st Crusader to Sign Esports Collegiate Scholarship

Grayson Blackburn ’24 made Concordia history in the middle of April when he officially signed his letter of intent with Central Methodist University (Fayette, MO) for Esports (to compete in Rocket League). By signing to play for CMU, Blackburn becomes the first Crusader Esports athlete to earn a collegiate scholarship to continue playing at the next level!

As a leader for the Esports team at Concordia, Blackburn has guided a team to the TAPPS State Final Four in Rocket League in all five seasons the Crusaders have had a Rocket League team (Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, and most recently Spring 2024).

Rocket League was first released in July 2015 for PlayStation 4 and Windows computer with ports for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch being released later on.

Blackburn, Alberto Vich ’24, Jack Gobrogge ’25, and Marshall Matthews ’25 comprised the four-man team of Whiff City Saders that competed in Rocket League competitions for Concordia this year. 

Rocket League coach, Michael Palomaki, had this to say about Grayson’s importance to the Esports program: “We wouldn’t have had an Esports program without his dedication and persistence in asking. He’s been the most dedicated Esports player in our school history. He holds his teammates accountable and makes sure members are practicing. He encourages younger team members and has been a great leader for us.”

In his time at Concordia, Blackburn has had some success in other games. While competing mainly in Rocket League, he has been a sub on the Super Smash Bros B team and the League of Legends team. In addition, he is an accomplished player in Call of Duty, recently hitting diamond in their ranked system.


Earlier this week, we sat down with Grayson Blackburn to ask him a few questions:

Q: How long have you been playing Rocket League?
A: The first time I played Rocket League was in 2017. I played it at a friend's house when I lived overseas, but I didn't seriously start playing it until late 2020 when I moved to Texas.

Q: What do you like most about Rocket League?
A: The thing I like most about Rocket League is how the game is not like any other game. In a lot of games your skills can transfer to other games and allow you to have an upper hand purely due to things like aim. But in Rocket League it's different, since there is no game like it there is no skills to transfer in or out. If you get good at Rocket League it won't help you be good at other games. It's kind of a specialty game where everyone is bad at the start since nobody really knows how the movement works till you pick up a controller and learn it.

Q: Why are you thankful for the Esports program and arena?
A: I am very thankful for the Esports program as it has brought me together with a bunch of like-minded people who want to improve and get better at a game. I am also thankful that we have a physical space to do this together as the comradery is much higher whenever we are there in person together.

Q: Finally, what advice do you have for younger students who might want to pursue playing Esports in college?
A: As far as advice for students looking to pursue esports in college, the main piece of advice I have is to reach out to coaches and be persistent especially if it's a school you really like. Most eSports coaches in college work as a coach, a manager and an administrator for the whole esports program. Some coaches are very quick at responding and some aren't, you just have to be patient. 


Concordia’s Esports program officially began competing in the spring semester of 2022. It began with students competing from their own homes, but the initial donors who supported the creation of the program and ultimately the $100,000 renovation and installment of the Esports Arena on Concordia’s second floor, desired to bring students physically together. The sport of video gaming historically has been very isolating with people playing behind closed doors, in darkness, late at night, and alone.

Several members of Concordia’s Esports team are involved in other programs such as varsity athletics, band, choir, theatre, and ag. However, there are some team members that their only extra-curricular activity at Concordia is our Esports program, giving them an opportunity to represent our school in a unique opportunity that was not possible a few years ago. Esports has given those students a special place and purpose and they are proud to represent the Navy and Silver through the screen.

One of the most beneficial byproducts of our Esports program has been seeing how students come together on a team and work together with their skillsets in a high-pressure setting. We have had multiple teams comprised of a senior and a freshmen, involved in different activities that would not interact daily, and combine to create an excellent team. This is directly transferrable for these students to real-world future workplace settings where co-workers may not always be personally chosen, and you have to learn to work together for the successful completion of the project or goal.

With a physical place on campus featuring 11 full computer set ups, multiple Nintendo Switches, lounge seating, and two 85” viewing screens, Concordia’s Esports program has grown to include almost 60 students (over 10% of the student population).  

A recent example of the growth in campus popularity was during the TAPPS Rocket League State Final Four this past week where the match was streamed in the cafetorium during lunch and Coach Palomaki providing live commentary via Twitch. Students cheered and high fived every time the Crusaders scored or made a great save.

The coaches for Esports include Kim Odinga, Michael Palomaki, and Chris Lindquist ’14. The team participates in almost 20 different games on Mondays-Thursdays after school from 3:30-5:30 pm in the Esports Arena.