COLUMBIA — Kevin Brooks, a senior at Hickman High School, made school history on Wednesday when he signed to play esports at Columbia College.
Brooks became the first Hickman student signed to play esports at a local college.
“It’s kind of hard to like to put a specific word on it, but I feel really excited,” Brooks said.
He has been playing esports for 12 years, since the first season of League of Legends.
“We had an issue where we ended up on the playground pretending to play the game,” Brooks said.
For Hickman’s esports coach, Andrew Bechtel, he said he knew Brooks had the will to go this far.
“I’m really excited for Kevin,” Bechtel said. “He’s had potential since he arrived, and he’s definitely lived up to that every season.”
Brooks is part of a successful team at Hickman.
Hickman manager Tony Gragnani said he has seen Brooks and the program grow.
“It’s just amazing to see them go from being extremely talented freshmen, to becoming such a dominant force in League of Legends across the country, and being arguably the best high school team we have in the United States. United,” said Gragnani.
Hickman has a “Gaming Crib” which the team uses for practice. There are rows of computers and multicolored lights embedded in the ceiling. The lab was built during Brooks’ second year at Hickman.
“I think what I’ve done is really a statement of what the Columbia community has done,” Gragnani said. “Esports can be a pathway for our students to have opportunities towards other post-secondary goals. And so that’s what we see with Kevin achieving that today.”
Brooks said that at the start of his time at Columbia College, he was excited to join a new competitive community.
“I think I’m very excited to play with a team that has exactly the same goal as me, like this very high level of competition,” Brooks said. “I’m really excited to play in a team that has like this dedicated calendar this dedicated drive to improve to go and win things.”
As for the Hickman team, Bechtel said it’s just the beginning.
“We’re going to have more players playing at the college level,” Bechtel said. “As long as the college scene watches and grows. We’re going to continue to foster this power system here.”
Brooks will begin training for the Columbia College season this summer.