Jaylon Smith on video games and esports in the NFLBilly Carney
August 24, 2020
Jaylon Smith is a 25-year-old Linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. A Dick Butkus Award winner in high school and college, Jaylon is now an NFL Pro Bowler. Jaylon was named one of the NFL’s top 100 players in both 2019 and 2020.
Welcome all, to my first “Meet the Streamers” interview. While Jaylon doesn’t stream (yet), he grew up an avid video game player. This series will predominantly explore online personalities, but I believe meeting people involved in or adjacent to the esports industry can provide unique insight and help frame the world of online streaming.
Jaylon, thanks for coming on – let’s jump into it. Do you play video games, and if so, what do you play?
Yeah man, I play video games, whenever I can. I’m a big Call of Duty guy and I also play a little 2K.
What level are you in Call of Duty?
Right now, with the newer stuff, I’m at the bottom. I used to be legit. As in legit, legit – back when I had time to play – before I went to Notre Dame. When I got to ND I had to sacrifice something and that was playing video games. Prior to that, in my high school game-freak days I was playing all the time. When the first Black Ops game came out, at one point during the first week [after the game was released] I was on the leaderboards, made it up to rank 87 in the world at one point.
87th in the world?!
Yeah, but that’s [a matter of] how much I used to play the game. It was eat, sleep, workout, school, play video games. At night, on the weekends, it was all gaming - I was constantly pulling all-nighters. I remember the original Nuketown. My favorite gun was the AUG, I had the slight-of-hand perk on there with hardline so I could get my kill streaks faster and I was legit with last stand [second chance]. I was quick with the python. I used to be dumb with the last stand perk.
Now I mostly play for the fun of it and to remind myself of back when I really used to play.
What console do you play on?
Xbox. I’ve always been an Xbox guy.
So it’s all CoD and 2K, no Madden?
From a gaming standpoint growing up I was more of an NCAA guy. I will play Madden, but it’s not my go-to.
Do you play as the Cowboys when you play? Do you ever play your teammates in Madden?
Not always, I play for the Cowboys and I’m a Cowboys fan but it depends on who my opponent is playing with… I’m a fan of the game. Football is a beautiful sport – it’s the last gladiator sport. I like playing with some other guys around the league, we all admire each other, you know what I mean? I’ve played 2K and Call of Duty with a bunch of the guys from the team, but we haven’t played Madden together.
Interesting, on that note, can you talk a bit about esports in NFL locker rooms - how is it viewed, what role do video games play?
Yeah, it’s huge. It’s a huge topic. Huge, huge topic. Pretty much everyone in the locker room is playing something. Some people are playing together. Some people have their own channels, others stream and fans can tune in. A lot use Twitch, some YouTube. It’s very active, especially on my team. Guys link up to play Warzone all the time.
Are you allowed to say who plays the most?
I’m not sure about which individual plays the most, but a lot of guys are playing.
Do you consider people who play esports professionally to be athletes?
To answer your question, yes. But let me say something else. Man, me being a gamer growing up, I think it helped me so much with my hand-eye. From a vision standpoint, being able to use and master my peripheral vision helped me a lot with football. When you’re gaming at a high level this becomes even more apparent. Leadership matters, teamwork matters, you practice important life skills while playing video games.
That’s great. Video games helping my hand-eye sounds like something I would tell my mom when I was 10-years-old so she’d let me play more. It’s incredible hearing it from you and it sounds like you really mean it.
After discussing video games, we moved onto MEI, Jaylon’s capital fund with the mission of beating poverty through enterprise.
I also wanted to talk to you a bit about MEI. For those who don’t know, Jaylon started the Minority Entrepreneurship Institute, the premiere capital fund connecting impact investors to high performing minority-owned business opportunities. Mind sharing your original inspiration for this venture?
For me, MEI is my purpose beyond athletics. I’ve wanted to be an entrepreneur my entire life. By the grace of God, I had a couple mentors in my life who taught me how to think and understand the value of meeting a range of people. The ability to access quality deals and opportunities is all tied to relationships.
I looked in the mirror one day and was just like, wow. I am a black man in today’s world. A lot of people that look like me don’t get the access that I do. Through MEI, I get to see real quality deals and I get to work through financial funding and the concept of building out a financial structure for different businesses. A lot of these things we didn’t learn in our households – we couldn’t. We don’t know what we don’t know. I wanted to be able to provide that for others. The ultimate goal of MEI is to work towards closing the educational and financial gaps that exist in our world today. I want to help people grow their businesses. That’s what I want to do.
Jaylon, thank you again for coming on to Meet the Streamers. Good luck this season, and good luck on Call of Duty.