Former NFL star Kenny Vaccaro is now gearing up as esports CEO

Kenny Vaccaro is best known to football fans as a former safety for the Texas Longhorns, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans. And while he's still as competitive as ever, the 31-year-old is now part of a whole different team. As the co-founder of a professional esports organization called "Gamers First" (or "G1"), which is run from his headquarters and gym in Austin, TX, the athlete-turned-pro-gamer takes the lessons which he learned on the soccer field and its application to the virtual arena.

M&F sat down with Kenny Vaccaro to find out how his background as a top athlete gives G1 the advantage over competing teams and soon found that physical training is essential to building the mental discipline for top players, especially when the pressure is on.

Why do you think so many athletes enjoy playing games and esports?

I believe athletes love gaming because it has become as competitive as traditional sports. For many athletes, it's also a natural outlet where you can focus on the task at hand and simply compete against each other, similar to soccer or basketball.

What were your first consoles and games?

I've been a player longer than I've played football and I've always thought of myself as a player first, which inspired our organization's name. When I was a kid we didn't have much growing up so playing became my therapy. I vividly remember getting my first black and white Nintendo Game Boy! I played Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros and RuneScape with my brother. Snake and Brick Breaker were the two games I had on my very first phone. As split screen shooters became popular I started to get more competitive and then my friends got together and played Halo, Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Halo is my favorite to date!

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Do you feel that your athletic background equips you for gaming because you have hands-on experience in devising strategy under pressure?

Definitive! On the field, there's an indescribable bond that athletes form with teammates. I want G1 to have the same sense of community that I do, where they can know what their teammates are thinking and anticipate what their next move will be. And because I played defense in football, I was really aggressive. I brought that competitive mentality from football to e-sports. High performance training is a big part of our mission and that's why we're headquartered at The Kollective; our fitness club in Austin, TX. We have created an environment that promotes positive mental and physical health. What sets G1 apart from other esports organizations is that we have a physical therapist on the team who provides game-specific protocol for players.

They retired from professional football last year and immediately launched G1. Are you proud of what you have achieved in the gaming world in such a short time?

One of my best friends, Jeremy Hills, and I have always wanted to open our own gym. He coached me my entire time in the NFL and then, about a year ago, the opportunity finally came when we found a location in South Congress. Our "Halo" and new "Rocket League" team consists of a total of eight members, including two head coaches, ranging in age from 17 to 30 years. I've definitely made staying physically active a priority for her and I urge her to work out with me every morning. They have all noticed a difference in their own game performance since implementing these workouts and through time with our physical therapist.

What gaming achievements are you most proud of so far?

In May, G1 won the Halo Championship Series, Kansas City, 2022 Astro Breakout Team Award. We also competed in the Halo Championship Series Orlando Major in September, where we placed 8th among other nationally ranked esports teams. We have posted videos on our YouTube channel. We then qualified for the HCS (Halo) World Championship in Seattle, so it's been a really incredible journey considering we didn't officially launch G1 until late 2021. Our team gave everything to move faster than most. I'm proud of the things I've been able to achieve with my team. We have been able to create an exceptional culture within the company in less than a year and there is much more to come.

Men don't often open up and talk about their feelings. Does it help to have a culture like yours, which is essentially a gaming "brotherhood"?

One hundred percent. You often talk to the people you play with more than anyone because you're with them for more than eight hours at a time. I got to know people on a deep level through online gaming before I even met them in person.

Gamers often stay up late while gaming, and sleep quality can suffer as a result. This is something that can be bad for our health. How important is it to get away from the screen every once in a while?

Late at night, gaming can be so physically and mentally draining, but once I started incorporating physical training, my ability to stream and play increased dramatically. There's a narrative that gaming is lazy, but it's actually super exhausting and exhausting, so you need to be able to clear your head by spending energy elsewhere and this will help boost your cognitive performance . Exercise is good for your physical and mental health. The endorphins released during a workout prepare your body for a long gaming session. You can then come back into the game with a clear head after generating those endorphins, and this approach will also help you get a good night's sleep.

Courtesy of Zaid

Kenny Vaccaro Workout: Gamers First for physical and mental endurance

"My college coach, Duane Akina, taught me how to be the best soccer player I could be, but more importantly, how to become a better person," says Vaccaro, who developed the following workout to keep his G1's fitness Improving members also rely on their stamina. The combination of a good warm-up followed by functional exercises like rows and ski machines ensures his players are limber enough to attack any opponent, while the strength and endurance aspect is covered with free weights like bench press and dumbbell rows. Here you set your own standards and compete against your toughest competitor: yourself. Ready? Continue to play!

Warm up and stretch for 15 minutes

  • rowing machine: 100m
  • ski machine: 100m
  • Medicine Ball Slam: 10 repetitions
  • Slight Sled Boost: 4 sets, 30 seconds
  • Plank: 4 sets of 30 seconds each
  • bench press: (Adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
  • One-arm dumbbell row: (Adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
  • shrug: (Adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)
  • Biceps curl: (Adjust sets, reps and weight to your individual level)

Gamer holds a levitating X-Box controller in an LED-lit room while practicing drills for gamers

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