Matthew Haag will tell you that when he first got knee deep into video games, during his high school years, that any thoughts about becoming a professional gamer were at best a fantasy.

“Back then, there wasn’t prize money,” said Haag, about his first video game tournament. He mentioned the one day in 2007 when his parents let him take a day off of school to compete at a tournament held at the Pheasant Run Resort in Charles, Illinois.

“Compared to now, it was night and day. We were playing for pride, a few hundred bucks, maybe.”

Since then Haag, better known around the world by his gamer name Nadeshot, has pretty much conquered the world through video gaming.

He’s regarded as a gamer legend, having won a Major League Gaming (MLG) X Games gold medal in 2014, while also being tipped “Best eSports Player” at that year’s edition of The Game Awards. Prior to that, Nadeshot was 2011’s Call of Duty XP World Champion. Now, retired from competitive gaming, the former Red Bull esports athlete currently runs his own Twitch and YouTube channels followed by millions.

He also is focused on video game-related business ventures. One of which is 100 Thieves with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

The lifestyle brand and gaming organization—pronounced ‘Hundred Thieves’—later gained seed money and longterm investment capital, after its 2017 establishment, from rap star Drake and investors Scooter Braun, Marc Benioff and Drew Houston, among others. More recently, Nadeshot and 100 Thieves announced a partnership with Excedrin, which the gamer legend says is focused on spreading awareness about headaches and fatigue related to prolonged gaming.

Rishi Mulgund, a brand director with GlaxoSmithKline plc GSK , which owns the Excedrin, weighed in on why a forming partnership with 100 Thieves was so important.

MORE FOR YOU

“We want to serve as an ally to gamers, and in order to speak to them on their level, we partnered with 100 Thieves and Nadeshot, who could speak authentically about experiencing headaches while gaming,” Mulgund said. “We wanted to go further by including non-medicinal ways gamers can relieve headaches, and this partnership felt natural because Nadeshot is already such a big proponent of mindful gaming.”

On Monday, I spoke by Zoom with Nadeshot about how he evolved from gaming to founding and running 100 Thieves. He also talked about his love of sports, and playing video games with famous athletes from the NBA and NFL to PGA Tour golf.

Andy Frye: You first came to fame as a professional Call of Duty player. But like a lot of gamers, you started with other games. Fill us in on that long progression.

Nadeshot: The story I always tell is that I have an older brother. He’s 6 foot 2, a real strong guy, and growing up we were super close. We loved sports and I was never good at them, and I wanted to beat him in something. That something became video games. It became a great outlet for me, helped me build self-confidence in wanting to be competitive.

So, in the early 2000s a game called Halo 2 came out, and it was an expansion of all the things I loved. A world of fantasy, a world of competition, and I could see myself getting better over time. That’s where things took off. I went from Halo to a game called Gears of War, and that was the first game I competed in. What you see in a lot of “shooter genre” type games is similar mechanics you just have to master.

But the game I really fell in love with after those was Call of Duty. The game controls just felt more responsive, it was more intuitive, smooth like butter. It went from a hobby to an obsession.

VIDEO: Nadeshot talks Call of Duty with NBA superstar Anthony Davis.

AF: So, how did it really grow beyond a hobby?

Nadeshot: That’s when I started to recognize there were tournaments being played domestically and globally on a site called Gamebattles.com, which was owned by Major League Gaming, basically the NBA, NFL and MLB of gaming. Tournaments started getting bigger, and there was more prize money, and I started uploading to YouTube. I feel like I was at the right place at the right time, with the interest in video games surging along with an interest in content.

After competing for years and building a following through it, I quit playing professional and moved to Los Angeles to really focus on content. After playing so long competitively, you miss that dynamic of it. I jumped back into esports in 2014, and have been rolling and competing (as owner of 100 Thieves) globally ever since.

AF: Sometimes we hear about LeBron and Drake or other athletes and celebs playing video games together. Explain that hierarchy. Who gets to play who?

Nadeshot: It’s a great question and not many have ventured into this topic. When we first started raising money to build 100 Thieves, the thing I told the venture capital funds people was that gaming is part of mainstream culture. I said, “Look, a lot of athletes and entertainers coming into their own fame and stardom grew up with video games.” And that they want to be part of this meta-verse that continues to expand.

So, for example, Devin Booker, shooting guard for the Phoenix Suns, told an interviewer he was watching me on YouTube. Devin also played Call of Duty competitively on the same website that first got me competing. He’s really good. So, we’ve played Warzone a ton.

AF: Excellent. Who else who from the sports world do you play with?

Nadeshot: There are a lot of golfers who play games. I’ve played with Bryson DeChambeau and Max Homa. Actually, I haven’t played much with Bryson, since he’s got such a busy season, but we DM on Instagram all the time. Max Homa, you know, just won the Genesis Invitational out here in L.A. and we play all the time. And, actually I was playing with Devin Booker and he said, “I’ve got my boy playing with us,” and he introduced me to Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals.

I got to interview Anthony Davis, who is a big gamer. He’s a super nice guy, very humble. Athletes travel everywhere with their consoles. You got guys like Trevor May, pitcher for the Mets, streaming his games on Twitch, like a second career. It’s just going to get bigger.

VIDEO: Nadeshot’s Twitter tattoo bet gone wrong.

AF: Does gaming at your level require a pro sports mentality or physical prep?

Nadeshot: I can’t say that there is a direct correlation or transferable workout gamers do, that’s like what athletes do. Picking up dumbbells doesn’t help me shoot straighter. For me, it’s been a combination of mental and physical health. And it was something I wasn’t good at while I was competing. But it’s great timing with your question, now that we have a partnership with Excedrin.

I think when brands get into gaming, it needs to be authentic. Their thing is to educate young people about the amount of time that they’re playing. Not necessarily just gamers, but during COVID, being locked away, staring at our monitors all day. So they put together a mindful routine, that can help you stay healthy.

One of things that I wish I could have told myself when I was younger was (about) deep breathing. When you are competing on stage, you’re under so much pressure, with thousands of people watching—that’s when my anxiety would creep in. Since then, I’ve focused on deep breathing.

Then the other thing is coming off the screen, taking breaks, listening to music between games. I think taking time off is a healthy thing.

But success also comes down to reputation. Going back to golf, look at Bryson DeChambeau, taking time to work out, bulk up and eat more healthy food—it’s improved his game a ton. Staying physically healthy will have an impact on how you approach each day.

AF: You knew this question was coming. But what’s happening with that tattoo?

Nadeshot: (Laughs) The tattoo is coming. Anyone out there who’s worked with a tattoo artist knows their schedules are booked out for months. People can think I’m stalling, but if I’m gonna have that tweet engrained in my skin forever, I want the artist that did all my other tattoos to do it.

So, I’m waiting for his schedule to open up. There will be a video and tweeted proof—that I did have it etched into my body for ever. It is coming, I promise.

****

Read Frye’s Q&As with athlete-gamers Jon Feliciano and Anthony Davis.

google.com, pub-9941771842583948, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0