Rochester High student signs on to Aquinas College esports team

By: Jacob Herbert | Rochester Post | Published May 8, 2019

 Rochester High’s Jon Schneck has signed on with Aquinas College in Grand Rapids to join the school’s esports program. Schneck plays “League of Legends,” and his Diamond IV ranking puts him in the top 4% worldwide.

Rochester High’s Jon Schneck has signed on with Aquinas College in Grand Rapids to join the school’s esports program. Schneck plays “League of Legends,” and his Diamond IV ranking puts him in the top 4% worldwide.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

ROCHESTER HILLS — It all started roughly six and a half years ago, when Rochester High senior Jonathan Schneck was introduced to “League of Legends” by some friends.

“League of Legends” is a multiplayer online battle arena video game developed and published by Riot Games. At its core, “League of Legends” is a game where players are split into two teams with the common goal of destroying the opponent’s “Nexus,” a structure that lies in the middle of their base and is protected by defensive structures.

“I just like the competitive and strategy aspects of the game,” Schneck said. “The way it tests you mentally. You really have to be good at the game to know what to do in the game.”

Schneck played in competitive tournaments online, and as his game play improved, he started to look into competing at the college level.

That’s where Aquinas College and newly named esports coach Adam Antor came along. The senior filled out information on NCSASports.org, a recruiting website that connects middle and high school athletes with college coaches.

The two connected through that website, started conversing over text messages, and Schneck signed with the Saints last month on scholarship.

Schneck was pursued by other colleges, but ultimately decided on Aquinas because it was in-state.

“He was an easier one,” Antor said about the recruiting process of Schneck. “He was really excited about the possibility. We probably had a couple of conversations, mostly over text. We had one phone call, and then signing day was the first day I had ever met him in real life.”

In the game, Schneck plays a support role where his main objective is to help his team by healing, buffing his teammates and debuffing the enemy team. By buffing his teammates, he gives them a beneficial performance boost.

Schneck said he spends six hours per day minimum playing the game. All that time and hard work landed him a Diamond IV ranking, which places Schneck in the top 4% skillwise worldwide.

“What’s great about Jonathan is he’s a fantastic diamond in the rough that we found,” Antor said. “He’s extremely talented, and we were so lucky that he had not already received offers and decided to go somewhere else.”

When Schneck steps foot on the Aquinas campus this fall, the first season of competitive gaming at the college will get underway. The esports program at Aquinas will compete in “League of Legends,” “Overwatch” and “Rocket League.”

Aquinas applied for membership with the National Association of Collegiate Esports. NACE, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, has more than 125 member schools and more than 2,800 student-athletes. The Saints will join Siena Heights University, Davenport University, Northwood University and Alma College as Michigan institutions officially recognized by the association.

NACE doesn’t host “League of Legends” tournaments. The Aquinas “League of Legends” team will play in tournaments hosted by companies owned by the game’s publisher.

Esports, while relatively new, are one of the fastest-growing trends worldwide. Antor said one of the reasons behind the spike in popularity is the ease of access to professional players on streaming platforms like Twitch.

Twitch is a live streaming video platform where users can watch professional gamers and streamers play at anytime of the day. In 2018, viewers around the world spent a combined 560 billion minutes watching various streams, according to twitchtracker.com.

The world’s attention is not lost on the “League of Legends” competitive scene either. In 2018, the “League of Legends” World Finals drew 99.6 million viewers, according to the game’s website, which was more than Super Bowl LIII (98.2 million viewers), according to nielsen.com.

“Esports is rising because of the access to play it,” Antor said. “You don’t need to find 10 friends to play a legit game like you do in football. You don’t have to be 7 feet tall to play at a high level like basketball. Anyone has the chance to play, and the great part about esports is that you’re playing the same game that the pros are playing.”

Schneck said it’s exciting to make headway in such a popular industry. He’s determined to make that popularity flourish at his new school.

“I’m hoping to help shape it and get it off the ground so we can turn into a really good team,” he said. “They are streaming games from notable colleges like Michigan and Michigan State. If we (Aquinas) can get up to that level, we can draw interest from recruiters of pro teams that are out there.”

Schneck does have interest in playing professionally someday. To go along with his esports endeavors, he’ll also be studying secondary education starting this fall.