ESPN Esports
April 25th, 2018

Team Secret signs 13-year-old to Fortnite team

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While Fortnite is not an established esport yet, teams are beginning to form, including Team Secret which signed a 13-year-old to a contract as part of its four-man squad. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Fortnite isn't even an established esport yet, but it's already possible to become a player on the professional scene.

Team Secret, best known for competing in Dota 2, announced on Wednesday that it had signed a four-member Fortnite squad. And what's more, one of the players is just 13 years old.

"Our guess is that Epic Games [publisher of Fortnite] is also going to announce something and get behind the esports scene," Team Secret CEO John Yao said. "And so, before everybody else jumps in and all the good players get signed up, we wanted to make a preemptive strike."

Fortnite, for those who aren't aware, is arguably the hottest game in the world right now. Initially released in July, it has quickly captured the attention of millions, including the likes of Drake. Last weekend, Drake's in-game teammate, Tyler "Ninja" Blevins, broadcast Fortnite from Las Vegas to 667,000 viewers on Twitch.

"When a game gets popular enough, generally everybody tries to get into esports, because they want to legitimize the game's competitive nature," Yao said. "And Fortnite is competitive, and I think there's a lot of room for it to be established on the scene."

After extensive scouting in Europe and North America, Team Secret settled on an already established group of four, with two players from Norway, one from Latvia, and one from the United Kingdom.

What Yao didn't know was that Kyle "Mongraal" Jackson, the UK-based player, was much younger than his 21, 20 and 17-year-old teammates.

"I actually had no idea he was 13 until the team told me," Yao said. "Because when we looked at some of the videos and we looked at their game play, it was not apparent. What immediately stood out to me was how mature he was, and he sounded just like one of the other guys."

Mongraal, who lives in Sidcup on the outskirts of London, has been a gamer since he was 9 years old, when he started playing Call of Duty. He began playing Fortnite last fall.

"My friends told me about this new game, Fortnite, so I tried it out to see how it is," Jackson said. "And I just fell in love -- the building mechanisms, how big the skill gap is with building, is just unreal."

He found his teammates online -- they've never met in person -- and the four of them have played well enough to quickly become pros.

"They have the potential to be the top team in the world," Yao said. "Their communication and team chemistry is really mature for a game that doesn't have a professional scene. Some of our professional players [in other games] actually watched the streams and the videos of their game play and of their in-game communications and said, Wow, these guys act like professional players already."

That includes Jackson, of course. But given his age, he had to get his parents' consent before signing with Team Secret.

"It's a big opportunity for me, and I sat them down and explained everything that could happen," Jackson said. "I discussed it with them thoroughly, and they're very supportive of everything."

One area of concern is a potential age restriction, if and when Epic launches a Fortnite professional league. In the recently launched Overwatch League, for instance, players cannot compete until they turn 18.

"It does worry me a little bit," Yao said. "But even if they have restrictions like that at the publisher level, there will be tournaments where there will be no age limit."

In the meantime, before a formal league is established, Team Secret's new Fortnite squad will be playing lots of scrims, and entering any tournaments that pop up.

And Jackson will continue going to school as well. "I'm very interested in astrophysics," he said. "My dream when I was younger was to be an astrophysicist. I just find space so interesting. We've explored basically none of it, it's just waiting there to be explored."

But right now he's beginning to explore another world.

"I'm over the moon," Jackson said. "I can't believe I've got this opportunity. I'm very excited to start playing at a professional level properly with Team Secret. It's like a dream come true."


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