Homegrown athlete looks to bring change the game – Santa Monica Daily Press

Homegrown athlete looks to bring change the game – Santa Monica Daily Press

Video games were once looked at as little more than a hobby but, today, they are a multimillion dollar industry, and a homegrown athlete is looking to change the game for local youth.

While attending Roosevelt Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School and Samohi, Luke Zelon, founder of NXT UP Esports, would often spend time playing titles like Diablo and World of Warcraft when he wasn’t on the football field.

“It was just a fun and cool way to connect,” Zelon said, recalling the simplicity of games when online play was first starting to emerge.

Zelon took a break from playing games in high school to focus on his athletic endeavors. The decision paid off when the linebacker accepted a scholarship offer to play at Harvard University. The former Viking moved around and wound up mostly playing defensive end by the time he graduated from the Ivy League university in 2014.

And like most college graduates, he had no idea what he wanted to do after school.

“I quickly realized that sports is the only thing I’m really interested in and want to think about for a long period of time, so I got into the traditional sports world, working for a sports agency,” Zelon said. “We represented basketball, baseball, football players and they were big names. We had DeMarcus Cousins, Dwight Howard, John Wall… big time players; so I was doing that for a bit and I loved it.”

Soon after, Zelon found himself working at another agency, but this time
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