As a rookie, JuJu Smith-Schuster made an immediate impact for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have a dynamic offense and some of the best players in the league. It’s not easy to come onto a squad with the likes of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell and raise eyebrows, but Smith-Schuster did just that. Now he wants gamers to take notice of his skills off the field.
Smith-Schuster is a deadly sniper and a burgeoning pro gamer. As a member of FaZe Clan, he’s now on an elite NFL team and an elite esports team, which could be a first for the ever-growing world of competitive gaming.
We spoke to Smith-Schuster after his Super Bowl Call of Duty stream with Randy Moss about how his experiences in the NFL informed an off the field gaming career and how he can use gaming to continue his love of professional competition in the offseason.
How long have you been playing Call of Duty?
I’ve been playing since I was a kid, since like World at War and then I’ve been growing into sniping, that’s like my thing. I did it a little bit, hardcore since it’s a lot harder actually, but I do this thing where I just pull clips, where I don’t know if you’ve seen on my social media, on YouTube, it’s basically just getting four kills back to back and making a feed.
I did actually watch that, and I was really impressed by how damn good you are. Do you have aspirations to make this into an offseason semi-pro thing for yourself?
Yeah man, so I do have a Twitch, and I’m going to start live streaming more and pull some more videos, some crazy clips. I’m part of this clan, it’s called FaZe Clan, I don’t know if you’ve seen or heard of it. I’m a part of them and I’m working with them this offseason and we do a lot of fun stuff so it’ll be interesting.
So when you say you’re working with them are you training to become a better CoD player?
Yeah, for sure. I play with them, every time I can get online I’m on there with them. I’m trying to get better you know.
You’re obviously living the dreams as an NFL football player, but realistically how awesome is it to be playing at these top levels of Esports and playing CoD with the best of the best?
Oh, it’s amazing, because obviously, my first job is the NFL, playing football, being an NFL player. Call of Duty is a hobby for me, and in the offseason, I’m able to be a part of something much bigger, which is with FaZe Clan, and playing with them every day is pretty dope.
You can tell how serious you were during the stream. You’re leaning in and you’re getting sniper kills while Randy’s just yacking it up with the chat room. He’s having a good time and you’re focusing on getting kills for the team.
Yeah, it’s tough like that sometimes, and that’s something I need to get used to, being able to Twitch and multi-task, get sniper kills and reply back to people. It’s a pretty hard job so I have to work on that.
Do you think that the public perception of Esports and streaming is finally shifting in general?
It’s for sure shifting in general. If you think of the population of kids who watch people who stream, it’s like the age four to fourteen. Well, YouTube is four to fourteen, users are probably eight and up. People see other peoples’ reactions and they just like to see the outcome of the game. So I think it’s awesome that it’s being able to slip into a new generation where it’s seen in a positive way.
Yeah, back in the day I used to always have to be like, “this is good for my hand-eye coordination, you should let me play more games.” Do you think that gaming at all in any way helps sharpen your skills on the football field?
Oh for sure. I think it helps out tremendously, just because when you’re gaming the communication you have to have when you’re playing a game against other teams, it’s like, “Yo, he’s South East, in that bunker, throw a grenade there,” because that right there creates communication. Communication on the field helps a lot, too. I also think that it helps a lot that we’re able to play together as a team and show team effort and help each other out. As you can see, when a guy’s shooting at you and your teammate comes in and kills him, he helps you. “I’ve got your back, no matter what the situation is.”
It’s kind of like a team-building exercise, there’s a lot of communication. Are there any parallels to preparing to be a great streamer and video game player, as well as becoming a great athlete.
Yes. Just because, I know my friends who are huge, extremely huge, on Twitch and Instagram and social media and YouTube. Those are the people who have the whole set up in their house to play on an elite computer monitor, everything’s right there, it’s set out. For me on the field, everything I need is in my locker, if I have the same set up that they have as of today, I think that would make me a better streamer. So there’s a preparation to it.