Changing the game
Former Longhorn and NFL star puts ‘gamers first’ with Austin-based esports biz
A hard-hitting former University of Texas football player and longtime NFL safety is forgoing his opportunity at a Super Bowl in favor of the chance to score a different kind of championship.
Kenny Vaccaro — who drilled fear into the hearts and minds of many an opposing player during his stint on the Longhorn football team from 2009 to 2012 and later as a key part of the defense for NFL teams the New Orleans Saints and the Tennessee Titans — is retiring from the NFL after eight seasons and coming home to Austin to launch a new esports organization called G1, aka Gamers First.
The former All-American strong safety, who identifies above all as a gamer first (hence, the company’s name) and considers gaming one of his most enduring passions, will serve as CEO of G1, focusing on business development and talent for the company, which aims to “transcend modern esports” and ultimately earn a Halo World Championship, the most significant event in the wildly popular gaming franchise.
Joining the Longhorn legend in the business are entrepreneurs and professional gamers Hunter Swensson (a former Major League Gaming “Halo” pro), who will work as chief operating officer and manage relationships with partners and sponsors, in addition to collaborating on content, and Cody Hendrix, one of the first professional “Halo” coaches, who will be the chief financial officer, head up content and video production, and serve as a creative director.
“This isn’t a reflex decision for me; it’s something I’ve thought about for a long time,” Vaccaro says. “I’ve been a gamer for even longer than I’ve played football, and I’ve always thought of myself as a gamer first. So this is the realization of a long-term dream for me. And while football has been how many have defined me, G1 is evidence for other athletes as well that life doesn’t end just because you put down the helmet. You can reinvent yourself.”
The three gaming industry buddies, who have been collaborating and playing together since 2016, decided early last year to leave their current gigs and reach for the goal of becoming full-time streamers and creating G1.
“We have been envisioning G1 for years, planning for our emergence,” Swensson says. “And we couldn’t be more ready to compete and share content with the gaming community that we have so much love for.”
And they’re certainly hitting the ground running. As of now, G1 has signed on eight players, including four “Destiny” creators and four “Halo” professionals, along with one coach. G1’s full roster will be announced in the coming days, though the trio notes that its main aspiration is to “prove that character, drive, passion, and energy far outweigh the importance of talent alone.”
And with the three tenets of content, culture, and competition, the organization will also focus on motivating others to achieve their dreams and fostering positive mental health. G1 will also get involved in community initiatives, including participating in charity-driven tournaments.
“We’re so excited to finally launch,” says Hendrix. “With our hearts fully in it, we’re ready to dive in and introduce G1 to the world of esports.”
Though Longhorns and NFL fans will certainly mourn the loss of Vaccaro from the great sport of football, if his gridiron career is any indication, the venerated Austinite is sure to lead G1 to success, no matter the name of the game.
Follow along on the G1 journey on Instagram.