Isaac “Scoot” Fabbro takes aim during Beacon’s 2022 National Championship run.

Ever since its inception, Bryce Jones was drawn towards the esports program. During Welcome Week his sophomore year, he passed by the original esports lab and immediately became interested. 

“When I first saw the lab, I just knew I had to get in there,” Jones, now better known as Coach Pyro, said. “Even though I played Overwatch, I joined as a League of Legends player because that was all the program offered at the beginning.”

Despite never playing League of Legends, Jones downloaded it the night he learned about the program and dove in headfirst. After one year of League of Legends, he was rewarded with the addition of a team for his true love, Overwatch, in Spring 2020

At the start, the Overwatch team operated without a coach. Being short-staffed, Jones began to act as a player-coach shortly after the team’s formation. The first semester, the team made a run to the conference semifinals, but constantly swapping hats became a struggle for Coach Pyro. So in his senior year, he agreed to move to a full coaching role. 

“I loved playing, but it did not meld well with coaching,” Jones said. “Transitioning to a full time coach was a learning experience because it was my first time really leading a group of people.”

With a new challenge in front of him, he began to adopt a coaching philosophy inspired by the Valpo community at large. Involvement on campus remained an important part of his identity throughout college. On top of his time in esports, Jones served as a peer minister and on the student senate.

“Everyone is kind to each other at the university and that’s something I wanted to take into esports,” Jones said. “My main goal is to make a good environment first and then the wins come after. If you have a team that plays well with each other and enjoys what they do, everything will fall into place.”

During his second year at the helm, the pieces fell perfectly, completing the puzzle of greatness. The Overwatch Beacon team went on an incredible run in the 2021-2022 season. Once the dust from their rampage settled, Valpo Esports had two divisional championships and a national title to add to their trophy case.

“Winning wasn’t something I really expected or we even talked about until it happened,” Jones said. “I give full credit to every single player. It is such an honor to be their coach.”

Now the second arm of Valpo Overwatch, Overwatch Shield, has an opportunity to claim a divisional title of their own tonight. As Jones prepares his team for the game, he’s reflecting on how much the program has evolved from that first day he laid eyes on the esports lab. Mostly, he’s grateful for all the incredible people surrounding the program.

It means the world to me to be with these players through exciting wins and heartbreaking defeats,” Jones said. “We have an amazing director in Tristan Leonhard, amazing captains and players, and Assistant Coach Christian Marhenke. My expectations are for them to go out there have fun and to leave it all on the match when it is said and done and I know that is exactly what they will do.”

Catch the NECC Great Lakes Challengers division championship tonight at 6:00PM CST over at twitch.tv/valpoesports between Overwatch Shield and Carroll University.

Story by: Michael Trevithick