NFL Pro Ahmad Rashad Green: 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In eSports
… Work on creating good habits by saying, this is my day. I wake up at seven o’clock, I eat breakfast, I work out, then I check my emails. For me as a teacher, I’m getting my teaching program together. This is what practice is going to happen today. This is what I want to talk about before practice to give players guidance before they go into practice. I want you to think about this while you’re practicing today. I set that up in my Google Docs. And I get ready for my podcast that I do. I have three of them. I got to go and check all of them. I got these little things, I put them in my calendar so I don’t forget them. I’m human. I’m not a computer. I have three, maybe four, calendars that I’m into, every day, checking.
I had the pleasure of interviewing, Ahman Rashad Green.
Ahman Green might be best known in Wisconsin for his Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers, but for esports enthusiasts, he has also built quite a positive reputation.
For the last several years, Green — a gaming entrepreneur and longtime player — has served as Lakeland University’s first esports head coach.
The Packers’ all-time leading rusher has always been a gamer, dating back to playing ColecoVision when he was a kid. While growing up in Nebraska and becoming a decorated player for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, Tecmo Super Bowl and Madden NFL ’97 were two of the games that kept Green rooted in esports.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your backstory?
My backstory into E-sports was, I started being a fanboy first. It was actually 2009 when I went to my first Comic-Con in San Diego. I’ve been to Sundance Film Festival and saw that and then with the San Diego Comic-Con. And I’m looking at, “Oh my God, there’s Marvel. It’s DC and Mattel.” And then, “Oh, Xbox is there. EA Sports is there. CAPCOM is at Comic-Con.” I’m like, “Okay, I see the relation.”
That was ’09. And then, around 2012, 2013, I was out of football at that time. And I said, “You know what? I’m a fanboy, a little bit. I’m going to go to these cons. I’m going to go to these conventions. I’m going to these gaming tournaments to be a fanboy, but then see what’s going to pop up to me for my next step.” At the time, I was already coaching high school football back home in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Football and baseball. So, when I got time, where I could shoot out to E3, I could go to DreamHack, I could go to PAX East and West. I did all of that.
And then, at the end of about a two-to-three-year stretch, I said, let me make a business card. My wife and I jumped on the computer, she put together all the basic information. Graphics were okay, but email, phone number, my wife’s number. And we had a foundation, we still have it. We had our website working at that time. I had that business card and started going to the cons that I was already going to as a fanboy where I was just geeking out buying stuff.
Now, I was still buying stuff but I was not geeking out as much. I was being more focused. Here, Microsoft, here you go, EA and Bethesda. Then, I end up crossing paths with a former NFL player like myself, Hank Baskett. We finally met up and we started hanging out, and now we’re great friends. The year was 2016. That was the year I started streaming on Twitch. And then, he’s like, “Next time, when E3 comes up this year, I’m going to just take you around to all the people I know in the industry.”
I’m already here. He had worked with a company called Gaems. It was G-A-E-M-S. They built, a personal gaming environment. It’s a suitcase. But you open it up, it has a monitor. It has speakers. You can put your PlayStation or Xbox in there. I met them first. But then, he started introducing me to people at Microsoft that I didn’t know, and then Bethesda, and then EA, and all these peripheral companies from Corsair, to Logitech, to Razer, Razer gaming peripherals. I got all these business cards. Then, I was like, oh, now it’s time to follow up. So I start following up and then hitting these little points of emails back and forth. And then, I remember getting my first invitation from, Larry. And then, part of it was Microsoft that comes out here to the Microsoft store on Fifth Ave to Shoutcast the Games Reward Tournament. And that was in January 2017.
And I meet Alex “Goldenboy” Mendez, who is a prominent commentator, not just for eSports, he does everything, the TV show that he did with The Rock and the Titan Games. What he does and what other commentators do, or Shoutcasters do, in our industry helps everybody. It doesn’t just help that person. But for the whole ecosystem, all those commentators and Shoutcasters, it helps us, because people are now seeing Alex Mendez, he was a video game commentator. They all look at somebody else like myself or other content creators or casters to say, that looks good or this person has a following. Let’s bring them in for this NFL event. Let’s bring them in for this NBA event. So you start getting those types of phone calls.
By that time, I’m walking in, knocking on the door, getting in the industry in 2016/2017. And then, between 2017 and 2019, it was more of the same every year. I was going to these cons, re-upping, following up, and now doing activations, doing more Shoutcasting. And then, in the middle of 2018 going into 2019, I had done some broadcasting training. I had two broadcast coaches. One was Annie Goodrich and another one Mark Watts. Both football backgrounds in terms of NFL commentators training. Mark, I remember, calls me up in the summer of 2019, says, “Ahman, remember that conversation we had at your training session?” Because I said to him, “You probably want to start looking into training Shoutcasters.” He’s like, “Who’s a Shoutcaster?” I said, “That’s our version of commentator.” Because in eSports, we’re putting our tag on it as Shoutcaster. That’s how we as gamers differentiate from traditional sports or from the other world that everybody knows about. But it’s Shoutcasting. Because at the time it was starting, everybody was shouting, talking about League, talking about Halo. The commentators are both yelling at each other.
That’s where Shoutcasting came about. He said, “Really?” And I said, “Yeah.” Then, fast forward to that summer of 2019, he calls me up. He said, “I got a guy that I’m talking to that has a vision of bringing something similar to traditional sports like ESPN to the gaming world. He sounds very focused and he’s done this before. “ He said, “I’m just giving you a heads up.” And go a bit forward to December. He said, “All right, Ahman, I’m calling you again, just letting you know, I think we’re going to get this thing going here in about a month or two. I’ll call you in another month.” And sure enough, about a month later at the end of 2018, about January, that’s when he said, “Yeah, it’s going to be called ESTV. We’re looking at investors. Do you want to do it?” I said, “What’s the investment amount?” And they told me. “Yup.” I came in. And then, found out that’s Shane and Brock Vereen. Shane played for the Patriots. Brock played for the Bears. They’re coming in, because they were gamers. And they understand where the culture is going. And that’s why we all three got into it.
Now, I’m becoming the business of the development of ESTV. Then, that now is under my belt. And then, a year, almost to the day after that, I get a phone call from a friend, this is in Green Bay, saying, “Hey Ahman, you know that school I used to teach at and I graduated from, they’re building an eSports program. And by the way, they also have a football program. They want me to ask you if you want to coach both.” I said, “Let me think about coaching both. But yes, I want to have a conversation with whosoever the hiring person.” And so I said, “Here’s my resume. Give me phone numbers or emails so I could send stuff to people.” It was a two-week period of emailing exchanges. And David Simon Jr., who was the school president of campus life, he came and interviewed me. From the time that interview started, I pretty much was hired. And then, it was to the day, the day after my birthday, February 17th, was my first day on the job, with a press conference introducing myself to Lakeland University eSports court coach. And so that’s three and a half years ago, now. And in the first semester, we won the national title in Madden.
And we’ve been in a playoff in a lot of our games from League of Legends, to Overwatch, Rocket League, Rainbow Six, Smash, Fortnite. It’s been a great experience. And then, there’s people reaching out to me in terms of asking me questions. How did you start the program? Because the good thing about Lakeland, is that the administrators knew what we needed to get started, because they were approached by the student body that did, once a month, an eSports day. It was a club thing. And the organizer of that club said, you know what? Let’s take it up a notch. Let’s go to our school president and administration, say, hey, we want an eSports program. And that was in 2017. So while I’m doing my thing, the student body said, we want an eSports program. Can y’all get it started? And it basically took them almost two and a half years. Because then, in 2020, when I got hired, that’s the administrators putting a budget together, knowing that they got to pay a coach this amount of money, knowing that they got to spend this amount of money on gaming stations, furniture, paint, wiring, and management. Make sure the computers, everything, looks good and they’re hidden away.
All that process put into from 2017 to 2020. Basically, three years with me being on there. And from day one, the administrators always said, “Ahman, you need something, just ask.” And they followed through on every time. The first pass was when I started recruiting during Covid. It was February 17th, I got hired. We went into world lock down. I think it was May 20th or May 18th.
But the good thing about eSports, Video games are virtual. We’re playing online anyway.
I had to do it from home. I was Zooming recruits. I was in the Discord with recruits or Microsoft Teams and recruiting. And ever since the program started with me, we have out-recruited all the traditional sports on campus. And we started with an influx of players. We had a roster of 41. That was a good problem to have. We didn’t have enough gaming stations, but I figured out, I did a time management rotation so this team could practice for two hours, then, rotate with another team off of here. Within a four hour period, every team had a least an hour, hour and a half, on the PC. Everybody got in adequate practice time. People weren’t complaining. That worked out. But then, the next year, things loosened up.
Everybody went back to their traditional sports. But I told them, even if you play football, you could play here in the spring. You don’t have to not play at all. I reminded players of that. And we had a few football players come back, a few baseball and soccer, men and women’s, to come back. And now, we’re roughly, our attendance or enrollment for eSports, is around 20 to 25 players. And it’s grown, because, the first year of recruiting of 2020, we had, I think, 12. This past year was 15. And I think right now we’re already at 10. That was from then to now, that’s kind of my story into the industry. And now, I’m doing stuff like this just to continue to spread the word. I’m coaching but I have assistance now we were able to budget in. That was my next asking, I need help. I need more coaches. We reconfigured some of the budget money and resourced it to get my first full-time assistant coach. And then, I have one volunteer coach from another team from another game.
Was there somebody that influenced you when you first started in your respective careers?
I’d say with sports, I had a lot of influence there. There was a lot in my life. It was my parents, my brothers, and then coaches and teachers along the way. I had a great little league baseball coach. He played in the Negro Leagues. He was a pitcher. And this is when we were living in Los Angeles, California. And he helped me with my confidence as a kid, because even though I excelled in sports, I was an introvert. I barely spoke. Some kids, some people thought I was mute. I didn’t speak that much. But yeah, some of my teammates, they figured out I didn’t talk. And so, I remember one time, he asked me right after practice one day, he said, “Ahman, I’m going to have you help,” because I was always batting cleanup number four, number five. He said, “I want you to lead off in the next game.” I didn’t know what that meant.
I went home that night, eating dinner, and my dad said, “You, okay? Because you’re really not quiet.” “Yeah. There’s nothing wrong.” I said, “My coach,” I said, “Coach Cliff asked me to switch my batting position to lead off from my cleanup in fourth and fifth spot.” And, my dad was like, “Okay, so how do you feel about that?” “I’m the first batter up and that means that I got most likely, hit the ball first.” I was a little nervous.
I was 10 having this conversation with my dad. I said, “Will it help me with my confidence?” My dad just said, “Well, just tell him when you’re ready to do it. You don’t have to do it just because he’s asked you at this moment. Maybe think about it for a week or two.” And I told him, the next practice, I said that to him. I said, “Coach, I remember what you said. Can I think about it for a week or at least a week?” And he’s like, “Yeah, no problem.” And so I was like, “Oh, okay.” Then, I had a week. I didn’t know. I thought I had to give him an answer right away. That helped my confidence. And then, the following week, it was a week after that, I said, “You know what coach? Yeah, I’m ready.” Because I thought about it and we had a couple games in between that question. And I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” Then, I had the confidence behind that and went to lead off.
It was coaches like that coming from little league baseball to coaches in football. I had teachers that pushed me, where they knew I was a great athlete, but they didn’t take it easy in the classroom. They were probably just as tough on me as my football coaches. And I remember my English teacher, junior year in high school, Mr. Eck. I remember we read The Scarlet Letter. And we read the Great Gatsby. But it was after we read The Scarlet Letter, I did my summary of it, what I liked about it, what I didn’t like about it. And this is where I learned not only accountability but also how to reread my work.
And I gave him the paper. And I’m thinking it’s a solid B. That’s a solid B paper. I get it back from him. It looked like Freddy Cougar went through it. And it was a D plus or F. And I’m like, Mr. Eck, what did I do wrong? Oh my God, I can’t have this. He said, “All right, you got time after class, we could talk about it.” I said, “Yep.” After class, he just said really quick, “Do you ever reread when you write?” I was like, “What do you mean by reread?” I said, “I kind of know what you’re saying.” He said, “Just read it over after you write it. Do you do that?” I’m like, “No.” He said, “That’s one problem.” And then he said, “Another one was all my quotation marks, my periods, wasn’t at the right spots.” He said, “So reread it so you can know where you put your quotation marks or put a period. Because you had a lot of run-on sentences.” He taught me.
And so having that in my life, sometimes, I was around friends who were phenomenal athletes but got pushed through the system, because they were nice kids and they were potentially going to be the next best football, baseball, basketball star. My family, my teachers and coaches took the time. They didn’t say it, but they just did it. I would rather you get smarter and learn exactly from your mistakes to get better and just not get out in the world and don’t know how to write a paper and don’t know how to write a complete sentence. It was the moments like that that helped me become a well-rounded human being and understanding that no matter how good I am at something, I’m not great at everything. And I got to work on it. I still got to work on other things.
Can you please share “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In eSports”? If you can, kindly share a story or example for each.
I would say number one thing, follow up with people. You get a business card, follow up with them, send an email, say, hey, we met at this event. We had a great conversation. I’d like to get on the Zoom, get on the phone with you and see where we can continue this conversation. Be consistent. And then, set goals and then have a routine. Set goals is kind of self-explanatory. Those are points that you want to be at certain times of the year or certain times from this moment. Say a week from now, I want to be here. A month from now, I want to be there. Two years from now. Set those goals. And then, just be in it. And then, set your routine. We, as people, we create habits. We don’t realize it. And most of those habits are bad habits when we’re not focused.
Work on creating good habits by saying, this is my day. I wake up at seven o’clock, I eat breakfast, I work out, then I check my emails. For me as a teacher, I’m getting my teaching program together. This is what practice is going to happen today. This is what I want to talk about before practice to give players guidance before they go into practice. I want you to think about this while you’re practicing today. I set that up in my Google Docs. And I get ready for my podcast that I do. I have three of them. I got to go and check all of them. I got these little things, I put them in my calendar so I don’t forget them. I’m human. I’m not a computer. I have three, maybe four, calendars that I’m into, every day, checking-
Just checking, okay, what I got today? And sure enough, I look at one of my calendars, this is in 10 minutes. I got to be on the phone call. Or I I got to get going. I might be running a little late, which is normal. And it happens. But that’s why you get into the routines. Those are the things I would say for somebody to get where they want to be in an area. Not just in the eSports world, but just anywhere.
If you could start a movement that would help the most amount of people, what would that be?
Well, I already got one lined up. What I learned my first year of coaching at the college level is that some of my players had never played on a PC. And these were 18, 19, 20 something. And it was 2020. And it was like, wait a minute, are you telling me you never played on a PC and you play Call of Duty? All your experiences were on a console, an Xbox or PlayStation? He’s like, “Yep, coach.” I said, “Give the PC a try. Trust me, you’re going to like it.” And sure enough, probably like a month later, he’s like, “Coach, you’re right.” He said, “Every game that we played or practiced, it’s way faster than my PlayStation,” because he just grew up with a PlayStation. And so from that, and I heard it from others, but I saw it down the line before I became a coach. I want to create a movement, and I’ve even got a name for it, it’s called The Digital Divide, to bring the technology, newer technology to kids and neighborhoods that don’t have access to it, to community centers, to elementary schools, to middle schools, to Boys and Girls clubs.
Because, at that time, my player was a senior in college about to go into the real world. He never played a game. He probably had been on a PC but only for homework, not gaming. And he was 22 years old. And I’m like, wow. I said, that’s a discrepancy. With The Digital Divide, I want to, basically, bring people together where they have the technology in front of them at five, at six, and seven in communities that can’t afford it. And even in communities that can afford it, help them build out a center that has 18 or 20 gaming stations. It brings it to the community so everybody could use it. I grew up with the Boys and Girls Club right down the street with the YMCA, right down the street, where I could go play basketball for free and I get a free lunch. My mom paid 10 bucks a month so I could go there, I get a free lunch and I could play all day.
I learned stuff. And that’s what it was back in the early eighties. But now, we’re in a tech world. There’s still traditional sports. But now, there’s this virtual world that kids can now, of all backgrounds, able bodied, disabled, can participate in and compete in, which is awesome.
And I also grew up with kids that couldn’t do what I could do. Kids couldn’t jump and dunk the ball, because of a disability. Now, with eSports, there’s no boundaries. I mean, yeah, nothing blocking them from, a kid in a wheelchair, from beating me in Halo or playing against me in Madden. There’s nothing stopping that now.
Everybody, no matter the background, man, woman, child, white, black, Asian, Arabic, whatever. Video games is everywhere.
And everybody’s involved in it on some level and from every background.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
My Instagram, my Twitter is AhmanGreen30. I’m on TikTok now with my Gamers Lounge. Ahman Green’s Gamer Lounge on TikTok and YouTube. And right now, I’m at Lakeland University. LakelandMuskies.com. I got three podcasts. But one football podcast, is called On My Block, myself and my teammate Mike Wall. And then, my other football podcast is with my two teammates, Gilbert Brown and Dorsey Levens. And it’s called Green and Gold G Lounge. We sit there and talk about, we reminisce, about our football days and talk about the current state of the Packers, which they’re having a rough season right now.