Few teams have had an OWL run as interesting as the Houston Outlaws. Between their distinct personalities on and off the stage, their passionate fanbase, or their pitched rivalry with the Dallas Fuel, this team is hard to ignore. Who better to sit down and talk with, then?
The interview below constitutes one of the last Game Haus Round Tables from pre-season media day, and has been edited for clarity and chronological accuracy. It covers Rawkus’s crippling addiction to designer goods, the team’s weird hand massagers, Danteh’s niche within the team, and a game that will be held in a stadium not quite big enough for two Overwatch League teams. Thanks a bunch to Danteh, Rawkus, Jake, and Flame for sitting down with us!
Alright, guys. During last season’s first media day, I asked Rawkus and Jake a couple questions I want to go back to. Rawkus, I asked you what you would buy with your OWL money, besides Yeezys. How’s that gone?
Rawkus: What did I say [when you first asked me]?
Danteh: What dumb answer did he give?
I don’t think you knew. I don’t think you had any idea.
Rawkus: Only Yeezys. That’s my investment skill level.
Jake: More Yeezys!
I can go back and check, I’ll let you know. [He had no idea what he was going to buy besides Yeezys.] So what are some things that you’ve racked up since? Your Ateyo ‘Five Things’ video had some Gucci glasses, a Chipotle bowl…
Rawkus: I still have those glasses! Less Chipotle, though. Honestly, I still like flashy designer stuff, but I started to stray away from it a lot.
[The rest of the table looks at him skeptically.]
Rawkus: I have! I really have!
Danteh: Didn’t you just get a bag?
Jake: He bought a Louis bag last week.
Flame: But he’s “straying away from it.”
Jake: He didn’t bring the Louis bag here, which is progress.
“Look, I’m gonna start my diet today, but I’m gonna start it with a donut.”
Danteh: It starts in ten minutes.
Flame: The first day is cheat day.
Rawkus: Basically, [I buy] stuff that will help me with the Overwatch League. So, like, I got this massager.
Jake: I got a personal massager, too. I got a different one, but personal massagers are so necessary, because you get so tight. You have to use it. You have to try it!
Jake: It looks like an… inappropriate toy.
Well, if it’s called a ‘personal massager,’ you already know…
Jake: This thing is not – you’re not gonna have any fun with this.
Rawkus: Yeah, it’s just for basic stuff like your forearms, right?
Flame: [Jake]’s like the mall salesman that walks you through it, like ‘hey! You wanna try this out?’
Jake: I have a different one.
Alright… Danteh, have you grabbed anything cool?
Danteh: I bought shoes.
Rawkus: He just bought these same ones [that I have], actually.
Jake: I buy investment products, because I’m not gonna have this job forever.
Danteh: I got the Kingdom Hearts 3 PS4, too.
Rawkus (to Jake): I’ve actually been doing that a lot, too.
Jake: It’s really important to save your money. I’m just fiscally responsible.
Rawkus: I think I invested more into my own personal health and performance, basically. I watch a lot of documentaries on NBA athletes, especially like, Lebron James, right? How he actually invests more than any other player in the NBA and how much success he’s had, and at his age, too.
So you’re thinking about that.
Rawkus: Yeah, you’ve got to.
Jake: It makes sense, because the scale is different, right? I’m not paying for a cryo-chamber in my house or anything, but at the same time, you know, I’ll opt for getting healthier meals from a meal service, getting a gym membership, actually using our personal trainer, getting massages. The things that make you feel better and play better are investments in your own career. So, those are the things that make the most sense.
Rawkus: It’ll help you last longer in this industry, as a performer.
Flame: You gotta get a nice mattress, you gotta get the good furniture.
Jake: Exactly! Get a nice bed so you can sleep well at night. These things are actually worth money, in my opinion.
Do you feel safer in that sense, Jake, in terms of your longevity after signing that extension?
Jake: Yeah, signing the extension definitely the first time I’ve actually had real security. Last year was one year of security, and I thought that was pretty significant. But then re-signing for even more years of security, now it’s beyond my wildest dreams in the long-term perspective. It’s a new feeling in esports. In the past it’s always been like, ‘okay, I’m working towards my next thing.’
Rawkus: For me, it makes me want to work harder. If a team commits that much into me, it makes me want to work harder and be better. I’m making set goals this season, especially, at the start of the season. Being timely. Focusing on being the best I can for every practice, every scrim, no matter what.
Has that been because of Matt ‘Flame’ Rodriguez’s active participation in motivating his players to be better people every day?
Rawkus: He does that daily, but no, not really. For you to be motivated, it has to be from yourself. I’m just motivating myself right now.
Jake: It’s so easy to be preachy, and to actually turn somebody off of what you want them to do by telling them to do it, right? People don’t like to be told what to do. I think we’ve always been a team full of self-starters. People who are very individual and find their own ways to do things. But I think getting everyone to recognize the importance of doing all these little things to make your life better [is important]. It’s just what we saw in Season 1, the truth, right? If you’re healthier and you feel better, you’re gonna play better, you’re gonna be the best player you can be. That’s what everyone wants.
Flame: Some of that stuff is really subtle. I remember last year, we had rented furniture, and it was so bad. In retrospect it was like the worst, ugliest furniture ever. And our beds were awful. This year I bought new couches and a bed and I feel like my daily mental state is infinitely higher, solely because I’m not looking at these grey couches.
Danteh: I just got a nice bed and it’s just… better. My back feels better every day.
Flame: Anything that makes you feel better every day is just worth spending on.
Rawkus: I can agree with that.
Jake: Especially for sleep. Think about how much time you sleep – you don’t think about it. So worth the money.
Rawkus: For me, I have two huskies and they always shed. So I have a maid service that comes out every week, just to keep my place clean.
Jake: To cook, to clean – it’s so hard when you’re a pro player.
Rawkus: It’s like, I wake up at 10. I get to the venue at 12. Between 10 and 12, I’m either showering or I’m focused on my dogs. I have one 15-year-old that I have to use diapers on, and I have a one-year-old who I have to take out. He has a lot of energy, he runs. So I have to do that. Then I get back at like 6:30, seven. And I still need to eat, so I have to cook for myself, of course.
Flame: The war on dog hair is a full-time job.
Rawkus: So then I get back, and it’s like, ‘oh, do I want to cook for an hour, two hours?’, and then after it’s like, ‘oh, girlfriend, practice.’ It’s so much. Having little things like that helps.
For Danteh – these guys have talked about being self-starters, and how you have to find motivation within yourself rather than just having it preached to you. Obviously, being signed to a team like this, I’m assuming you already had that. Has that motivation stepped up now that you’ve joined the Outlaws?
Danteh: On the Shock, I was always really into grinding. I would always want to play the game. I always wanted to do things that would make me play better, like getting good sleep and so on. I’d make sure I stopped everything else so I got some good sleep. I think I’ve maintained that work ethic on this team – maybe even improved it. All I know is that I always want to be better. I don’t like being bad, it’s just not a good feeling.
Jake: Hate to lose, love to win.
When you got onto the team and started gelling with everybody and practicing together and everything, did you see these guys buying personal massagers and stuff and say ‘oh god, I gotta catch up?’
Rawkus: He started it!
Flame: There’s a good balance. For every time Rawkus buys something excessive, there’s always someone on the team to criticize it. So there’s a scale, right? There’s the people who save their money and maybe will buy the mattress and that’s it, then there’s the people who will buy the Gucci bags and the massagers and the Yeezys. Danteh can find his niche anywhere on the team. If he wants to not spend money, there are people who will support that.
Jake: I think we always knew that Danteh was a hard worker and cared about things outside the game to be a better player.
Flame: It was a joke, actually, for a while. We’d be in the practice room and we’d say “we need a Tracer player,” and Muma would say “Just get Danteh, 4Head.” It wasn’t a realistic thing, and then it became a realistic thing, and it went from a joke to “Okay, we’re getting Danteh.”
Isn’t that how it’s always been with the Outlaws? Wasn’t that how it was when you guys signed FCTFCTN, too? The whole time you guys were just like, ‘sign FCT.’
Flame: Kind of.
Rawkus: It was a little bit different. It was like, ‘what if Muma gets sick? We need a tank, right?’, but then we realized you can play through sickness, to be honest, unless you’re deathly ill and can’t open your eyes.
Jake: I played when I was sick a few times and I never regretted it. I felt like it was the right decision. I just took some cough syrup in the morning and it made me feel fine for an hour or two – that’s all you need.
Rawkus: Sometimes playing sick is better than having someone who’s not completely comfortable playing.
For any of you, where’s the point (besides just winning it all) where you can lean back and say, ‘I am content with how things have gone for me this season?’
Rawkus: I don’t think I’ll ever be content unless I’m actually the best. That’s pretty much it, for me.
Jake: I think that’s just the nature of being a really competitive player. Even if you know you’re not the best, it doesn’t make you feel like you can’t get there. You have to have that confidence that you could be the best player. You always want to feel like you could be a better player.
When people ask me the question, ‘don’t you get bored playing just one game all day?’ I say, ‘well, not really, because what I’m really doing is playing the game of trying to be better than everyone else at this thing.’ It’s not as important that it’s this thing, it’s important that it’s me, competing against myself and other people to see who can be the best. That’s what I’m super passionate about. I almost feel like I could play another game and I’d be just as passionate about that aspect of competition with yourself and others.
Danteh: I think being content comes in steps. For example, Stage 1. Something that would make me really content is making Stage 1 playoffs. But then after making playoffs, I’m gonna be like, ‘well, I wanna win now.’
If you give a mouse a cookie…
Danteh: Right. You just keep on wanting more as you reach your goals. After Stage 1, it’s Stage 2. “Okay, I need to make stage playoffs again.” Then eventually, it’s overall playoffs, the next big thing. Then you make it, and you say, “okay, we want to make it farther and go to finals.”
Jake: I think for us, because we missed playoffs by one game, [the goal] has to be to make playoffs. But then the moment we make playoffs, we’re not gonna be like “Oh, great job, guys!” It’ll be, “Let’s go harder than we’ve ever gone before. Push ourselves to the limit, let’s win this. Let’s do everything we can so we know that we gave it all, whatever happens.”
I think no matter what we achieve, we’ll always want more. We know that we’ll give our best, no matter what our results are. I don’t think it’ll ever be because someone’s not trying enough or because people don’t care. So, the question of contentment isn’t something I think about, really.
Last year, I asked you guys about players in your role that you want to face off against the most. Rawkus, I’m pretty sure you said Ryujehong… Jake, I don’t remember yours.
Rawkus: I said Jehong, and I think Jake probably said Mano.
In your role, though?
Jake: I think it was Mano. In my role, I don’t know of anybody – well, I guess Fl0w3R’s now in the league, so maybe him. I don’t really care, honestly. I don’t think about it at all.
Flame: Who beat you in World Cup?
Flame: Yeah, but there was somebody… maybe it was Saebyeolbe? It had to be someone from that team, because that was the big story at the time.
Jake: It probably was SBB, actually, because SBB went seriously hard that match, in my opinion.
So, who’s that player now? Are they still the same?
Rawkus: I don’t think it’s Jehong anymore. It might be Shaz or Bdosin. Those are two players I really want to play against a lot now. They’re both so good. Those are the two I’m excited to play against.
And for you, Jake? Plenty of flex DPS around to drop Rip-tires on…
Jake: I don’t know. I guess if it’s Junkrat, I always felt like Striker was the best in the league. I felt like he was the one who picked [Junkrat] a lot, and I never actually played him before he got buffed. A lot of people were saying “Oh, people are playing so much Junkrat,” and I was like, “Yeah, he’s buffed, so I’ll try it, why not?” I had never tried the character before.
[Striker] had the same perspective – he had never played the character, and then started playing it when he was actually starting to become the meta in Overwatch League. But I felt like he picked it up really well. I’ll always like playing against him in that role. But I don’t think he’s gonna be a very relevant hero, so I don’t think that’s a very relevant matchup.
What about more relevant heroes like Pharah, Genji, or Hanzo?
Jake: I really look forward to any Hanzo matchups. I really think Hanzo is my best character right now. I’m hoping he becomes a relevant character.
Who would you want to Hanzo duel the most? There’s plenty of good Hanzos out there right now.
Jake: I don’t know. What I’m interested in seeing is who can rise to the top if that character becomes relevant again. I always thought EQO was really good.
Danteh: EQO’s really good at Hanzo. He’s a really good flex DPS in general.
What about you, Danteh?
Danteh: Probably Architect or Sinatraa. I was always competing with them on Shock For playtime and stuff. They always pushed me to get better. I think it’ll be really fun versing them and seeing how that’ll be. And then I also want to play against the Fuel. I couldn’t play in the World Cup – I was on the roster, but I was benched on it. It’ll be fun to beat them, if we beat them. Hopefully.
Jake: C’mon, man.
Flame: We get to play them in Texas, as well.
Speaking of the Texas matchup – that’s gonna be huge, both in terms of significance in the league, and the rivalry between Houston and Dallas. Is that something you guys are already looking at?
Jake: I don’t think we see [the Fuel] as…I mean, we need to be beating them every single time we play them. They’re the team we should be rocking, and then the other teams are the teams we need to be prepared for.
Rawkus: I’m taking it this way. For me, the teams we need to focus on are the teams we play next. One by one.
Flame: That said, I do think that that Texas match has the potential to be louder and more insane than Grand Finals. From a fan perspective, it’s gonna be a brawl.
Are they gonna go…Texas Hard?
Flame: If there was ever a time it’s gonna be Texas Hard, it’s gonna be in that parking lot, pre-game. I’m not saying it’s gonna get violent, but if I was gonna put money on an esports event that could potentially get too rowdy, it would be that.
Are you guys gonna walk in on horses or something crazy like that?
Flame: This is a true story, and it already got denied, but maybe in Texas it’ll be possible. I tried to get a horse walkout for this season. If we have a crazy idea, you can ask.
Jake: I wanna ride some horses. Can we ride, like, a donkey or something?
They’re not gonna let that happen, no way!
Danteh: They might’ve. If we own this place, maybe they would’ve.
So you guys just have to win, pool all your money that you’ve been saving up together, and buy the Overwatch League.
Jake: Make a triple-A, super-successful gaming title and make a billion dollars.
Flame: If you win the Overwatch League, you win the stadium.
Exactly. YOU take control!
Danteh: That’d be a good prize! You get to be commissioner for a week, you could do anything.
What rules would you guys change?
Danteh: I’d bring a horse in.
Besides the horse.
Danteh: For a week? You’d have to do something crazy. What would you do if you could run this building for a week, Rawkus?
Rawkus: I’d hire a makeup team for the players. I’d bring back handwarmers.
Danteh: This is only for a week! You have to throw a crazy party or something!
Jake: Well, if you buy like a million handwarmers, it’ll last a while.
[Thanks to the Outlaws for sitting down with us to talk! We have more Outlaws conversations coming soon… you won’t want to miss it!]
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