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Inside the CEC: An Interview with NJIT Flex Tank & Head Coach, Peter Mullen

CEC NJIT Interview

The second installment of TGH’s Inside the CEC series continues today with NJIT’s flex tank and Head Coach, Peter Mullen. Here, Peter talks about what the event means for himself and the entire NJIT team and what it was like to be both a coach and in the starting roster. A unique challenge and an interesting discussion, indeed.

For starters, what was your favorite part of the event?

Well, to be honest with you, this was our first “major” event as an official esports team. What we were so amazed by was how much support and hospitality ESPN and Tespa showed all of the collegiate teams at this event. To put on such a grand event with all their sponsors and some of the best analysts/commentators and then to show off the best-of-the-best in Collegiate Overwatch was such a great honor. And of course…the free food, I mean come on.

Conversely, what was the biggest challenge you and the rest of NJIT faced from the starting gate until the finals?

Since I joined and began helping the team back in November, I would say our biggest challenge was overcoming ourselves. Because we are a collegiate team, we still have to balance team practice, VOD review, school work, and, of course, our social lives. Just like any other D1 sport we offer here at NJIT, there is a ton of work being put in behind-the-scenes that most people aren’t aware of.

While we were competing in the Nationals league this Tespa season, right before the Championship bracket began, I was unfortunately disqualified from playing because of how recently I transferred into the school. So, at the beginning of some of our hardest matchups yet, we had to also prepare a substitute player who was eligible in place of a starting six player. That was a big obstacle for us going into the Round of 64 and beyond.

What was it like to be a player and coach for NJIT? Did that make you the defacto shot-caller?

CEC NJIT Interview

Image Courtesy of Peter Mullen

I originally started working with the team back in November of 2018 when, at that time, I was only interested in becoming the Head Coach for them. So that’s what I originally intended to be once I fully transferred to school. Right before the Spring semester began in early December, one of our key DPS players, Daniel “Yoontae” Kim, had to, unfortunately, unregister for classes due to personal issues. So because of this, the team’s cohesion took a massive hit, especially because the remaining members of the team were only Support and Tank players.

So, as the Head Coach, the team decided to make the last minute decision to add me to the starting roster for this Tespa season. Once I joined the main roster I became the Flex-Tank/D.Va player for the team. It definitely was a little weird to have both your “Head Coach” and Captain of the team both making calls and strategies for the team, in the moment mind you. I give this team a lot of credit honestly, it’s not easy to be bombarded with necessary shot calls and then have your D.Va player sitting in the back talk about how you can improve your gameplay! *laughs*

Having spent much of your collegiate esports career working with the team remotely, what was it like playing and coaching in front of a crowd and right next to your opposing team?

Of course, the team was a little nervous at the start of the match and being up on a grand stage like that. But once the team got into it, you could tell they started to play as if they were all back in their dorm rooms on campus! It was pretty surreal to see the team I play for and even help coach streamed live on national television.

What has this experience done to bond your team? What does it mean to have made it to the final eight?

CEC NJIT Interview
Image Courtesy of Peter Mullen

This event was a pretty magical experience for the entire team and support staff. We put so much time and effort into preparing for this tournament. To have finally made it to Houston, Texas on stage in front of that crowd was incredible. We knew coming up against a team like Harrisburg was going to be a challenge, so we tried to enjoy the moment as best we could. As a team, this event was a huge stepping stone for our potential, not only within Overwatch but any other esport. While we were sad we lost our match we know for a fact this won’t be the last time you see the NJIT Highlanders at a LAN event like this one!

How different will NJIT esports look after this as far as support and personnel go?

Well, I know as for our Overwatch and Street Fighter teams it will hopefully attract potential students to NJIT who are interested in competing at the collegiate level. With such a great performance for our first semester as an official club, I can only imagine this will help grow our program because, as of right now, we do everything in-house. All of our graphics, video editing, social media presence, really all of it is done by a handful of people. Maybe with this tournament performance and the many more to come we can really give NJIT the option to make esports an official program/major offered at the University.

What does this event mean for collegiate Overwatch, and esports in general, moving forward?

Houston, TX – May 10, 2019 – George R. Brown 
(Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

While backstage before our match I spoke with the legendary esports commentator, Goldenboy, who said it himself, “This event shows just how much untapped potential ESPN and Tespa see within the Collegiate Esports scene.” We can only hope the next event is bigger and better for Overwatch or any other game. As someone who wants to have a career within the Esports industry, it gives me a huge gush of happiness to see something I’m so passionate about thriving in this way. Maybe next year teams could earn even more scholarship money? *wink wink, nudge nudge*

Any people you want to thank who’ve made all of this possible?

I would like to personally thank our wonderful Club President Jira and our super helpful Club Advisor Professor Kehoe for helping NJIT Esports open the doors to incredible opportunities like these. I would also like to thank the full squad themselves, Konrad, Blake, Nick, Jake, Lasha, Masa, Elmer, Dan and Andy for allowing me to join them this semester. It’s been such an incredible ride so far and can only get better from here. Without the full support of our school, none of this would be possible. And, of course, Blizzard for crafting such a great game to harness an official esport around. Overwatch is like no other and I hope to see more and more collegiate events involve it moving forward!

Lastly, what is your next step after this?

Moving forward, I hope to put all my energy in to coaching the Overwatch team (Division 1 and 2) and supporting the NJIT esports club in any way I can. As for the Overwatch team, our next step is to be back on the main stage next season and to challenge Harrisburg ESports for the trophy!

To keep up with Peter, check out his Twitter page as well as the Twitter page for the NJIT esports squad. Stay tuned for continued coverage from the Inside the CEC series here, at The Game Haus.



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Featured Image Courtesy of Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images

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