If you asked Rocket League caster Adam ‘Lawler’ Thornton where he would be now five years ago, he never would have imagined that he’d become an esports caster. The game that would shape his future hadn’t even been released yet, and he never considered working in broadcasting growing up.
Two years later he found himself commentating over the grand final of the Rocket League Championship Series. He immortalized himself with the call of one of the most iconic plays in the game’s short competitive history.
Fast forward to 2019 and Lawler is as much a staple of Rocket League Esports as the pros themselves. He has traveled around the world commentating at live Rocket League events. His work, along with the work of his casting companions, has contributed greatly to the growth of one the world’s most exciting esport.
“There are a lot of people who don’t realize how important a dedicated commentary staff is to a game’s development of the scene,” Lawler said. “Obviously you have to have players that are willing to compete but if there’s no place to showcase that then it doesn’t matter.”
Thornton was born in the Packer loving town of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He grew up motivated by competition. In high school Thornton was a four sport athlete and was a standout left midfielder for a team that won the Wisconsin State Championship.
Halo was his first introduction to esports. He loved the competitive nature of what he saw and started to play Starcraft on his PC. He jumped from game to game and when Rocket League came out in 2015, Thornton was hooked.
“I played the game as soon as PC release happened and for me it was just non-stop playing,” Lawler said.
By the time the first season of the RLCS arrived in 2016 Lawler was one of the 20 best 1v1 players in the world. Due to situational complications with teammates he decided to focus his spare time on casting.
Lawler was a part of what he calls a “grassroots movement” of casting talent. The offer to cast Rocket League’s competitive scene came while he was working at a sales job in Wisconsin. Thornton was one of the top sellers at the company but when the opportunity arose he knew he had to take it.
He had virtually no experience in casting prior to the hire but has pushed himself to improve his abilities in the broadcast booth.
“No one has ever taught me how to do my job. I’ve never had any help or guidance in becoming a commentator. I’ve never had a coach, or a person that has led me on the path to improving what I do… I don’t want to suck, I want to keep getting better.”
That pursuit of self-improvement has prevented Lawler from ever slowing down. Six seasons of RLCS and countless one off LAN tournaments later he refuses to slow down on his preparation. He estimates that his work week during RLCS season is more than 100 hours a week.
Each weekend he arises at 4 a.m. for his flight to Minneapolis, then he flies to Los Angeles and takes an hour long ride to his hotel. He works all day Saturday and Sunday then wakes up at 3 am on Monday for the trip back to Green Bay.
During the week he streams on Twitch, preps for the upcoming weekend, works on podcasts, and watches the replay of the previous weekend’s action twice. He watches through once with a focus on how the players performed and makes notes for next week. The second time through he focuses entirely on his performance.
“It’s about personal growth. (I watch for) what words I can use better, am I using the same adjective too many times, what thesaurus word should I use this week… is my inflection good, did I mess up? It’s all self-critique.”
That hard work has made Lawler into one of Rocket League’s most experienced casters. Though, it wasn’t always that way. Leaving his job in sales was a risk, but he quickly found that the pros heavily outweighed any of the potential cons.
“I definitely knew it was a risk but I knew I wanted to be a caster after the first time I did it. (After) doing online tournaments and seeing the reactions there is an adrenaline that it gives you that is very hard to explain and it only gets further exemplified in front of a live audience.”
The adrenaline of casting drew him in, but the relationship he’s formed with his fellow casters has been a key factor throughout his tenure. Caleb ‘Wavepunk’ Simmons, Randy ‘Gibbs’ Gibbons, James ‘Jamesbot’ Villar, Brody ‘Liefx’ Moore and Kevin ‘Findable Carpet’ Brown join Lawler in what he calls “The Original Six”. They were the first six commentators of the RLCS and have formed an important bond.
“All of us came from the Rocket League community. All of us started at the exact same time with the exact same amount of experience. We all became very, very close, like brothers. I see them more than I see my own family or any of my friends… We have a unique bond and I’d take a bullet for those guys, no questions asked.”
Lawler recalls many a night spent at Alex ‘Axeltoss’ Rodriguez’s house playing FIFA and talking about the life and struggles of a caster. They took their lumps together through their maturation in the broadcasting world. The Originial Six would spend entire days together and would share hotel rooms during the season.
The grassroots approach has paid off immensely. The rapport that Lawler shares with his casting partners comes through on screen. They all started as players and enthusiasts and have become staples of the Rocket League community.
Heading into its fourth year, Rocket League is in a pretty good position. It has built a strong viewership of passionate fans, it is incredibly approachable, and has the potential to become a tier one esport. Lawler and the current crew of commentators have a lot to do with that success. Now Lawler stands as an example of the growth the game has experienced as well as the potential that it has.
There was much more to learn about Lawler including meeting Shaquille O’Neal, the story of how he quit his job, the origin of his nickname, the best player among the Rocket League analysts much more. Listen to the full interview here:
You can follow Lawler on:
Feature image courtesy of hiveminer.com.
“From Our Haus to Yours”