As the 2021 season is coming to a close, Senior, Blake Pennington, is looking forward to graduating this May. The 25-year-old Business Administration major is one of the original members of the first esports team here on campus and has enjoyed having this as a place where he can meet new people. “I like having those people who I can compete with and go to that next level with,” said Pennington.
The Wendell, North Carolina native, is a transfer student from Wake Tech Community College where he attended four years and later took a gap year before coming to Barton. “Financially it made sense and the Esports was just a bonus,” said Pennington. While having his mindset on UNC Charolette or North Carolina State, he admits not knowing of Barton until his grandfather set him up a campus visit.
The current Madden team member has been playing the game since he can remember. Since picking up his first copy of Madden back in 2003 with Marshall Faulk on the front, he believes that he has not missed one since. “If I haven’t bought every year, I have bought pretty much every season of it,” said Pennington. Blake not only has a favorite team in the league but he also has a couple of favorite teams he could beat you down with in the game. Growing up he has always been a Washington Football Team fan with that being his first-ever NFL game attended. However, in Madden, he has his go to’s being the Saints, Steelers, and Seahawks.
However, Pennington does not have a bigger passion than watching Nascar. As most do, his father was the one who introduced him and is arguably a bigger fan than Blake himself. With his favorite driver of all time being Tony Stewart, it is no surprise that he turned to root for the Stewart Haas Race Team when Tony retired back in 2016. He recalls the time he and his father went to the Nascar race in Martinsville, Virginia, and watched Tony Stewart win his second of three titles there in 2006. “It not only reiterated that I was a Tony Stewart fan, but that was just the moment I realized I was enjoying not just the race, but the time spent with my dad too,” said Pennington.
Pennington plans on carrying his passion for Nascar into post-grad life. His ultimate goal is to eventually run his own racing team and make it onto the big circuit. However, outside of Nascar, Blake has been working at the large retail sporting goods store, Dicks since going to college and has plans of managing his own store one day.
Hailing all the way from the left coast is Freshman and League of Legends player, Cameron Dweidary. The first-year student comes from Pacific Grove, California, where he grew up, but now resides in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Originally planning on joining the military, Dweidary was approached by Coach Christianson at a Supercon event in Raleigh and later turned into him visiting campus in November 2019. “I really was not planning on going to college, then I came on a visit and realized this is what I want to do,” said Dweidary.
The current graphic design major is also working on a minor in business and has hopes of opening his own graphic design firm after school. Dweidary does not only find motivation in opening his own firm, but he also plans on being a name to remember when it comes to Barton Esports. “Being able to see progress being made towards becoming a really good esports team is the goal,” said Dweidary. “Laying a foundation for the rest of the teams to come”
Cameron has been playing video games since the early Call of Duty days and he, like everybody else used it as an excuse to miss some school. “My brother from the first time the Black Ops came out, would buy them all for me for my birthday and we would go get it and skip school the next day,” said Dweidary.
The upbeat 18-year-old is looking forward to his next three years at Barton and plans on having much success throughout his career. “Winning in general is the goal,” said Dweidary.
With less than a month away till the spring 2021 commencement, Senior Denning Hudson will be wrapping up his time at Barton College. The Wilson native and graduate of Wilson Christianson Academy, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and has already been accepted into North Carolina State’s graduate program for accounting.
The 22-year-old not only competes on the League of Legends team but also is a team member of Barton Men’s soccer team. Having played all four years for the Bulldogs, Hudson has tallied a career of 3 goals scored and a total of seven games played at the center back position, while also earning Academic All-Conference accolades.
Hudson was first introduced to video games when he picked up Super Smash Bros on the Wii when he was a kid and later on found his passion for League of Legends when his roommate showed him the game Freshman year. That following year, Hudson continued to grind on League and eventually joined the Esports team specializing in the mid lane and top lane positions.
Since the arrival of the team on campus, Hudson has used this to explore new games and meet new people. “Finding new guys to play games with, whether we are playing league or other games,” said Hudson. Not only was Denning able to create some new lifelong friends, but he also was able to find his roommate for the past two years. “The people in it is what makes it,” said Hudson “And the nice arena helps too!”
Following his time at Barton, he hopes to leave a positive impact on the program and is grateful for the friends he has made throughout his career at Barton.
Senior graduate student, Deshaun McFadden is not only a familiar face in the arena, but also on the football field. The current Fortnite player is not only a Esports competitor. He also serves as a graduate assistant coach for the first year football program on campus. Originally recruited to play for Coach Hester and the Bulldogs, Deshaun has since then stepped into the coaching role. “Being able to sit back and watch it now is just giving me more love and appreciation for the game” said McFadden.
Deshaun began his college football career at North Carolina A&T, where he led the Aggie’s freshman core in receptions with 8 catches and 1 touchdown in 2016. His longest reception came against Florida A&M on October 29, 2016 when he had a catch for 20 yards in a win over the Rattlers 42-17.
Following that, McFadden move back home to Rock Hill, South Carolina, and attended Winthrop University before transferring to Barton to continue his career in football. With having ties to Coach Hester when he coached at North Carolina A&T, McFadden sat down with Hester and discussed an opportunity to serve on the coaching staff while he completes his masters degree in Business Administration.
The 23 year old has enjoyed his experience since stepping foot onto Barton’s campus. “Once I got here my first semester, I knew I would stay because of how much I liked everybody I was meeting” said McFadden.
McFadden was first introduced to video games when he was 11. He remembers playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare with is cousin and immediately being hooked. “A lot of people don’t understand when you play it, it’s more than just playing a game,” said McFadden “because a lot of funny stuff happens on the game.”
While McFadden competes on the esports team he hopes to change the image of not only the esports team but esports in general. “A lot of people think if you’re on the esports team you’re just a game, but as you can see myself and others on the team are athletes too.” said McFadden.
Deshaun not only enjoys competing competitively for the Bulldogs, but he also enjoys watching some of the top streamers perform on platforms like Youtube and Twitch and then trying to recreate what they do in the game.
As for outside of Esports, McFadden enjoys working out and staying in shape, while also hanging out and enjoying time with friends. As for his plans after graduation, McFadden plans to become a facility or event coordinator at a university while also still coaching football in his spare time.
Barton College runs deep through the Thompson family. Gardner Thompson the son of alumni and former professor Nancy Thompson, is currently in his third year at Barton and actively involved around campus. The President of Alpha Sigma Phi and member of the League of Legends team are some just to name.
Not only is Gardner familiar with Barton College, he is also not a stranger to Wilson, North Carolina. Growing up in Cary, North Carolina for majority of his life, he was very accustom to the suburbs of Raleigh. However, for his middle school years, Thompson lived in Wilson while his mom attended Barton and earned her Bachelors in Nursing in 2012 and later her Masters in 2015.
Originally wanting to pursue a career in computer programming, Gardner had to move on from that dream because he had his eyes set on attending Barton and they do not offer the major. He then decided to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. He is currently working on a Business Law major with a minor in Political Science. After graduation, Thompson has plans to apply to UNC law school and practice Malpractice law.
As for Esports, Gardner has been with the program from the beginning by joining the team via a walk-on spot. The current junior has been participating in Esports since his early high school days at Panther Creek High School, where he competed in Team Fortress 2 and Counterstrike. Thompson explained how much it means to be apart of a competitive team and to have the opportunity to compete collegiately. “Not many people can say they are on a team, none the less a team this organized.” said Thompson.
Since the construction of the new Esports arena on campus in 2019, many players like Gardner himself have been able to take full advantage of the nations top collegiate Esports arena. ” It’s really good to see, especially in a place like Wilson. ( on Barton College Esports arena) Where you would not expect it.” said Thompson.
As for the impression Gardner wants to make on the program, “More of a mainstream respect for the program.” said Thompson. With the Esports team still being young, guys like Gardner hope to pave the way to make Barton a house hold name in the Esports industry.
However, next year he intends to not compete competitively and take on a staff role. Which will include helping out with recruiting, video broadcasting of matches and streams.
John-Christianson Newkirk or as most call him “JC”, is a junior from Clayton, North Carolina. The current biology major and psychology minor, is just impressive on the sticks as he is in the classroom. “I love class and I love studying.” said Newkirk. He also noted how his work ethic and skills are the same in esports as it is in the classroom.
His plans for after graduation have been something he has dreamed of since a little kid. He plans on going to medical school and becoming a Thoracic Surgeon that will specialize in the chest, lungs, and heart. “I’ve always had a thing about saving peoples lives” said Newkirk. The current 2k team member is a hands on person and enjoys helping his community any chance he gets.
Newkirk just recently finished runner up in the Conference Carolinas NBA2K Championship, where each Conference Carolinas school hosted their own qualifier for the winner of each to compete in the Championship bracket against other schools. Newkirk made his way to the Championship game where he faced off against number one seeded Belmont Abbey’s Deante Shackleford and ended up dropping the game to him.
“It was exciting and upsetting at the same time.” said Newkirk. He explained how Shackleford was able to have first pick of teams and chose the Milwaukee Bucks, in which Newkirk was wanting. “I got exploited with the one player I was going to exploit him with” said Newkirk. Referring to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Newkirk was disappointed when Shackleford chose them.
Outside of the classroom and Esports, Newkirk enjoys roller blading and playing basketball. He attributes roller blading and listening to music as a way to relax and clear his mind. As for his music choices, they are a wide variety. He enjoys listening to classical music, rap, and African music.
Newkirk’s love for 2k came when he bought a ps4 and saw NBA2K 16 in the store for free. He began to play against his friend, however, met an online friend named Tiv. He attributes much of his competitive practice and skills to Tiv because he had become a competitive rival of his. “If I didn’t meet him on there I do not know where I would be in 2K.” said Newkirk. As for moving forward Newkirk plans on expanding his basketball knowledge to help him out on the sticks.