When the Tennessee Titan’s left guard, Rodger Saffold III, picked up the ‘sticks and explored the online gaming world, he never imagined how his newest hobby would ever align with his first love, football. 

Game King Roger Saffold III

Photo by: Jacob Norman

A young college athlete playing games like Call of Duty and Gears of War during his free time, Saffold found himself engaged in a world of online action and explored the digital landscape rolling out in real time. Because competition was no longer limited to his living room, Saffold could explore opportunities to test his skills with some of the best in the world—an opportunity that he and his friend, gaming guru, Kahreem Horsley, wouldn’t take lightly.

While Saffold was leveling up as an athlete, playing fiercely during his free time, Horsley was ranking in tournaments playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He and Saffold began streaming on popular platform, Twitch, gaining international interest from followers from around the globe. Their aeonian ascension into the eSports space ignited an idea to put together their own team to continue competing in an array of arenas, making him the first active professional sports athlete to enter into professional eSports. 

“Back then, it was very inexpensive.  All you had to do was make sure you had all the paperwork, the LLC, and your trademark and copyrights. Then you were pretty much ready to go.” Saffold added, “We started talking to a couple of pro players and getting into those circles. Eventually we ended up with a team and went to the World Championship for Call of Duty: Ghost, and it kind of worked from there.”

Rise Nation

Game King, Rodger Saffold/Photo by: Jacob Norman

From their desire to diversify their platform’s portfolio, they carefully crafted an elite entourage under the Rise Nation imprint to compete on national platforms, starting with four additional players they met during a fierce competition in which they lost. After later rebranding their egaming empire as Rise, Saffold and Horsley continued grinding in the gaming space, boastfully building on their bragging rights as they continue with their national rankings. 

“Rise is definitely one of the fastest growing organizations.  Within two years we were able to become a top-tier team in Call of Duty and branch out into other games.  We weren’t just a team any more, we became an organization.”

Today, they have a team of 25 to strategically dominating the boards across a plethora of platforms, ensuring their minority-owned organization maintains a firm position in an ever-expanding market.

“We’ve had top teams in every game that we’ve had. We’ve had the top three teams in Gears of War. We’ve had the number one team in Call of Duty. We’ve had the top five team in Overwatch. We’ve had a top five team in CSGO

“We’ve had the number one Madden player in the world. We’ve had the number one Street Fighter player in the world. We’ve had some serious talent over the years, and it just continues to grow. We have a team in Valorant that’s doing extremely well right now. We have a FIFA player that’s doing extremely well in that space.”

Since rising in the ranks, Rise has handled various sponsorships and gaming events. From energy drinks to controllers and clothing, their brand awareness accelerated, continuously gaining momentum. 

“We were also selling in-game content and we were the number one or number two top selling for weapon camos, character skins—not just Call of Duty, but also Gears of War as well.” Saffold added, “Everything we touch turns to gold, we just need to get to that top tier of franchising.”

Photo by: Jacob Norman

With franchising in focus, Saffold and Horsley are setting their sights on the future. Dominating the gaming space in a pre-franchise esports area, they’ve identified the next steps necessary to take Rise to the premium playing field. 

“Franchising just takes it to that next level. Now organizations are making millions of dollars over the course of the year instead of just making money through branding and marketing—which is really nice to see—but you have to want it that way because franchising is causing all of eSports to evolve.” 

With industry revenue projected to bring in over $822.4 million at the end of 2020, and a 46% increase in gaming due to Covid restrictions, there is a projected audience of 495 million with an 11.4% annual rate of growth—this is the new wave. 

Saffold and Horsley have independently controlled all aspect of their minority-owned cyber sports organization. Now that they’re looking to franchise, they are seeking investors to help propel their platform beyond anything they initially imagined. With eSports, the possibilities are endless, and Saffold and Horsley are pressing forward, prepared to bet big on themselves. 

Follow Rise at: 

Twitter: @TheRiseNation

Website: https://werise.gg

Seven L. Maxwell