SYLACAUGA, Ala. – Sylacauga High School (SHS) senior Noah Clifton marked his place in the history books Wednesday afternoon, May 3, as the first student from Sylacauga to sign an esports scholarship, picking Huntingdon College to continue his playing days.
Clifton, who competes on the SHS esports team, chose Huntingdon due to a myriad of reasons, most notably because of their esports-specific facilities along with the professors he spoke with while visiting the campus.
“Obviously, I feel very excited,” said Clifton about signing with Huntingdon. “This is something I’ve dreamt of ever since I was little watching people play games all around the world.”
Clifton is trailblazing a path to the collegiate level for SHS students, becoming the first in the school system’s history to sign this type of scholarship.
“Honestly, it hit me today,” Clifton pointed out when asked how it felt to accomplish something never been done before. “It’s just really an eye-opener of how far we’ve come in esports for it only being [at Sylacauga] for two years.”
Noah’s game of preference is the top-down, team-based strategy game League of Legends, developed by Riot Games for the PC, that pits two teams of five against each other.
Clifton play as a “top laner” in League of Legends, also commonly referred to as a tank.
“I usually go in there and provide shielding and help for other people so that they can do what they need to do,” Clifton explained while breaking down his role. “I pretty much absorb damage while also stunning the enemy.”
A crude comparison with sports in regards to Clifton’s job would be to that of an offensive lineman on a football team.
If there were recruiting rankings for esports, Clifton would most likely sit at or near #1 of the state’s top laner list.
“Of the people that won championships this year, Noah actually outperformed the people at his position,” said SHS esports head coach Alex Mosley.
Huntingdon’s scholarship requires its students to compete in two games. With League of Legends being one, Clifton will also play another while in Montgomery. His decision is coming down to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a solo and duo fighting game which includes classic Nintendo characters, and Overwatch, another 5v5 team game that is fast-paced and played from a first-person perspective.
Of the two, Clifton is leaning towards choosing Overwatch as his second option.
“I’m a very team-heavy player instead of just going out there and doing my own thing, so Overwatch is probably my best bet,” Clifton said.
While he wasn’t able to claim a state championship with his fellow Aggies, Noah believes he’s leaving the program behind in very capable hands.
“With how the other teams are looking, we could probably win state,” Clifton added about esports’ near future at SHS. “I’m confident in it. With all [my teammates] that I’m leaving behind, they can do it if they set their minds to it.”
Clifton, for now, enters a league of his own as the only Sylacauga student to sign an esports letter of intent, placing himself in SHS esports legend.