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Overwatch League 2021: How COVID-19 pushed Jake back to pro play

OWL 2021 is about to kick off with newcomers and old faces alike eager to get back on the saddle.
Overwatch League 2021: How COVID-19 pushed Jake back to pro play

It's been a long wait for players, coaches, fans, and everyone involved with the Overwatch League, with the extended offseason due to a later than usual start date building up the anticipation even if the majority of the season will still take place online, away from the roar of passionate crowds longing for LAN events to make a proper return.

The Overwatch community has not been starved for content, however, as the offseason has proven to be just as exciting as the regular season. Naturally, player swaps and roster overhauls were the head-turners during these past few months, as teams look to build squads that can compete at the highest level and pros search for greener pastures or kick start their careers after years of grinding in Contenders. 

With OWL 2021 right around the corner, both rookies eagerly awaiting their debuts and veterans looking to prove doubters wrong shared what keeps them motivated to come back to Overwatch, and their expectations for this upcoming year of competition. 

Carpe's MVP dream

carpe overwatch league
(Picture: Overwatch League)

Touted as one of the greatest to ever play the game, Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee's OWL resume doesn't really stack up against some of his most successful peers. Despite being close to lifting the OWL trophy two times (2018 and 2020), the hitscan specialist still has the drive to push the Philadelphia Fusion to another grand finals appearance. 

"One of the things that keeps me motivated is to get that win for my team," Carpe explained during the start-of-season OWL press conference. "I also want to prove that I am one of the best players in Overwatch, so getting that MVP title as well." 

It's about the little things

Overwatch is a game that boasts a very vocal fanbase, usually overly critical of balance changes, a feeling that plenty of pros tend to share, however, for many, it's still the FPS they fell in love with back in 2016.

"For me, Overwatch is really fun," Byeong-ju "Valentine" Kim admitted. The Boston Uprising's rookie DPS relishes the challenge of finally competing in OWL after dominating Korean Contenders in 2020 and isn't shy when it comes to explaining that, just maybe, he might find competition at his level. 

"Being in the Overwatch League lets me play against players at my level. Being in that environment, to play my favourite game, it's what keeps me motivated." 

The Return of the Jakerat 

Jake Overwatch league
(Picture: Overwatch League)

Coming as a shock relatively late into the offseason, the return to pro play of one Jake Lyon has lifted the spirits of Houston Outlaws' fans, who believe the North American's leadership can lead an already exciting roster to heights the team hasn't reached since 2018.

"It was a long-term decision. I had a talk with Matt [Matt "coolmatt" Iorio, Outlaws' GM] a few months before it became more real," Jake revealed. What made him recognize just how much he missed competing was, ironically, the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as cutting down on extensive travelling while performing his casting duties gave him more time to play ranked.

"Playing six, seven, eight hours every single day made me realize I still want to play the game and I miss the real competitive experience. You can't do this forever, if you want to do it, you have to do it right now." 

Super's Last Dance

super overwatch league
(Picture: Overwatch League)

With two OWL trophies under his belt and a blooming Twitch career that could see him transition with ease into full-time content creation, the question on every Shock fans' mind right after season 3 ended was whether Matthew "Super" DeLisi would say goodbye to pro play or not.

"I thought about it [retirement]," Super reveals. "I decided that I would play again just because I felt like I still enjoyed competing."

The 21-year-old commented that player longevity, which is significantly lower in OWL than in other esports, drove him to stay with the Shock, at least until the end of OWL 2021.

"There's such a limited window where you can have an opportunity to do this, and I didn't want to give it up and regret it later. So I decided that I would play again another year and have fun with it."

Will Super and San Francisco get the threepeat? Find out when the Overwatch League returns on 16th April.