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JuJu Smith-Schuster: The NFL’s Fantasy Esports Frontman

The Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver is an investor in World Champion Fantasy and leads his gaming entertainment and lifestyle brand, Team Diverge.

From football to esports, JuJu Smith-Schuster has always let his passions lead the way. Now, he’s infusing them into a new partnership.

The Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver recently joined World Champion Fantasy (WCF) as an equity investor, spokesperson, and new product collaborator.

WCF is a technology development company that created PlayerX, a next-generation online fantasy esports platform. Smith-Schuster told Boardroom in an exclusive interview that he was eager to invest in the company after a friend, Kurt Benkert of the San Francisco 49ers, told him about it. Benkert is active in the esports industry and is an avid gamer, much like Smith-Schuster.

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This opportunity was a full-circle moment for Smith-Schuster, who has been playing video games since he was a kid.

“Someone like myself, who is a part of the fantasy world and a part of the esports world, this stuff is near and dear to my heart,” Smith-Schuster said. “We’re moving fast. I never sat back to think about it, but man, we’re going for it.”

WCF CEO Mike Vela told Boardroom that the company started as a dream in 2019. His company aims to take fantasy sports deeper into the gaming world.

“In this dream, I saw fantasy sports moving like a video game,” Vela told Boardroom. “I woke up from the dream and said, ‘why isn’t anyone playing fantasy sports like Xbox games?’ Right now, it plays like a spreadsheet. Old technology.”

Vela hopes Smith-Schuster will be to WCF what Madden is to EA Sports. The pair started talks about the partnership a few months ago. Vela then traveled to Smith-Schuster’s first game as a Chief in September, and the rest has been history.

The PlayerX Plan

Smith-Schuster thinks of PlayerX as ESPN for esports.

World Champion Fantasy CEO Mike Vela and Chiefs star Juju Smith-Schuster.

PlayerX is WCF’s premiere online fantasy esports platform that lets users build their roster of esports teams and players, watch esports events live, and digest live streaming data. The platform’s mission is to provide esports enthusiasts with a more customizable experience, which is why WCF lets users create their interactive avatars, tap into gaming highlights, select theme music, interact in chats, and more.

PlayerX is a non-gambling-focused platform that is open to all esports fans. WCF’s flagship product is looking to give fans exclusive access to esports gaming content.

“We all see mainstream sports on SportsCenter and ESPN, but we can never see the best moments from pro-athlete streamers without going back to look for it or catching it on socials,” Smith-Schuster said. “If you’re a subscriber to athletes on PlayerX, you get access to all of that. I was that kid that used to go back and watch six hours of logs to see someone win a game when I could have easily seen it if WCF existed.”

WCF and Smith-Schuster kicked off their partnership on Oct. 16 when Smith-Schuster wore custom Adidas x PlayerX cleats during pregame for the Chiefs’ matchup against the Bills.

Smith-Schuster said he likes to show his personality through his cleats during pregame, so this cleat collaboration was the perfect way to celebrate his partnership with WCF. But Smith-Schuster is invested in WCF for more than the cool gear. He said he’s in it for the long haul and is bullish on WCF’s success.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s custom Adidas x PlayerX cleats.

“With the fantasy world, people rely on me on Sundays to perform,” Smith-Schuster said. “Then you mesh that with the esports world, which has been a part of my life this whole time. I told Mike to lock me in for a long time. The sky’s the limit for us.”

Vela said PlayerX plans to develop more custom swag to give away to fans using its platform. He’s hoping young fans flock to PlayerX with these extra offerings.

As far as the future of PlayerX goes, Vela sees the platform heading to gaming consoles, including VR and AR headsets, in the next decade. He envisions users interacting with their fantasy teams in a virtual reality setting. Ultimately, Vela hopes to expand WCF’s fantasy esports solution globally.

Fans using WCF’s platform can also look forward to the company hosting its own esports tournaments as well. For now, Vela said the company is focused on adding esports titles to the platform with the goal of having at least 20 titles in the next five years.

Team Diverge

Smith-Schuster said his work with WCF goes hand-in-hand with his gaming entertainment and lifestyle company, Team Diverge. The NFL star launched his gaming brand about two years ago to bring people from all walks of life together to enjoy gaming. Team Diverge is building a community of like-minded individuals to connect, create, and build.

Smith-Schuster currently leads the company as CEO and is looking to enhance Team Diverge with his investment in WCF.

“I feel like a lot of people think of gaming as a safe place — our place where we can go and be ourselves,” Smith-Schuster said. “That’s where it started, and now we’re moving into the competitive world.”

Smith-Schuster said passion keeps him aligned and able to juggle all his on-field and off-field responsibilities. He emphasized that professional gamers are professional athletes, too, which is why he’s looking to shine a light on the industry.

As Smith-Schuter said, “It’s a passion, honestly.”

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