He’s got game: Esports blaze college path for Zionsville Community High School senior


Zionsville Community High School senior, Austin Julian, recently accepted an esports scholarship to Boise State University in Idaho as a player for its Valorant video game team.

Julian, 18, is a nationally ranked player in Valorant, a first-person shooter game. He has the rank of Immortal 3.

“Close to the end of my junior year, esports introduced the Esport’s Tower Invitational, which was an in-person tournament event being held at the Boise State Esports Arena,” Julian said. “I had to create a video application with all of my clips and make a montage and explain why I should be there to receive an invitation. I got a call from Esports Tower and received an invitation. The entire event was really exciting, and as I stayed on campus, I was able to talk to college recruiters. After that, I started applying to colleges.”

Esports, or competitive video gaming, has rapidly grown in popularity the past few years, with millions of people tuning in to watch tournaments and matches online, according to esports experts.

“As great as Austin is as a player, he’s an even better person and student,” Chris Haskell, a technology professor at Boise State and head coach of Boise State Esports, said. “At the end of the day, we recruited him for his ability to win school and life. The game is just a bonus.”

Esports are also becoming a viable college path for elite players like Julian as colleges and universities across the nation are offering esports scholarships to recruit top players.

“We looked at several colleges, and I applied to eight in total. I did get accepted to all of them, which made the decision significantly harder,” Julian said. “So, I had to decide where my esport skills were going to flourish the most. I received academic scholarships and three esports scholarships.”

CIZ COV 0509 1
Austin Julian and his family as he officially signs to play esports at Boise State University. From left, Rod Julian, Tyler Julian, Austin Julian and Alli Julian. Photo courtesy of Alli Julian. (Photo courtesy of Allison Julian)

Julian and his family want to keep the scholarship amount private, but Julian said the event at Boise State impacted his final college decision.

For Julian, also known by his gamertag “Prestige,” the scholarship gives him the opportunity to pursue his passion while earning a college degree.

“I’m going to be focusing on IT management,” Julian said. “This is a way to continue my education while pursuing the pro level of Valorant as a player.”

Since first playing the game in 2020 after its release, Julian said he refined his skills as he competed in tournaments.

“What drew me to Valorant was the trailer for it before it came out,” Julian said. “So, I started playing, and as I continued playing, my rank kept going up and up. It got to a certain point where I was decently ranked high in the game, so I continued pursuing it, and that was when I joined Esports Tower and joined teams. The first team I was on, we ended up winning six rumbles (tournament) in a row, and that was when I got to play in a professional tournament for the first time and it introduced me to what I could be doing if I got up to the pro level.”

Beginning with brain games at age 5 on his first laptop, Julian attributes his success as an esports player, and his skill in Valorant, in particular, to his high school’s marching band at ZCS.

“The way Valorant is played, you have to be alert all the time,” he said. “That’s a hard skill to learn. Staying attentive, being aware, and being able to make these plays takes a lot of mental effort. I think I learned those skills mostly in my time in the marching band at ZCS. Every year I participated in band camp, and for two weeks as a band member, I had to learn to stay focused for a long period of time learning how to march, show music, choreography and drills.”

Julian’s parents, Alli and Rod, said their son’s non-traditional route to a college scholarship was “mind-blowing.”

“Not everyone falls into the category of traditional sports, so for Austin to have esports where he can find community and connection and learn how to be a leader, is really exciting for me as a parent,” Alli Julian said. “Getting parents the resources to help their kids do this is and to not think gaming is just a hobby, is something I think we need to teach others.”

Austin Julian’s gamertag is “Prestige.”

To watch Julian play, visit Twitch: @prestige_val and Twitter: @prestige_42 

CIZ COV 0509 1
Austin Julian playing the game Valorant at Boise State Esports Arena. (Photo courtesy of Allison Julian)

Boise State Esports

Boise State University’s official varsity esports program began in 2017, participating in competitive video game competition as an officially sanctioned varsity activity for undergraduate and graduate students.

Teams are selected from current students who have part- or full-time status at Boise State University. Varsity esports are not part of the Boise State Athletic Department nor organized or regulated by the NCAA, NAIA or other national governing bodies.