As a young boy growing up south of Albuquerque in Las Lunas, New Mexico, Isaiah Marquez picked up a playstation controller and unknowingly began to partake in what would become one of his main passions.
Now entering his sophomore year and majoring in criminal justice, 19-year-old Marquez is the captain of New Mexico State University’s Call of Duty esports team.
NMSU’s esports team was founded in 2015 and is continuing in full swing this year despite setbacks regarding the team’s designated area and the pandemic. Last year alone, the program saw an increase of about 500 Discord members.
Known by his gamertag, “OhZaee,” Marquez has been competing in various Call of Duty leagues before he started on the college team.
“I’ve been playing Call of Duty my whole life, so it’s just another day in the office,” Marquez said, when asked about his experience and how he approaches any match.
Call of Duty was introduced to him by his family, as they also play the game continuously. He said being surrounded by gaming from a young age helped him adapt quickly to the intense Call of Duty atmosphere.
“I play many different games, but nothing catches my attention like Call of Duty,” Marquez said.
The Call of Duty team coach, Alejandro “Zinthos” Baca, said after knowing Marquez for more than a year, his game skills were a surprise to many.
“When he first joined the program, I didn’t really believe in his skillset because I’ve been involved with the game for a long time as a player and he surprised me — he continues to do so,” Baca said.
Baca emphasized that the role Marquez plays is that of a leader and definitely the strongest part of the team.
“When he first joined the program, I didn’t really believe in his skillset because I’ve been involved with the game for a long time as a player and he surprised me.”
The program’s current director, Ryan “pack” May, said Marquez brought a fresh look for NMSU when he joined the team his freshman year. He said Marquez contributed to getting Call of Duty “off the ground” in terms of where the game stood at the time.
“It was very refreshing and much needed for us because that was like what allowed us to gain momentum and move forward and you know, since then, our momentum hasn’t stopped,” May said.
Marquez said one of his goals for this year is to help lead the team to a top-12 spot in the College Call of Duty League.
CCL is a competition provided for college students from all over the U.S. and Canada. Students compete for scholarships and their gameplays are broadcasted, granting them exposure from a diverse audience of commentators and fans.
“Last year was our first year competing and we finished top-32 out of 180 teams, which is pretty good,” Marquez said. “I think we surprised a lot of people and this year people shouldn’t count us out as much because we have a much better team.”
Baca said Marquez’s passion and goals for the team are evident to him as he continues to surprise commentators and others who work for the College Call of Duty League, calling him “NMSU’s esports poster child.”
“He’s passionate about the program and he wants to see it succeed personally, and through that, he has excellent gameplay … I try to do the best I can to help him along with his other teammates to make sure that they’re successful and maybe get opportunities that they wouldn’t get otherwise,” Baca said.
May also said Marquez continues to show his reliability and solidarity as a player. “Last year and this year, he’s just always been really reliable as a team player and a very strong captain. They all look up to him,” May said.
Marquez said Call of Duty has impacted his life in a major way. By competing for scholarship opportunities and contributing to his social life, the esports team has left its impression on him forever.
“My favorite part I think so far has been just everybody I’ve met … Believe it or not, it’s crazy to say, but Alex, Victor, Anakin, all these homies here, we’ve become really close and it’s cool to see that,” Marquez said. “Without COD, I don’t know if I would’ve met them.”