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"I had to show out" — Madden pro Astro on playing in front of DeSean Jackson

Astro won the first Da Gulag Madden tournament supported by HOF Gaming. He spoke to Esports Illustrated about the experience.
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With the release of Madden 24, the football simulator's esports community is gearing up for a brand new season of the Madden Championship Series, the official tournament circuit for the game. However, top players are hungry for other opportunities to test their skills and get high-level practice in a competitive environment. That's where tournaments like Da Gulag, a weekly tournament series supported by HOF Gaming, come in. 

Da Gulag ran its first event with prize support from HOF last week live on SL1M GHOST's Twitch channel. After battling through a pool of 32 competitors, Madden veteran Astro emerged victorious in the first event of the ongoing series. Esports Illustrated sat down with the victor to discuss the impact of Da Gulag and HOF Gaming on the Madden community.

"It's definitely comparable to the bigger tournaments. and probably the biggest, underground tournament. I don't think there's a better tournament than the Gulag entertainment-wise."

Astro has become one of the better Madden tournament players in the scene. Winning an event is always a great accomplishment, but it becomes even sweeter when you're a huge fan of one of the tournament organizers.

HOF Gaming was founded by NFL veterans Desean Jackson and Preston Smith. The organization has signed a number of prominent figures across the esports space including Call of Duty Warzone pro zSmit who helped Jackson learn the game in an exclusive Esports Illustrated video.

As a huge fan of DeSean Jackson, Astro said it was "surreal" just to compete in one of his tournaments.

"It was surreal actually to get in there getting to talk to him. Just to literally have a casual conversation with a legend of my childhood, it's pretty insane. I had to show out. I didn't even know what to think at first, but it was super cool."

Jackson had an illustrious career during his time at CAL when he was in college, so much so that he was selected in the 2nd round by the Philadelphia Eagles. He became an electric player in the NFL, making highlight reel plays as a wide receiver and a returner on special teams.

Jackson played from 2008-2022, playing for Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles (Rams), and Baltimore. Over the 183 games he played in, Jackson had 641 catches for 11,263 yards and 58 touchdowns. 

Prepping for the Big Leagues

The MCS is the biggest tournament series for Madden. Like any professional sport, preparing for your opponent and getting reps in is the key to having success in the biggest moments. 

Da Gulag offers a tremendous opportunity for competitive players to get reps against some of the best competitive Madden players in the game.

"I think playing in Da  Gulag is probably your best bet if you want to get better and get good reps against other good players because that's where the best of the best are gonna play every Tuesday and Wednesday. You'll never have to worry like you're never gonna have like a sweet game. If you beat somebody bad, you played really well, everyone's gonna be good in that tournament. It's definitely comparable to the bigger tournaments."

To prepare for the major tournaments throughout the season, Astro says it can be hard to find games that give you quality reps outside of Da Gulag. If you want to become a better long-term player, it's vital to have tournaments like this.

"Other than playing in tournaments, you get your group of guys, and you rep with them. You play a few money games here and there. But Da Gulag is really the best way to go because even if you want to play a money game, nobody has to play you. People can respectfully decline your games. But in Da Gulag, you can't say I'm not playing this guy in this round. You're gonna get a good rep if you go and play in Da Gulag. Everyone's best bet is to sign up for Da Gulag. If you make the final, you made your money back, and if you didn't make the final, you got good reps. If your goal is to become a better long-term Madden player, then it was worth every penny."

For more information on Da Gulag, check out our guide here.