David Krol doesn't expect to use the $15,000 esports scholarship he won at Full Sail University — he plans to go pro.
Flagler Palm Coast sophomore David Krol was awarded a $15,000 scholarship at Full Sail University for winning its high school TechFest esports tournament on Nov. 12.
But Krol does not expect to ever use the scholarship. Unlike most 15-year-olds, he knows exactly what he wants to do when he turns 18, and college is not part of the plan.
He wants to compete and stream his game performances of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
“My goal for the next two or three years is to be a career competitor for Smash and streaming on Twitch and potentially uploading to YouTube,” he said. “In the future, by the time I’m 18, I’d like to hire an editor to post my streams.”
His said his parents have made his esports career possible.
“Without my parents, nothing would have happened. I’m definitely very, very grateful. I’ve proven to them that this is a viable option for a career. In tournaments and streaming, I’ve made over $25,000 the last couple of years.”
— DAVID KROL, FPC sophomore
“Without my parents, nothing would have happened. I’m definitely very, very grateful. They drive me to really far away tournaments. They want me to do what I love to do. I’ve proven to them that this is a viable option for a career. In tournaments and streaming, I’ve made over $25,000 the last couple of years.”
Last month, Krol received a sponsorship from AITX Artificial Intelligence Technology Solutions robotics company to subsidize his Super Smash Bros. competitions. His $500-a-month salary pays for expenses.
“It’s a start,” he said.
He met the AITX people at a “Smash” tournament in New York they were sponsoring. He ended up beating the No. 1-ranked player in New Jersey and the fourth-ranked player in New York.
Krol is well-known in Smash circles as TM7_ZAP, but he does not have a Panda Global Ranking, because he hasn’t entered enough in-person or “off-line” tournaments yet. Getting a ranking is his goal right now.
“I’ve only started to go to more off-line events recently,” he said. “I haven’t been ranked yet. I’ve beaten every person on the Central Florida rankings so far at least once."
He competed in DreamHack Atlanta on Nov. 18-20, winning six of eight tournament sets to finish 25th out of about 450 competitors, despite breaking his controller in the car on the way up.
“It was an adventure playing on borrowed controllers,” he said.
Practicing in the car on the way to tournaments is part of his routine.
“I practice movements, combos, neutrals, practice being in an advantage state, being in a disadvantaged state,” he said.
Next month, his fellow airline passengers can watch him practice his movements as he flies to Los Angeles for the Panda Cup Finale, Dec. 16-18. AITX is sending an esports team of four Smash players, including Krol, to the tournament.
AITX is paying for his flight. If he does well in major tournaments, he’ll receive contract upgrades from the company, he said.
Krol has beaten a few players ranked among the top 50 in the world. He won tournaments in Valdosta, Georgia, and St. Augustine and finished second at Fall GatorLAN in Gainesville. He’s also won online tournaments and finished third out of 800 competitors in a Coinbox tournament.
TWO OTHER LOCALS PLACE AT FULL SAIL
Krol was not the only FPC student to place at the Full Sail University Smash tournament. Fletcher Carroll and A.J. Davis, who has since transferred to Matanzas, were among four players who tied for fifth place. There were over 170 high school students competing in the tournaments.
FPC math teacher John Mastropierro, who leads FPC’s esports club, accompanied the students to the tournament. Krol, Carroll and Davis have all participated in the club.
“When I tell parents that colleges are looking for students to play video games and are giving them full rides and paying for their room and board, they don’t really believe me that it's actually happening.”
JOHN MASTROPIERRO, FPC esports team sponsor
The club meets two hours a day after school. They play Overwatch 2 and Valorant in addition to Smash. Mastropierro said there are 20 to 30 students in the club but most don’t come every day.
Three students won scholarships at the Full Sail tournament. Full college scholarships for esports players are becoming more common with more colleges establishing esports teams, Mastropierro said.
Krol said he is training the other FPC club members as much as he can. He said he recently introduced Davis and his little brother to tournaments.
Smash is the only video game Krol competes in, but his tournament career started when he was about 8 years old playing table tennis and chess. He has about 30 trophies from chess tournaments, and he met Garry Kasparov when the Russian grandmaster hosted a chess tournament in Brooklyn, New York.
Krol also plays piano and has performed in recitals. He said the hours of practice he’s put in for chess, table tennis and piano has helped prepare him for his current passion.
Krol’s family moved to Palm Coast from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, in August, 2021. They chose Florida over Colorado, he said, because there are a lot of Smash tournaments in Florida and Georgia.
“When I tell parents that colleges are looking for students to play video games and are giving them full rides and paying for their room and board, they don’t really believe me that it's actually happening,” Mastropierro said. “Right now I’m talking with a college recruiter at Keiser and another in Alabama. The opportunities are out there.”