Paul “Paulie” Santoro, a professional “Rocket League” player and a member of Seton Hall’s esports team, is prepared for an ambitious gaming tournament season.
Despite only being on the team for a month, Santoro, a freshman physics and engineering double major, said he has already fallen in love with the Seton Hall community and the esports team.
Santoro’s interest in the video game when it was first released in 2015 stemmed from his love of soccer and the game’s combination of race cars essentially playing soccer within an arena.
Now, Santoro is an award-winning professional player with RBG Esports, an American esports organization, under the username “Stokelyy.” He won a career highlight of $10,000 in the Rocket League Championship Series in 2018. Santoro said he hopes he can leave a mark as a pioneering player of the growing esports industry.
“I think to be someone that’s in it while it’s on it’s way to becoming as almost as big as real sports, I think it’s really a cool and notable thing,” Santoro said.
Antonio Riozzi, a junior political science major, and the captain of the “Rocket League” team, said he first heard of Santoro’s high leaderboard status in 2017, which was long before Santoro became the first player to reach the highest rank in the game in September 2020.
Riozzi directly messaged Santoro over Twitter in 2019 to persuade him to go to Seton Hall and join the team. Two years later, Riozzi said he could not be happier that they have become such great friends.
“He’s a bundle of energy,” Riozzi said. “He likes everybody and he’s a joy to be around. When I met him, I was like, ‘He’s gonna fit in really well here.’”
Santoro said he has a true passion for engineering, and what he seeks to figure out at Seton Hall and beyond is how he can balance an esports career with a more traditional job.
“My goal, simply put, is to take it as far as possible until I can’t,” Santoro said.
Kevin Minch, a freshman marketing major, as well as Santoro’s teammate and roommate, said he is looking forward to the Collegiate Rocket League (CRL) fall season because he believes the team they assembled this year has a good shot of winning the $150,000 prize.
“Be ready to see us on top,” Minch said. “You’ll hear a lot about us. We’re gonna rep Seton Hall the best we can, and our end goal is just to win it.”
Santoro agreed that they can win the tournament this year, mainly because of their manager Victor Gomez’s passionate leadership and professionalism.
Santoro said he hopes that a good season would earn the program a lot of positive student recognition and become a greater source of pride among the Seton Hall community.
“If we do end up having in-person events again, it would be awesome to see a lot of fans and people out there supporting us,” Santoro said.
Gomez, a Seton Hall alumnus who was one of the founders of the school’s Gaming Sector club and eventual esports team, said he believes that the combination of Riozzi, Santoro, and Minch as the starting “Rocket League” players makes a very efficient team that easily adapts to and learns from previous mistakes.
“It’s kind of like having three Tom Brady’s so to speak where they know what they did wrong and how to improve it,” Gomez said. “It’s just a matter of getting the practice in to fix it.”
Gomez also has particularly great faith in Santoro because of the youthful energy and maturity that he has shown on the team so far.
“It’s very refreshing to see someone who’s very optimistic about everything and how everything runs,” Gomez said. “More importantly, however, I think his professionalism has shown more than anything.”
As Gomez pointed out that the esports industry is expected to become a major sporting influence in the next several years, he and Santoro both said that Seton Hall’s team is fighting to earn more publicity, and Santoro’s goal is to leave a positive impression on the team.
“If I could be part of something that turns into something big or be someone that actually takes it to the next level, I think that would be pretty cool,” Santoro said.
The Rocket League team played in the CRL Qualifiers on Oct. 10 and secured a spot in the tournament. Their next match will be on Oct. 13 against Providence.
Andrew Raccuglia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.