Alumnus Wins Madden World Title

2015 Ozarks graduate Michael Skimbo never played video games in high school. Today he is a world champion gamer. The Claremore, Oklahoma, resident won the EA Sports Madden 17 Championship final in Los Angeles on May 14, outlasting the field of 32 to take home the $155,000 first prize and earn the title of world champion. It’s been a whirlwind last few days for Skimbo, who has conducted a half dozen national interviews and can no longer go to his local Subway and fitness gym without being recognized. “It’s an awesome feeling to know that all the time and effort I’ve put into this has paid off,” he said. “It’s a little bit surreal.” Unlike many of his fellow competitors, Skimbo’s career in Madden didn’t begin early in life. Instead he was focused on improving his abilities on the field, participating in a handful of sports throughout high school. He attended Ozarks to play baseball as a left-handed pitcher, but an injury to his arm during the first day of practice changed his plans. He went on to play tennis for the Eagles. He also found his competitive nature being drawn into nightly Madden games in the residence hall against classmates such as Andres Acosta, Cooper White, Greg Knaggs and others. “In high school I was anti-video games because I wanted to be playing sports. When I got to college and started playing Madden, I would hate to lose against my buddies, but it would happen a lot. My competitive nature would kick in and I would ask to play the game over and over. Eventually I would sneak into their room when they were asleep and I would play Madden literally all night, just so I could beat them.” The practice paid off and over the last few years Skimbo, touting a high-powered passing attack, has been considered one of the top players in the world in a game than an estimated 2.5 million people play world-wide. However, he had never won a major tournament until this year despite getting tantalizingly close, including several runner-up finishes. He even blew a 10-point lead with two minutes to go in the semifinals of the Madden Super Bowl last year. “I was being called the Dan Marino of Madden because I had been so close but was never able to win it all,” Skimbo said in reference to the long-time Miami Dolphins quarterback who never won a Super Bowl. “I didn’t handle the big stage very well at first because of nerves. I came into this year’s Madden 17 championship as the No. 1 seed, so there was a lot of pressure. I learned how to block the pressure and just play my game. It was such a great feeling to finally win the big one.” A business administration major at Ozarks, Skimbo is certified to teach mathematics and coach. When he found out that EA Sports was putting $1 million into cash prizes in its four major tournaments this year, he decided to take a year off from teaching to see how far his gaming career could go. “I was going to give it a year and see what happened,” said Skimbo, who said he plays Madden 10 to 12 hours a day while preparing for a tournament. “I wanted to just give it all I had and see where it took me. I don’t know that I really expected to win the world championship.” As he waits for Madden 18 to be released in September, Skimbo is eager to prove he’s not a one-year wonder. “My goal now is to defend the title,” he said. “I think I’ve shown that anyone can achieve anything they want as long as they put in the time.”


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