Elijah Clayton, a 22-year-old professional video game player, was saving his winnings to pay for college before his life and goals were cut short in a hail of bullets from a gunman at the “Southeast Qualifier” tournament Sunday in Jacksonville, Florida.
“He loved football, and out of all the video games he could play, he settled on and mastered ‘Madden,’” Clayton’s cousin, Brandi Pettijohn, said in a statement on Monday referencing the Madden NFL video game. “He made a good living gaming, and he saved his earnings so he could afford to go to college to continue his education.”
The Woodland Hills, California, man was known as Trueboy on the gaming circuit.
“He was one of the kindest people, most genuine guys I’ve ever met. He was super real, and that’s what I loved about him. If he was happy, you knew he was happy. He wore his emotions on his sleeve,” fellow gamer Shay Kivlen told the Associated Press.
Gamers can earn serious money. The winner of the Jacksonville tournament was set to advance to compete for a $25,000 prize, USA Today reported. Winnings at professional competitions can reach in the millions of dollars, in an industry that’s expected to earn more than $905 million in 2018.
Clayton’s ability was an extension of the football savvy developed playing for Chaminade College Preparatory in 2012 and Calabasas High School during the 2013 school year. He applied what he learned on the field to Madden football video games.
“For as long as I could remember, he’d play Madden every day and even during class when we weren’t supposed to. A lot of us had Madden on our school computers and would still play. Eli was always the best,” Brad Kaaya, a former teammate at Chaminade who now plays pro football for the Indianapolis Colts, told the Los Angeles Times.
Teachers had fond memories of Clayton and expected him to have a great future.
“He was a contributing member of our campus,” Calabasas High School Principal CJ Foss told CNN. “He was amazingly kind-hearted.”