RLCS Season 8

Interview: GarrettG on 1,000+ days of success and struggles with NRG

October 17, 2019 - 23:50
Rocketeers / Interviews / RLCS /

On October 8, Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon marked his 1,000th day as a member of NRG, capping off nearly three straight years with the organization. During that time, NRG has been a near-constant force in competitive Rocket League, with a couple of North American RLCS regional titles and 7-0 seasons, along with X Games and Beyond the Summit victories.

It has also brought crushing disappointment, including being one goal away from winning the RLCS championship in Season 5—and as GarrettG tells Rocketeers, there were unseen struggles that nearly derailed the team in Season 6.

It’s been a busy few months for NRG, as founding member Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez retired, with the team bringing over three-time RLCS champion Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver from Europe to fill the void alongside GarrettG and Justin “Jstn” Morales. With a 3-0 start to Season 8 and a dominating win against rival G2 Esports last weekend, could this be the NRG team that finally breaks through and takes the RLCS crown?

Read on for our revealing interview with GarrettG, in which he candidly discusses the highs and lows of 1,000+ days with NRG, his reaction to Fireburner’s decision to retire and coach Cloud9, and how “the three-time” Turbopolsa came to complete this roster.

Rocketeers: How does it feel to mark 1000 days with NRG and spend nearly three years with the same team?

GarrettG: Pretty good. I’d say that I feel like I’ve been here—I don’t want to say since the very beginning of the org, but seeing the org get bigger is really cool to me. Especially with H3CZ joining, that’s something that I would never have thought would ever happen. It’s just cool to see the org grow, and I don’t really like change like that, so I like being around the same people. I love everyone at the org, so I’m really happy that I’ve been here for… what, three years now?

I actually interviewed you right after you joined NRG, and said you were looking forward to learning a lot from Fireburner. Ultimately, what did you take away from having him as a teammate?

I feel like the biggest thing that I got from Fire was just my mental game. Back then, when I joined, I was 15, I tilted super hard and stuff like that. I think just being around him made me mature a little bit in-game. Obviously, I try to win as hard as I can, but I don’t super tilt like I used to. I think he made me a smarter player too, especially back then—I felt like Season 1, Season 2, I was super… I’m like these new players who come in. I was the Jstn back then of mechanics. I think he made me a way smarter player, and I feel like I just all-around improved from being around him. He’s such a good guy to be around.

What has been the highest point of your time with NRG so far?

Honestly, Season 3 was probably—for me—the highlight. Just because, before that, I felt like I never had a chance to win. Obviously, we didn’t win, but getting 3rd [at Worlds] was crazy to me. Just being in the winners’ finals and losers’ finals was really insane to me, and then we went on to win X Games after that. I’d have to say that summer of Season 3 was probably one of the highlights as a team, but that was back with Fire and Jacob.

Obviously, Season 5 was pretty good—unfortunate ending. Probably Season 3 and Season 5 so far have been in the highlights, and obviously winning Summit was great too. It’s hard to put it all on one thing, to be honest.

On the other end, what would say was the lowest or most challenging part of being with NRG so far?

I’d say probably Season 6 was the hardest. I don’t think we were a bad team because of how we played—all of the problems were just team issues. It’s like public knowledge that I almost wanted to find other opportunities because we had a lot of team issues back then. That was probably the hardest time of my career, honestly. I felt that we were a super good team in Season 6, but every time things went wrong, it was something outside of the game that caused it. Even at LAN and stuff like that, we didn’t really have good practice time or anything like that, just because we had a lot of issues as a team. That was really hard to go through for me, personally.

Honestly, I’m kind of glad I did, in a way, just because things improved so much afterwards as a team. I’ve felt really close to most of my teammates, and I still do now—Turbo replacing Fire, and then being really close to Jstn. Probably Season 6 was the hardest, just because of the team issues.

How did you end up resolving those issues? How did things get better after that?

I’d say just having a serious talk with the team. I don’t want to really go into detail, because there’s really no point, it was so long ago—but we were having serious problems with the team. Back then, that’s one of the main reasons we brought in Chrome [as coach] as well, just so we could have someone else outside of the team trying to fix it. It’s hard to stay super calm; if you’re mad at your teammate and then they tell you something you’re doing wrong, it can cause emotions to rise a little bit.

Having an outside party really helped. That was the main reason we got Chrome in the first place. I’d say that helped, and then really having serious talks with the team definitely helped as well. I think Season 6 going so poorly is what mainly fixed it.

There was a time where it seemed like you guys were maybe going to leave NRG, where it seemed like maybe you weren’t happy or satisfied with the organization. Can you talk a little bit about what was happening there and how that ultimately got fixed?

With the state that the esport was in at that time, there was very little events in the offseason, most orgs were wanting in-game items—at the time, it wasn’t a thing. It was just really unfortunate timing with some of our contracts, and things were looking not great for us. It was nothing on the org, and I’m glad that we got to stay with the org and I’m glad we’re part of NRG today.

Jstn seemed to have a huge impact on the team when he joined. You said before that it let you shift more focus to offense, and then the team really seemed to excel. Can you talk about playing alongside Jstn as a teammate and how that partnership has evolved?

Jstn’s probably the most interesting teammate that I’ve had, because he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. [laughs] He’ll even say that. Just naturally, he’s so gifted at offense and the game in general. I think people underrate his defense, because some of the saves he gets are crazy. Back then, I never really thought there would be a consistent mechanical god like that, and I swear, every tournament he just shows up with his mechanics. That gives me confidence to go for stuff and just gives me confidence to play aggressive. He’s just really consistent, even though he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But it usually works out.

What was your reaction to Fire’s decision to retire?

After [Season 7] Worlds, obviously, we were super disappointed. I remember I joined a call with him, and he was asking me what I told Chrome—my thoughts after the tournament, because we kind of parted ways right after we lost for a little while. I wasn’t 100% being serious about it, but I had told him that I didn’t know if I wanted to play anymore.

That was probably one of the worst losses for me, because we had such a good season and then somehow we became a worse team as soon as DreamHack Dallas came around. For a couple of weeks, I honestly didn’t want to play anymore. I just wanted to quit. [laughs] I don’t think I was 100% ever being serious about it, but in my mind, I really had zero motivation to keep going. I brought that up to Fire and he was like, “Oh, that’s what I thought too, but I actually want to quit.”

I had gone through that before with him, after Season 5, because Season 5 was super bad—we were one goal away. And I had to convince him to keep playing after Season 5. But I kind of understood where he was coming from, because that’s the first time I ever got the same feeling as well. Obviously, the plan was for him to become our coach, and he was going to focus on other things in his personal life. Honestly, I completely understood. I was super sad, and I still am, because someone you’re spending time with every day, that now I’ll talk to him like once a week. You feel the distance. It was a super sad thing, but I understood and he seems super happy now on Cloud9.

Is it weird to see him on the Cloud9 side now as a coach?

It was super weird at DreamHack Montreal to see him in a Cloud9 jersey. Even people around me were saying that, like, it looks so weird. Honestly, that would be like me in a different jersey, because I’ve never been on another org besides Orbit way back. Yeah, honestly, it’s still kind of weird. I’ve gotten used to it now, but yeah, it doesn’t look right quite yet to me.

How did Turbopolsa get to NRG? How did that conversation even start?

I had known Turbo was looking for a team as soon as [Season 7] regionals ended for him and [Dignitas] didn’t make LAN. And I knew they had team problems and stuff like that. Really, as soon as Fire told me, I started looking right away. Turbo was definitely the first pick, so I started joking around with him, really. I wasn’t being serious at first. I think he actually said it to me first, like, “Pick me up, LOL,” and I was like—well, what if we did?

I started talking to him about him moving to North America, and he had no hesitation. It was an instant yes, like, “I’ll move.” He won’t get homesick, he said. There was no hesitation from him. It was pretty seamless, to be honest. It was a pretty quick transition to having Turbo, even though the announcement was a bit later. We tried out a few more people, but in my mind, no one really matches up to Turbo.

Did he plug into the team pretty easily, or have you had to make adjustments around him?

I’d say Turbo’s one of the few players who can play any role, really. You won’t see him hitting flip resets and stuff like that, but I feel like you can plug him into any team and they’ll play just as good or even better. It was a really easy move, honestly—just little things here and there to beat certain teams, like we’ve been talking about over the months.

That was another benefit of getting Turbo, for me. If we had gotten another midfielder-type player, I think I would’ve had to change how I play a little bit, and it would’ve taken us time to improve. But with Turbo, it was kind of like replacing Fireburner with another Fireburner, in a way. Obviously, they’re different in little ways, but it was a pretty easy transition.

And you’re living with him now. What has that been like?

Living with Turbo is pretty weird, to be honest, because it feels like I’m at a LAN 24/7. I never see him unless I’m at an international event, so it feels like I’m just 24/7 in my hotel room at a LAN—but I have a setup. We get food almost every day, and he’s really funny. It’s been a lot of fun.

Last weekend, NRG vs G2 seemed like it was going to be one of the big showdowns of the season—and then you guys just 3-0’d them. Why do you think that ended up being such a one-sided match?

To be completely honest, I think G2 underperformed a good bit. They definitely should’ve won Game 1. I think after they scored two goals, we kind of fixed something. We stuck to the plan, because at first we were playing pretty bad. I think they definitely underperformed. I don’t know exactly why. I had a feeling they were super confident against us, because we hadn’t been them yet.

Even in our minds, we were kind of the underdog in that match. In my head, I was like, “This is going to be super close. I think we can do it, but I won’t be super surprised if we lose.” I was even talking to Turbo, like, this is the match to lose. If we’re going to lose one and still get Top 2, this is the one. We felt confident against every team against G2, a tiny bit. I just went in like, obviously wanting to win, but not too stressed out about it, and everything clicked. And Turbo popped off, so, that helped. [laughs]

What does Sizz bring into the mix as a coach?

A lot of people think it’s funny that we picked up Sizz, but at the end of the day, he’s a lot different when things are serious. Even when he played, he wasn’t a horrible player at all. I don’t think he ever beat me, but he definitely has a mind on the game. Having Sizz is more of a mental thing for us. Just having someone like Sizz in our comms keeps us relaxed. Just having someone there at events with us, especially onstage, is going to help a lot.

Obviously, he’s going to help as a coach, but I feel like it’s more of a manager-slash-mental thing for us to have him. And then he’ll comment on little things he sees here and there that we don’t catch, but he’s really good to have around especially in really stressful situations.

After a 3-0 start, how are you feeling about not only this season but this roster?

I’ve been feeling pretty good about this roster for a while. We won the first event that we went to, and even though it wasn’t with a crowd or anything like that, that was a really good feeling for me. Honestly, the 3-0 doesn’t do that much for me, because I felt regardless of how we do online, we’ll be a good LAN team. I think that’s just the Turbo effect, because he’s so comfortable at LAN. He never gets down and he’s never nervous. Having a 3-0 is just icing on the cake for me.

Lead photo courtesy of DreamHack, credit: Stephanie “Vexanie” Lindgren

RLCS World Championship and Beyond the Summit photos courtesy of Psyonix

Andrew is the Lead Editor of Rocketeers, and has been covering Rocket League esports since RLCS S1 for publications such as Red Bull Esports, The Esports Observer, Waypoint, and GINX TV. He has also written about games, gadgets, etc. for 90+ publications since 2006.