LAFAYETTE — Senior Chase Graves is still hiding in a makeshift video game lab inside Justice High School.
Around 8:00 to 8:30 at night. His 17-year-old on the autism spectrum has been playing Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo Switch and perfecting his skills further enough to earn a scholarship and attend college.
On this particular night, the school’s athletic director, Nels Torreson, is the last faculty member to leave.
Graves has been known to take whatever he has with him wherever he goes. A spectacle that makes his teacher laugh warmly follows him with a bundle of luggage in both his arms.
With his trademark kind smile, he leaves the store and heads home across the street.
“At summer school last summer, we went hiking one day. We were at the top of Chautauqua and looked around. He had everything with him on the hike.” has a Nintendo Switch on a hike and I was like, “You can’t leave it anywhere, can you?”
During lunchtime Wednesday at a school dedicated to serving children from diverse backgrounds who have struggled in the traditional system, Graves donned a letterman jacket and a hat featuring Mario characters, It cascaded from the crown to the bill.
In front of friends, teachers and administrators, the top-ranked player of the current electronic sports high school season has signed a letter of intent to play at Bethany College in Linsborg, Kansas.
After signing a round of applause, he looked up. A big smile emerged from behind his black-rimmed glasses.
I’m Chase Graves, a senior at Justice High School. He attended Bethany College (Ks.) for his esports. he has a scholarship
A talented artist and video game expert, Graves is on the autism spectrum. The headmaster is, as Dr. TJ Cole puts it, a “gift.”@Nels Thoreson @CHSAA @autismspeaks pic.twitter.com/tBmOgxdSMH
— Brent W. New (@BrentWNew) February 1, 2023
School Founder and Principal Dr. TJ Cole said: His autism is “a very good talent, and in a way it makes him do certain tasks better. I will be able to pay for it.”
Graves found his place in Bethany. It was when Cole headed the school’s annual college road trip for freshmen.
Cole says he estimates there are about 25 colleges driving through Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska before school starts in the fall.
He reminds students during a tour of each college to focus on which school “feels like home.” Because they were clearly listening.
“I was excited to hear that they had their own esports room or something. “Some of the esports players who were there told me about their community and they said I could reach out to an esports coach.”
Bethany College wasn’t the only school that offered Graves.
Like other sports, esports college coaches look for attributes that support their teams. Skill and sense of the game, cooperativeness, being a good teammate, knowing how to adapt to multiplayer situations — other colleges such as York University (Nebraska) and Jamestown (North Dakota) He held Graves in high regard and offered him a scholarship.
Talking about his rise in the sport, Graves is quick to acknowledge his growth to others since joining esports just three years ago.
In the process, he says, he tried to pick up what he could from his friends and opponents.
He started by playing Fortnite, a game won by the last team or player standing. He says he will go hours with a neighborhood friend named Lou before Lou moves out.
Now he and 2nd grader Kasei Frazier can be found playing around the school, sometimes from 8-9pm.
“I’ll just go with the flow and see where it takes me,” says Graves.
Graves is currently ranked in the top 80 of more than 1,000 players in the state via PlayVS.com, the hub of national high school esports leagues.
On top of that, he and his three other teammates will connect and face off against other programs across Colorado. This season I’m playing Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. His 6-2 Phoenix record for the year coming Wednesday ranks him 24th out of 140 programs listed.
“He’s very versatile when it comes to playing different games,” says Ashley Kor, Phoenix esports coach and school mental health and outreach counselor. “He can jump into the game and even if he doesn’t know it, he’ll figure it out as soon as he starts playing a little bit. If necessary, he’ll learn on the fly.”
And it’s just Graves, his teacher says. Autism presents problems in the traditional social sense, but he has talents not often found elsewhere.
Instead of writing about it, Torreson, who is also his English teacher, asks him to draw a summary or scene from a book or short story. It fits his learning style better and still helps him show his understanding, he says.
And his art is as impressive as his gaming skills. Torreson tells Graves that he intends to work for Pixar one day.
“A lot of the kids here usually have problems and things to overcome. Education, probation, family issues, things like that are important here,” Thoreson said. says. “We’re trying to find ways to help them overcome it. In the case of Chase, he’s on the spectrum and we’ll do everything we can to accommodate that.”
Graves becomes the second Justice High School student to win a scholarship to play esports at college.
The first was Gabe Salee in 2019. According to Cole, Saleee is also the first person in Colorado to receive an esports college scholarship.