In our latest installment of Feature Friday, we shine the spotlight on Union Catholic junior Zach Patrone.
Patrone, who lives in North Plainfield, is a one of the youngest and most successful professional gamers in the world.
Patrone, who goes by the game name "zekken," plays Valorant professionally for XSET team, one of the top ranked teams in the word.
Here is our Q and A with Patrone -
First off, congrats on all your success in the gaming world. How did you first get involved playing Valorant.
I got Valorant when it was first released in April of 2020. I had heard about the game from some of my friends who thought it'd be a fun game to play as a group. At first I only played for fun with my friends, but later realized that I liked the competitive aspect of the game the best. I've been competing in Valorant ever since.
At 16, you are considered one of the best young Valorant players in the world. What does that mean to you Zach, and how much does it blow your mind that you are now a famous professional player who is getting paid to play at such a young age?
Being 16 and being considered a top player means a lot to me and serves as motivation for me to continue to improve. It definitely feels surreal that I'm able to be a professional player and get paid just by playing video games in my room.
What do you enjoy the most about being a professional player?
My favorite part of being a professional player is getting to play with and against other players who I've looked up to since I was really young. I also really enjoy the process of slowly getting better as a team, as well as the fact that there are fans to support the team after every win or loss.
Tell me about your practice schedule? How many days a week and how many hours a week do you practice with your teammates?
Since I've joined XSET, the practice schedule has been 6 days of practice a week, with Sundays being the off day, and each practice being 5-6 hours long.
What is your role on your team?
My role on the team shifts between two roles called "entry" and "initiator" depending on who we play against. As an entry I go in first and try to create space for my team to work with. As an initiator I go in second, behind the entry, to support them in creating space for the team.
Tell me again what the current status is of the North American Last Chance Qualifier Tournament that got suspended last week. When will it resume?
The North American Last Chance Qualifier will be continuing online next week. My match with XSET will be next Friday and I'll be competing with them in Austin, Texas.
What does your team have to do to qualify for the end of the year Valorant World Championships, and when is the World Championships?
In order to qualify for the end of the year Valorant World Championships, our team has to win the North American Last Chance Qualifier. The winner of that tournament gets the last remaining spot in the World Championships, which begins on December 1st.
When does the season start and finish each year?
The season starts and finishes depending on when Riot Games, the creators of Valorant, schedules the major tournaments. For example, the Valorant World Championships in December is the last major tournament of the season. After that, will be a break period of a few months or so before they begin a new season with more tournaments.
What are some of the biggest goals you have as a Valorant player?
Some of my biggest goals I have as a Valorant player are winning a major tournament with my team and becoming the best player in the world.
What are your future plans, Zach? Is being a professional gamer something you want to continue for as long as you can? Do you have other career goals for after college and beyond?
My plans for the future are to continue playing professionally as long as I can, as well as going to college for sports psychology to hopefully continue a career in eSports after my playing career is over.
Can you list your biggest accomplishments and awards you’ve won so far as a gamer?
My biggest achievement so far is the performance me and my team had in the Champions Tour Challengers 1 Tournament, in which we beat the best team in the world at the time, Sentinels, in one of the earlier rounds and secured second place, winning $10,000.
Can you list everything you are involved in at UC (clubs, sports etc.)?
Freshman year I competed in basketball and track, worked backstage in PAC, and was in the Versus Club as well as SMAC. Now I don't do as much because of other obligations, but I plan on joining Versus Club again and possibly playing a sport in the spring.
Can you list all the awards/honors you have received at UC. What does it mean to you to have achieved so much academic success?
I've been on the Honor Roll from freshman year until now, and was chosen for the National Honor Society. It means a great deal to me to be able to have academic success because education is very important to my family and I.
What did you love the most about being a student at Union Catholic?
I love being a part of the supportive community of students and teachers the most.
Why and how did you decide that UC was the place for you to be? What was it about UC that made you want to be a student here?
I decided that UC was the place for me to be because I attended a few open houses and participated in the Freshman for a Day program. I really liked the environment of the school and the classes and it made the decision very easy to attend here.
What kind of advice would you give to younger students who are considering attending UC? Why should they come to UC and what will UC give them that they won’t be able to find at other schools?
For younger students who are considering attending UC I would definitely recommend coming in as a freshman for a day, as it gives a really good idea of what the experience is like at the school. They should come to UC for its supportive community of staff and other students that you won't find at other schools.
What are you looking forward to the most this school year?
This year, I'm really looking forward to Junior Prom and watching some basketball games when the winter season starts.
Favorite class and teacher at UC?
My favorite class is APUSH with Dr. Sagendorf
Favorite UC memory?
My favorite UC memory is the freshman and sophomore dance at the Shackamaxon Country Club. I went with a lot of my friends and had a great time.
Favorite UC Core Value and why?
My favorite UC Core Value is respect because it's something emphasized a lot in my own family.