The Philadelphia Eagles currently have the best record in the NFL, with 10 wins and only a single loss. And while you might expect this great record is the result of hard work, lots of practice, talented players, and some luck, you might be surprised to discover that Grand Theft Auto and online roleplaying are also a potential part of the team’s successful season.
Grand Theft Auto V is a very, very popular open-world video game that has been released on nearly as many consoles as Skyrim at this point. It also has a large online mode that is still—nearly a decade after its 2013 release—one of the most played games in the world. But, for many players, GTA Online isn’t the multiplayer experience they crave. Instead, players have flocked to modified versions of GTA V to play online in roleplay servers. These mods and fan-run servers allow people to roleplay together as cops, EMTs, firefighters, criminals, taxi drivers, and more. And it’s this specific type of online GTA experience—which Rockstar Games doesn’t regulate or control as tightly—that many Philadelphia Eagles team members are playing when off the field.
As reported by The New York Times, many Eagles players get excited to hop online and play with other team members after spending hours watching past games, studying, practicing, and weightlifting. For many, this offers them the chance to stop being NFL players and to be someone totally different. It also helps players in different positions, who don’t normally spend much time together, bond more, developing closer friendships that Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson says is the team’s “secret sauce.” He also runs one of the team’s own GTA roleplay servers from his basement, where he has a gaming PC setup that cost him $10,000.
Other players told the Times that after playing GTA together online, they are all more connected and happier for each other, leading to players wanting to do more for each other on the field. For many Eagles, playing Grand Theft Auto with fellow teammates fits perfectly into their schedule, too.
“A lot of people, especially me, are just at home doing nothing,” Eagles running back Miles Sanders said. “Since I’ve got my PC, I’ve been on the game more and calling people more.” Other Eagles teammates who play GTA with each other include defensive players Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, linebacker Stewart Bradley, and running back Miles Sanders. In fact, according to The New York Times story, Sander’s GTA character was stuck in prison on Gardner-Johnson’s server earlier in the season. Some players, like running back Kenneth Gainwell even stream themselves playing GTA on Twitch for hours at a time.
Not only has roleplaying together in modded GTA servers helped players connect more, but it also offers them more things to talk about off the field beyond football. And for players like Gardner-Johnson, it’s all they want to do after working hard all day.
“I just want to play football, come home, and play video games,” said Gardner Johnson.