One of the best unknown facts for this team is that the Atlanta Falcons have a talented gamer in quarterback Kurt Benkert. I’m not referencing his on-field play—though the Falcons certainly hope that’s true heading into 2020—but what he does on his time off.
Signed by the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, he spent a season on the team’s practice squad after most recently suffering a toe injury during the 2019 preseason. During his recovery, he’s live streamed some popular video games on Twitch.
On January 28, it was announced that Benkert won Best Fornite Player in the NFLPA Open.
“It was great to come in first, I would have been more hurt to come in second than happy about winning to be honest,” Benkert said. “It was just a cool outlet to express my competitiveness.”
On the side, Kurt Benkert has a Twitch channel where he live streams while playing games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. On there, fans can tune in to watch Benkert game while also chatting with him about whatever is on their minds. I’ve personally watched him game, and it’s very entertaining – even if you aren’t a gamer yourself.
“I really pride myself on talking to the people that watch and interacting in general,” Benkert said. “I started streaming to be able to bridge the gap between football and video games and to show that us athletes have passions off the field as well. It makes us more relatable and I think you’ll find that by watching me.”
A few days prior to Super Bowl LIV, the Fortnite Streamer Bowl charity event took place in Miami. This tournament features 16 popular streamers paired up with 16 of football’s biggest stars, such as Pittsburgh Steelers wide reciever JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, and hands out $500,000 in total prize money which goes towards participants’ charities of choice. Representing the Falcons in the popular gaming tournament was Kurt Benkert, who was partnered with Aydan, one of the top Fortnite players in the world.
The Fortnite tournament consisted of four game matches which rewarded points for their finishes, which would go towards a final score at the end. Benkert & Aydan finished 4th, 4th, 2nd, and 5th in the games. Very respectable, considering there are 16 total teams in each game, and yet they both finished better than 5th in every game. In the final standings, Benkert & Aydan finished in 3rd place with a score of 40 points which was good enough for $60,000 for their respective charities.
“The coolest part was playing with someone who is one of the best in his industry,” Benkert said. “He has made a lot of money from managing high stakes and high stress situations, which is similar to football, just in a different outlet. So, having him kinda coach me through what’s the best way to get the job done was awesome.”
During the 2019 offseason and into the preseason, Benkert was looking very impressive, with many (including myself) hoping he would secure the backup quarterback job behind Matt Ryan. Unfortunately, Benkert sustained a toe injury which landed him on injured reserve.
“I feel super healthy,” Benkert said. “It was a long tough process, but I was able to get through it and be better for it, so that’s all I could really ask for. And as for the season, I want to be the #2, but more importantly I want to help the team win games whether that is behind the scenes or on the field. That will make me a better player in the long run.”
There’s a very real chance that Benkert’s 2020 goal of backing up starting quarterback Matt Ryan will come true. His competition will be an aging Matt Schaub who is a possible cut with roughly $2 million is savings and Danny Etling who has seen very-limited action. With Benkert officially healthy, look for him to continue to grow behind Ryan, and hopefully back him up for the foreseeable future.
“I think you’ll enjoy hanging out with the community we have and hopefully get some good laughs out of it too,” he said of his Twitch channel.