NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Jonathan Edmonson thought he would go to college with the help of a a football or basketball scholarship.

The two-sport star at Normal West was weighing his college sports recruiting options when he was asked to join the Wildcats E-Sports team in January. The team needed someone who could play NBA 2K, Edmonson’s favorite video game.

“I was just doing it for fun,” Edmonson said. “Then Coach (Rackauskas) let me know is you win, you can get scholarships. That was an eye-opener for me.”

Edmonson, who goes by the nickname Jono, won the Illinois High School Association state title in NBA 2K shortly after he joined the Normal West Esports team Last week, signed to become Heartland Community College’s first full-scholarship Esports athlete.

“There’s more money in Esports than basketball or football,” Edmonson said. “It’s becoming a real thing.”

Esports are a fast-growing sports on college campuses. Athletes and teams compete in video games like Madden (football), NBA 2K (basketball), and Mario Kart 8 (racing).

“A lot of parents the past two years said, ‘I thought Johnny was wasting his time.’ But now Johnny is getting $80,000 in money to play the video game and get the structure other athletic programs get,” said Heartland Community college Esports coach Jarrod Rackauskas. “That’s priceless.”

The 20-member Heartland Esports team begins its second year competing this fall. Edmonson hopes he can lead the Hawks to national titles and then move on and compete at a four-year school.

He’s helping people realize Esports aren’t just for kids hanging out at home anymore.

“There’s a stigma about Esports not really being a thing,” Edmonson said. “There’s definite pro opportunities for ESports players. That adds to the element that this is a real sport.”