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If you ask Daunte “Sib” Gray about what expectations the Call of Duty community has for the Seattle Surge heading into the 2022 season, he’d say the bar is low.

“We have a teammate coming from Australia, we don’t know what we’re going to get out of him. We have a teammate who is coming off an underperforming season. We have another teammate who was dropped from his team and put on the bench.

It’s not just me, my whole team has a bunch of doubters.”

Sib is talking about Australian amateur player Amer “Pred” Zulbeari, former New York Subliners player Makenzie “Mack” Kelley and Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi, who was benched by the Minnesota RØKKR in 2021. This team of unlikely misfits has turned heads after making it all the way to the grand final of the Call of Duty League Kick Off Classic before falling to the Toronto Ultra.

Seattle Surge
Mack, Pred, Accuracy, Sib and Novus at the CDL Kick Off Classic. | Provided by Seattle Surge

Sib has had a complicated history in Call of Duty himself.

The 20-year-old rookie spent time on a number of amateur teams while establishing himself as one of the top Challengers players in the world. He made his way to Atlanta FaZe’s academy team, one of the best spots you can be in that’s not a starting spot in the Call of Duty League, before he screwed up.

Sib’s controversial path to Seattle

Sib dropped multiple anti-gay slurs after winning a scrimmage against the Chicago Huntsmen in July of 2020. He was released from the team shortly after.

“I’m not going to sugar coat it. I f***ed up,” he wrote after the incident in a Twitlonger. “I shouldn’t have said what I said and I lost everything because of it.”

Now, almost two years later, Sib finds himself among a team of misfits vying for wins in the biggest stage in Call of Duty. He was disappointed that he didn’t make it into the league when he was 18, but knows he is in a better place for it.

“It kind of hurt a little bit,” Sib said of how his friend and current teammate Mack made it into the league before him. “As time went on, I’m glad I didn’t get into the league when I turned 18. My mindset and the way I approached things changed drastically. I expect to still think the same thing in 2-3 years.”

His coach, Sam “Fenix” Spencer, said Sib has matured since leaving FaZe.

This is the year he needs to prove it to everyone else. He, and the rest of the Seattle Surge roster have a lot of work in order to turn the franchise around.

Sib Seattle Surge
Sib is looking to mature as he enters his first year in the CDL. | Provided by Call of Duty League

Seattle Surge cleaned house after failing to qualify for the final tournament of 2021, Champs. A new team, hailing from around and outside of the league, came to take the reins from current LA Thieves member Sam “Octane” Larew.

Fenix, who coached Sib and other players like Jamie “Insight” Craven in Challengers, has taken over as coach. Brandon “Novus” Hewitt, who worked as an analyst for the LA Thieves and Paris Legion, came on as general manager.

Combining raw rookie talent and veteran experience

“We had a vision to change the team in the short term and the long term,” Novus said. “[By getting to the CDL Kick Off Classic grand final], we’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Seattle took the Call of Duty world by surprise at the Call of Duty League Kick Off Classic in January by taking out London, Atlanta and New York before falling to Toronto in the grand final. The event is little more than extra practice, according to the Surge and many other players, but the victory still sent a message for a team that used to struggle at the bottom of the CDL.

“Hell no I didn’t expect that coming in,” Sib said of the hot start. Memories are short in Call of Duty, though. Seattle is still a question mark heading into the season. The Surge know they have the talent necessary to win official events, but the question remains about whether they can gel as a team through an entire season.

Mack Seattle Surge
Seattle’s first official match is against Mack’s former team, the Subliners. | Provided by Seattle Surge

“Nothing on this team is allowed to fester,” Fenix said. “We understand when we tell eachother things, it’s not personal. We know that we are trying to help each other. That’s a trait you don’t see in a lot of teams.”

Novus and Fenix put this team together with the age-old philosophy of combining hot, up-and-coming rookies with veteran talent that can help them adjust to heavier practice schedules and the higher expectations of the league.

Mack is still somewhat new to the league, so Accuracy has taken the role of leader, both in and out of the digital wartorn ruins of Berlin and Das Haus.

“Lamar can pinpoint mistakes even before our own coaches can,” Sib said of his new teammate. Accuracy, 25, has been playing Call of Duty at a high level since 2014. Sib and Fenix said they recognized how well he fit into the leadership role on the Surge.

Looking beyond the Kick Off

While Seattle’s performance at the Kick Off Classic was impressive, the Surge know the real challenge is still ahead of them. They’ll need to make sure they’re running a marathon and not a sprint if they want to fix Seattle’s two-year drought in the CDL.

The team’s success hinges on players who haven’t been tested on the biggest stages quite yet. That, Sib said, might be Seattle’s greatest challenge. But he and the others also have a lot more chemistry than the 20-year-old has had on any other roster he’s played for.

Seattle Surge
Accuracy is hoping to bounce back after a disappointing 2021 | Provided by Seattle Surge

“This is my first real team,” Sib said. “People get tired of each other eventually, it’s just a natural human emotion, but the fact that we are friends in and out of the game helps.”

Seattle has been putting in the work in the lead up to their first official Call of Duty League match on Feb. 4. The team has practiced for at least 8 hours a day, seven days a week to work on communication, which Sib said he believes is their weak spot right now. The Surge have slimmed to practicing six days a week recently to help adjust; they know the biggest things they need to work on are outside the game.

“I’m glad I’m with this team and not anyone else,” Sib said. “I play well with them. I mesh well with them. We really are the definition of what teammates should be.”

[Disclosure: Seattle Surge’s parent company, Luminosity Gaming, is a subsidiary of Enthusiast Gaming, which owns and operates Upcomer.]