Howard University’s Call of Duty Esports team, Cold Steel, took home a first-place prize at this year’s MTN Dew Real Change Challenge esports tournament in Atlanta.

Cold Steel was awarded a hefty $80,000 share of the $500,000 prize pool.

Photo from @howardesports via Instagram

The MTN Dew Real Change Challenge was created to celebrate students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) working toward greater inclusion in the gaming community.

MTN DEW has set out to address the lack of Black gamers in esports by sponsoring a nationwide HBCU esports tournament in partnership with Cxmmunity Media, a media-tech company building digital assets with a mission to future-proof diversity gaming.

This win was big for Cold Steel, as they have come a long way according to team members.

Senior marketing major Deante Taylor recalled the limited gaming setup in their first competition. “We had no proper system setups, no proper equipment. We were even on dorm Wi-Fi,” Taylor said.

This year, thanks to a partnership with Verizon, and Cxmmunity Media, Howard was able to install an esports lab, crucial to Cold Steel’s ability to perform at the highest level.

The win came as no surprise to Christopher Peay, co-founder, and chief marketing officer of Cxmmunity Media. “Howard’s success was no surprise to me. The team bought in immediately,” he told Hilltop.

The team is certainly dedicated, as one member, Reese Samuel, who also is part of the NEC champion swim team, split his time between both sports. He flew back and forth to Atlanta to attend the tournament.

“Being on the team has been great. We have a lot of team spirit and pride in what we do. It feels good to be seen and noticed. Outside of that, I love the environment that the team creates,” Samuel said.