At 6 feet, 8 inches tall and around 320 pounds, NFL offensive lineman Brandon Parker has to be one of the largest franchisees around. He’s certainly one of the strongest and quickest franchise operators, although he is the first to admit that his reflexes are not what they used to be when it comes to playing video games.
“In the gaming world, the best players are in the 17 to 22 age range because that’s when their reflexes are at their peak,” Parker said. “I’m 27, going to turn 28 next month, and I’m a bit slower in my reaction time. Still, I love to compete and I have had always had a lot of fun with it, ever since I was a kid.”
Parker, who was a member of the Las Vegas Raiders until a foot injury knocked him off the active roster during preseason this year, joined an investment company in 2022 called ESA Holdings. The company recently signed an agreement with Valhallan Esports Training to bring four franchise locations to Las Vegas. The group is scheduled to open its first unit in Henderson, Nevada, September 19 with another to open soon after in Summerlin in the Las Vegas Valley.
The investment group is led by CEO Morris Jackson and also includes chief operating officer Ben Arave, plus chief marketing officer and Parker’s wife, Dominique. ESA initially bought the rights to open three Valhallan arenas in North Carolina, but has since acquired eight more territories in Charlotte, North Carolina, along with taking over an already open location in Cornelius, North Carolina.
ESA Holdings has more than 14 Valhallan franchise locations in the pipeline. Parker said the plan is to make one of the group’s Las Vegas locations and its video games accessible to underserved youth in the area.
“Dominque is the creative brains of our group and she’s probably doing more hands-on work than me right now,” Parker said. “I’m more of the jock and figurehead, but I do handle a lot of the gaming and logistics.”
Parker, a third-round draft pick for the Raiders in 2018 out of North Carolina AT&T, said he and his wife expressed interest in joining ESA Holdings last year during an impromptu dinner date with Morris and his wife, Judy Jackson.
“We were just spitballing ideas around during dinner one night and Morris and Judy talked about their plans to expand their esports franchises. My wife and I were like ‘We love gaming. Can we get involved too?’” Parker recalled.
“I grew up gaming as a kid, but I didn’t have a place to go like Valhallan to play at. I’ve seen the evolution of esports to where it’s gone from just a few real good players you would see on YouTube to all these leagues popping up around the country and world now,” he said. “It’s really taken off, and we want to be part of that.”
Valhallan has seven franchise locations open in the United States with another 52 territories awarded and one location open in the United Kingdom. The company, based in Houston, is also looking to expand into Canada with three territories awarded there and is expecting to open 30 locations by the end of the year with 100 territories in the pipeline.
Esports, short for electronic sports, has become nothing short of a global phenomenon. With revenue from the industry being valued at close to $2.9 billion, according to Statista, and expected to surpass $6.8 billion mark by 2030, there is a lot of room for growth for franchised companies like Valhallan, a membership-based franchise that offers hands-on coaching along with on-site and virtual leagues, camps and tournaments for players.
David Graham, the founder and owner of Valhallan, said having an NFL player on the team is a good get for the brand.
“Pro athletes like Brandon are realizing that competitive gaming is big business and that there’s a massive unmet need in youth esports in particular,” Graham said. “We’re excited that Brandon chose Valhallan because we know he and his team are going to be great owners and bring something really special to their communities.”
Parker, who still aims to recover from his foot injury and sign with an NFL team during Week 8-10 of the NFL season, feels good about his involvement with Valhallan as a fallback business plan.
“Playing football is still my dream and I’m not giving up on it just yet. I want to squeeze every little bit of juice out of this fruit before I walk away,” he said. “But I also need to be realistic about it all. I know my clock is winding down and this can’t last forever. I have a lot of life left and I want to focus on the next step in this journey of being an entrepreneur and a franchise owner.”
The total investment range of a Valhallan Esports Training location is $142,160 to $305,400, according to the company’s franchise disclosure document.