Pros vs GI Joes: Washington Redskins take on Marine Corps

Phil Briggs
November 28, 2018 - 2:23 pm

At first glance, it looks like they established a TOC (Tactical Operations Center) in a hotel banquet room.

About 100 Marines huddled around a dozen long tables, all staring intently at video screens. But this is no combat operation- it’s the Pro vs GI Joe video game tournament, at the Marine Barracks in Washington D.C. 

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As part of their "Salute to Service," The Washington Redskins partnered with EA Sports and Joint Forces Initiative for an afternoon of gaming, smack talk and a chance to hang out with some real NFL ballers.

When asked if he thought he would ever get paid to play video games, SGT Tyler Blattler laughed and said, “Seriously this is the last thing I thought I’d be doing in the Marine Corps.” 

In typical military style, his fellow Marine SGT Anthony Eversole looked over and said, “It won't last long, he'll probably get crushed.”

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Above: Redskins Casey Dunn (center) and Jeremy Sprinkle (right) play Marines in the first round of the tournament. 

While the Marines battled for Madden Football tournament supremacy (and the X Box grand prize) Redskin players like Tight End, Jeremy Sprinkle expressed how happy he was to be invited. “I love playing video games…and after all they do for us, it’s just really cool to hang out and play with these guys,” said Sprinkle.

As Sprinkle sat down to play his next opponent, he turned and asked Redskin Center, Casey Dunn about his first-round game. “I lost bad,” Dunn replied. As a couple Marines standing nearby smiled, Dunn laughed and remarked, “In fact, I got destroyed.”

But, with each game comes a chance for service members to engage with NFL players, at bases across the country and operation outposts around the world. Pitcure and autogrpahs are really not our thing,” explained Greg Zinone, Founder of Joint Forces Initiative. “Way back in 2007, I had played ball and knew a bunch of guys that went on to the NFL. And then my wife, who was in the Army went to Iraq, and said a lot of these guys are playing video games.  And I was like we used to always play video games after practice...why don’t we just connect the two.”  Thus, Pros vs GI Joes was born.

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Above: Gunnery Sergeant Matthew Cale and Greg Zinone, Pro vs GI Joe founder.

Since then, troops from around the world have had a chance to play against some of their favorite real-life players.

“What’s cool, about these guys playing against the guys they see on Sunday, is that they often walk out the door friends with them. Some of the players I know play against guys they met in the service, and now they play them online, all the time.”

Zinone looked down at his phone, and it quickly turned into a memorable moment for Gunnery SGT Matthew Cale. Zinone handed the Marine his phone, smiled and said, “Here, somebody wants to talk to you.”

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Above: Cale Facetimes with legendary Green Bay Packer, Running Back, Ahman Green.

A few minutes later Cale walked back over, handed Zinone his phone back and said, “That was cool!” The Gunnery Sergeant said. “I can’t believe it.  I was Facetiming with one of my wife’s favorite players, Ahman Green from the Green Bay Packers...She’s going to be so jealous.”

As the tournament continued, Marines got their game on and chowed down on Washington D.C.’s acclaimed Mission BBQ.

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When asked if Madden Football helps make a difference in the Maines ability to fight SGT Robert Knapp laughed and said, “It keeps us on our toes…But seriously, this was really cool. Getting to meet some of the players, have some fun, y’know, one team one fight.”

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And as for the pro team, we checked back with the Washington Redskin’s Jeremy Sprinkle who was still playing LCPL Justin Gillaspie in round two. “I’m beating him pretty bad,” said Gillaspie.

“There’s still another half,” Sprinkle said. “I’m coming back…but I wouldn’t want to play him in Call of Duty.”

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