Many players have attempted the transition from professional Counter-Strike to Valorant, but few if any have done so with as much success as Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker.
Once known as a promising talent who struggled to break through to the very top of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive landscape, yay has completely reframed the narrative around his pro career with a jump to Valorant that has been nothing short of successful. But he now finds himself at a seeming crossroads, with fans guessing at what’s next for the star player.
yay’s journey to being one of Valorant’s best pro players
While he’d found some successes in CSGO, there wasn’t much evidence to suggest that yay could become one of Valorant’s best pro players so quickly after making the switch from Valve’s storied first-person shooter to Riot Games’ new tactical shooter. But that’s exactly what he did.
yay began his competitive journey as a Valorant pro with Andbox. Showing more of the potential that he previously had displayed in CSGO, yay was able to leverage his individual play into a spot with Team Envy, an early contender among the best teams in the North American region.
It soon became clear that Envy was one of the best teams in the world, not just in North America. This was borne out during one of the game’s first major international events, the Stage 3 Masters tournament in Berlin in the 2021 Valorant Champions Tour. Envy rampaged through the group stage and most of the playoff bracket, eventually falling to Gambit Esports in the final and finishing as runner-up.
The Team Envy roster was later transferred over to OpTic Gaming, another storied esports organization with roots in the Call of Duty franchise. It was here that yay would truly thrive.
yay becomes the Esports Athlete of the Year in 2022
yay’s accomplishments in 2022 with OpTic Gaming were so great that they would earn him new individual accolades, most notably including his winning the Esports Athlete of the Year award at the 2022 Game Awards. But how was it that he managed such a feat?
At two Stage Masters events in 2022, and in the Valorant Champions event at the end of the competitive year, yay powered his squad at OpTic Gaming to immense success. With its star player leading the charge, OpTic Gaming managed to take second place at Valorant Champions 2022 and third place at Masters Copenhagen. Even more impressively, OpTic Gaming was the championship-winning team at Masters Reykjavik in Iceland.
It was a huge success for both yay and for OpTic, the type of win that defines a career. And it was that success that propelled the growing star player to an Esports Athlete of the Year award.
What happened to yay after OpTic Gaming?
yay’s success after leaving OpTic Gaming has been more mixed. He has continued to present himself as a strong player, but hasn’t been able to find the great team success that he saw while a member of OpTic’s roster.
yay left OpTic Gaming for Cloud9 at the end of 2022. This was one of the biggest roster moves in the young history of Valorant esports, and it sent shockwaves through the scene. Fans were buzzing at what this would mean for Cloud9.
Unfortunately for fans of Cloud9 specifically, it didn’t ultimately mean much. The team wasn’t able to progress as expected, and yay was released after less than half a year.
Why did yay leave C9?
So why exactly did a great player like yay leave C9 so quickly? The Cloud9 organization attributed the surprise move as one that came down to issues between team members and the roles they would play within the team. Valorant does tend to have stricter roles than most other tactical shooters, with some players sticking to more supportive agents while others rely on aggressive agents.
If players on a pro team aren’t able to agree on which role each player should fit into, that can be a major issue, and it seems as though it was at issue for C9 in particular.
Since leaving C9, yay has continued playing Valorant, but still hasn’t found the success he once had at OpTic Gaming. He briefly played with Disguised, the esports team run by popular streamer Jeremy “Disguised Toast” Wang, but that run came to an early end as well.
yay has discussed his opportunities for future play on stream, saying that he may intend to return to professional play as late as in the spring of 2023. That may seem like a long time to fans, but it’s hard to know if that speaks to yay’s personal preference or if top organizations just aren’t sure that yay remains one of the best players in Valorant.