Miami Football defensive back Al Blades Jr. is more than just a football player. He’s an entertainer who has taken his talents to Twitch to connect with an audience that will be with him long-term.
Al Blades Jr. started his Twitch channel long before the NIL era, but wasn’t using his real name or social channels to promote it. When the new rules went into effect and he could use his NIL, most of his audience was shocked to learn he was a DI football player.
“I’d been streaming for a year before NIL and just building a community,” he said. “I didn’t even post anything on my main pages. I just kind of wanted to have a fresh start, just start streaming like no one knew who I was: build off personality and build off myself and build a community and build that connection.
“When July did roll around, it was a shock to some people in my community. They had no idea [I play football] and some people still have no idea because they don’t care. They come to the streams for who I am and that’s what makes it special.”
The beauty of Twitch is that his online audience isn’t tied to his audience on the field. Blades can be himself and focus on being that entertainer. But Blades believes this is a barrier for most student-athletes, and the audience on the field doesn’t translate over to supporters on Twitch. If athletes want to succeed on Twitch, they have to focus on building a community from scratch.
“To build on Twitch, it’s extremely hard,” Blades explained. “It’s one of those things that’s very time-consuming. You can be very demotivated because the audiences don’t translate at all. I have about 40,000 followers across my other platforms – not including Twitch and TikTok – and I can guarantee you 90% of those people have no idea how to watch me on Twitch. It’s really about building a true gaming community.”
Getting Started on Twitch
If you’re all-in on connecting with a community on Twitch, Blades said it’s easy to start and has big benefits.
“Twitch is very simple, honestly. It is not like YouTube where I post videos, and the more views [I get], the more money I get. Twitch is a little bit different because the money is coming directly from the people that are watching you. So, it all depends on if someone wakes up one day and decides they want to give X amount of money and that’s what they give that day. If I go on stream and don’t get any viewers, I don’t get any money that day.”
How does it work, exactly?
“Once you build a big community, you do get paid from the traffic that’s coming to your channel because they watch ads and stuff like that.” he explained. “But the money doesn’t come from ads unless you get to the point where you have a lot of viewers every day. It really comes from the people themselves, and that’s what’s so amazing about it. People are spending their hard-earned money and spending their hard-earned time to come in and watch you for hours. Not only that but send gifted subs, which is a way of subscribing to your channel. It’s truly beautiful.”
Despite the ability to easily monetize Twitch, Blades shared that it’s not his main motivation behind streaming.
“It’s not even about the money for me. It’s about building a big community.”
A Supportive Community
Blades has built an extremely supportive and generous community. His supporters give back, and give him the energy to continue to grow.
“They’re very giving,” he said. “They’re giving, they’re loving, they’re very crazy. They feed off my energy and some days when I’m not feeling the best, I feed off their energy. That’s kind of why I started…if I’m feeling down, at least I can make someone else feel better. It’s kind of like therapy, us all coming together and having a good time together.”
He’s been focused on building a community that is transformational, not just transactional. Blades has connected with his followers beyond streams, like recording a song with a producer from Croatia from his Miami home. Twitch made him one of the first streamers dual posted by the platform. And he’s even been able to go on a vacation to Cancún with one of his first supporters.
“I went on a trip to Cancún with him and we had a blast,” Blades said. “Our personalities clicked. Someone I met through the internet and the first time seeing him was to go to Cancún, I’m kind of spontaneous like that. Other people would be like, ‘Oh that’s a little bit sketch,’ but I trust my community, I love my community, and we had a blast. There’s a lot of cool things that can come from Twitch.”
The community Blades built is going to last a lifetime.
“No matter how old I get, my community is going to be there. No matter how unathletic I get, my personality is going to be there. Community is the biggest thing you can have around you.”
Being a naturally driven person – paired with the fact that his supporters are investing their time and money into him – helps keep Blades going, growing his community.
“Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a very self-driven person,” he explained. “When I start something, I finish it. When I have a goal set in mind, I want to get to it very badly. Money was never the motive. The amount of people was never the motive. My passion for video games, and my passion for entertaining people and making someone’s day is what my motive was.
“Imagine sitting and watching a TV show, but it’s not a TV show. You’re watching someone live for hours on end. Knowing that in the back of my head motivates me because people are coming every day, consistently, and giving me their time. That’s huge to me. Giving someone your time means a lot. It means you believe in someone.”
When fans from the field join Blades’ community on Twitch, they quickly turn into a fan of who he has a person. Blades hopes he can continue to grow to the point where he can give back to his community.
“I have a few Canes fans in my chat, like four or five Canes fans that are in my chat, and they’ve transitioned from being a fan of the football player me to being a fan of Al Blades Jr, the person, the man, the entertainer. It’s just cool to see that transition and that’s what keeps me motivated, just be able to be big enough like the money isn’t really the issue, but how can I give money back? How can I give things back is kind of my angle and get to a point where I don’t have to worry about myself finically and I can just start giving back.”