When I sat down with Immortals' top laner Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon for a post-game interview, it started like any other. The charismatic import from Korea talked about his team's victory over the rookie upstarts from Team Envy, saying how "crazy" game two of the series was. After a number of lead changes resembling a rally in a tennis match, Huni and the Immortals were able to hang on to their half-beaten down Nexus to wipe NV off Summoner's Rift and pull off the complete reversal to finish the match 2-0.
For people who've never spoken to Huni, he's a one-of-a-kind in the world of pro gamers. Not even a pro two years ago (he was a practice partner for the Samsung organization), Huni has climbed his way to being one of the best top laners in the world, and one of most popular, as well. Whenever he enters a room -- regardless if he knows you or not -- he has a smile on his face and will greet you like he's known you for months. This is the type of personality that took him from a faceless import with no credentials to his name and made him one of the fan favorites on last year's Fnatic squad which won two domestic titles.
"First of all, my mentality has really improved," Huni told me how he's changed from his first days in Europe to now in the North American LCS. It was only a year and a half ago when Huni could barely speak any English, needing help from his teammate and close friend Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin to translate his thoughts to the rest of the team. Now, in his Immortals green and black jersey, he lounges back in the black interviewing chair, conversing and answering all questions in English.
"Also my English has improved a lot," he continued, laughing.
From a distance, Huni might seem like a carefree young adult. He likes to play the game more than he likes to review past performances or watch other teams, and his style of always being an attacker has been criticized when Immortals lost in an upset to Team SoloMid in last split's semifinals. But if you really sit down and talk to him, you'll realize that Immortals' carry top laner is more than a humorous personality.
"Last year, I was really sad about why I couldn't speak English," he told me, pulling back the curtain to reveal a more in-depth look at his mentality. "I was being really sad, and then at one point I realized I just really needed to learn English for my [general] life outside of a Korean country."
Huni explained his method of focusing on the one thing that was making him depressed in life and doing everything possible to fix it. So on a team where English was the main language, he put himself to work and taught himself how to converse with his teammates and team. If he ever found a word he couldn't pronounce or didn't know the meaning of, he would go look it up in a dictionary and remember it.
"I really needed to study English. Every day -- I was just trying to speak English, and if there was a word that was really hard that I didn't know, I'd ask someone [or use a dictionary]," he said. "I was just too sad and realized I had to speak English."
If there is one thing I'd want you to take away from this interview, it would be to understand the genius behind Huni's play. While he might not be the most serious of players or watch thousands hours of game film, he has a natural knack for learning things quickly and conquering them if he focuses and puts his mind to it.
"When I played League at first, I was bronze," he chuckled, reminiscing about his early days at the game when he played for fun and was on the lowest rung of ranked players. "I got really sad at being bronze. I was like, 'Wow, this life [really] sucks,' and I realized I had to improve. So after three months, I was diamond or Challenger."
As with his English, Huni started out indifferent to the game of League but vastly improved when he felt bad and realized he needed a change. Whatever Huni puts his mind to, he has succeeded in accomplishing. Wanting to know if there was anything else in his life that changed drastically due to putting his mind to it, he brought up even more instances of his mindset.
"There was one point where I was [overweight] and lost like forty pounds," he said. "If I'm really sad, I only focus on that -- on one thing -- and I try to master it."
Back in his days before the world of professional gaming -- when he was a student -- Huni wasn't the best or the worst. He drifted by and didn't push himself to be the very top of his class, except for one time, he recalls, where his emotions pushed him to a higher level.
"I was super sad one time about math. So [now] I'm really good at math," he explained. "There was a math exam and I [received] a 95 out of 100."
During his young career, Huni truly hasn't been forced into these situations before. In his first year with Fnatic, the team won two titles, made the semifinals of both the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championships, and even had a perfect regular season in the summer split of 2015. Immortals was the same in the first few months, as Huni enjoyed a 17-1 record entering the playoffs. When he finally did falter in the semifinals to TSM (partly due to his ignoring the top tank meta at the time), he returned to the third place match with something to prove. Saddened over not making the final, Huni adapted to the meta against Team Liquid and performed a sweep of his own in Las Vegas.
"This is such an obvious thing, but everyone needs to figure out what they want to do," said Huni, closing out the interview with some words of advice. "First of all, I need to realize what is wrong -- what the sad point of my life is, so that's why I can actually improve. So I'd like to say, just figure out what you want -- what you want to do in your life -- and just do it."