Ashland University signs first Fortnite player

As the wild popularity of Fortnite continues to rise, Ashland University has become the first college to offer a Fortnite scholarship. Provided by Epic Games

A handful of schools across the United States are banning Fortnite from their classrooms.

For Devin Sharp of Louisville, Kentucky, the wildly popular free-to-play battle-royale game is helping him take the next step in his education in the form of a scholarship.

"Honestly, I'm still somewhat in shock," Sharp, 22, told ESPN. "Hearing it being said in those words, it's nothing short of mind-blowing. On the other hand, it also motivates me to keep grinding, because it's proof that hard work towards your dreams really can pay off.

"I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity and I'm going to make the most out of it in every way. I've come to the conclusion that there really is no 'ceiling' or cap to how good you can get at the game, to how successful you can be as a streamer, and I'm looking forward to putting that to the test in the near future at Ashland."

Ashland University, a private school located in Ashland, Ohio, is the first to award scholarship money for playing the Epic Games breakout hit.

Most recently, Epic Games announced that it would be investing $100 million in the game's future as a competitive title. Scholarships for gaming have grown over the years with the rise in the popularity of such titles as League of Legends and Overwatch.

"The popularity [of the game] was obviously a factor," Ashland coach Joshua Buchanan told ESPN about the decision to offer Sharp the scholarship. "I think Fortnite also captures more groups of gamers than nearly any other game. It really captures the core esports fans while also capturing the casual gamer as well as the mobile gamer."

Sharp's love of Fortnite developed during a night out with friends; they spent most of the time playing Call of Duty, a game which just last week announced it was creating its own battle-royale game mode, known as Blackout, in its upcoming "Call of Duty: Black Ops 4" release. Before calling it a night, Sharp spotted one of his friends pickaxing everything in sight on a game he'd never seen before. After being told it was a free-to-play game, Sharp downloaded Fortnite, grabbed his first kill and didn't look back. He hasn't missed a day of playing Fortnite since.

"I love the game, I love improving and I love being a part of something bigger," Sharp said. "It's my dream to really get into the Fortnite competitive scene and I couldn't be more excited about what the future has in store for it, as well as myself."

Sharp's landing with Ashland, just like his love affair with Fortnite, began in the middle of the night before heading off to bed. One morning at 4, on a whim, Sharp searched "Fortnite news" on Google and was surprised to find a university in Ohio offering a Fortnite scholarship. In what he called a "long shot" in hopes of a chance to return to schooling, Sharp applied, and it all worked out for the Kentucky native. Sharp then transferred to Ashland from Eastern Kentucky after taking a year off from school.

"My parents at first, like most ... were skeptical of my passion for Fortnite and gaming in general," Sharp said. "They thought it was unhealthy, and that I could be doing something more productive. That was their opinion for a long time, but in the recent months, their opinions began to shift noticeably, and they've been nothing but supportive of me and my dream."