The Story Of Huke: From Relative Obscurity To A Future GOAT
When it comes to breakout stars in competitive Call of Duty, it’s very hard not to mention 21-year-old Cuyler “Huke” Garland. Since bursting onto the competitive scene in 2015, Huke quickly became known for his often-unmatched levels of aggression that frequently turned the tide of a match in the favour of his team. Despite being known for his raw slaying ability, the career of Huke has arguably featured less championship success than it should have due to age restrictions and a period of turbulence during the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Now a member of the Los Angeles Thieves, Huke managed to overcome the adversity that stood in his way, switching from Call of Duty to another esport in order to find success. Widely regarded as Team Envy’s poster boy, Huke has experienced plenty of highs and lows throughout his storied career. As he sets about cementing his legacy as one of Call of Duty’s very best, there is every chance that Huke will be considered one of the greatest of all time once he decides to hang up the controller for good.
Here’s how Huke skyrocketed into Call of Duty stardom and how the 2020 season signified redemption for this incredible talent.
The Early Years
Huke first competed in Call of Duty all the way back in 2014 during the latter half of the Ghosts season under the Carnage Esports banner. At the end of 2014, he moved to Stunner Gaming alongside another up-and-coming talent in the form of Thomas “TJHaLy” Haly. The team instantly made an impact in online competition, placing no lower than eighth in the online 5K tournaments, much to the surprise of some of the more established names in the competitive scene. At UMG Orlando, the first LAN of the Advanced Warfare season, Huke and Stunner Gaming shocked everyone, managing to finish second after falling to a formidable OpTic Gaming roster that dominated the first half of 2015.
Having thrust himself into the limelight thanks to his lightning-fast movement, an incredible understanding of Advanced Warfare’s innovative mechanics, and ruthless levels of slaying power, Huke had a brief stint on Aware Gaming before being transferred to FaZe Clan. Another second-place finish at UMG California and the MLG Pro League Playoffs continued to see Huke thrive in the fast pace of Advanced Warfare, but despite his best efforts, he always missed out on standing on the top step of the podium.
The post-champs roster shuffle saw numerous teams make changes, including recently-crowned world champions Denial Esports, who let James “Replays” Crowder rebuild the team. Huke found himself as a member of the wolfpack alongside Austin “SlasheR” Liddicoat, Replays, and another young talent in the form of Donovan “Temp” Laroda. UMG Dallas was the first outing for this dangerous roster and scored a solid third-place finish, good but still not the top spot. A string of online tournament victories cemented Denial’s place as one of the front-runners for UMG Washington DC, but Huke once again fell at the hands of the Green Wall. The MLG World Finals would be the final event for Huke to get his chance at the top step. Denial came close to toppling the Green Wall, but OpTic once again stood tall, giving Huke yet another second-place finish to his name.
Despite the multiple runners-up placements, Huke had well and truly left his mark on the Call of Duty scene in his first full year of competition. As teams began to prepare for the release of Black Ops 3 and the start of the inaugural Call of Duty World League (CWL) age restrictions put the brakes on Huke’s Call of Duty career.
The Switch To Halo
With the CWL requiring all players to be 18 years old or above, Huke was left on the sidelines for both Black Ops 3 and World War 2 seasons, but rather than spending the time watching, he made the switch to Halo. Huke joined Denial’s Halo roster, and at the 2016 North American Regional Finals, he booked his place in the world championship with a second-place finish. Although it was yet another second place, Huke had done something that very few had managed to achieve – switch esports completely, master a new set of mechanics, and reach the top level of competition.
At the 2016 Halo World Championship, Denial and Huke managed to finish second in their respective pool, successfully qualifying for the championship bracket where the relatively inexperienced roster faced off against North American juggernauts Team Liquid. The Wolfpack managed to come out on top in a thrilling five-game series to set up a best-of-seven encounter with eventual champions CLG. The team bowed out after a 4-2 defeat in fourth but did walk away with $250,000 in prize money, Huke’s first major payday from esports.
In late 2016, Huke signed with Team Envy, having skyrocketed to stardom in the Halo scene, almost mirroring his meteoric rise from relative obscurity to a household name in Call of Duty. The boys in blue quickly asserted their authority on North American Halo, scoring a victory at ME Las Vegas before winning the third North American qualifier for the 2017 World Championship. Momentum was rolling for Envy Halo. The team had just achieved victory in the Fall Season of the 2017 HCS Pro League, but the season finals ended in a disappointing fourth-place finish. The Fall 2017 Finals would be the final time Huke would compete in Halo as shortly after the event, Huke announced he would be retiring from Halo and making the move back to Call of Duty, representing Envy once again.
Anticipation for Huke’s long-awaited return was at an all-time high, with many Call of Duty fans tuning in to see his successes in Halo and many remembering what he was capable of back on Advanced Warfare. Could the young superstar surpass the already high bar that had been set back in 2015?
A Period Of Turbulence
The release of World War 2 was a return to boots-on-the-ground after three years of advanced movement mechanics. Under the Envy banner, Huke reunited with former Denial teammates Nicholas “Classic” DiConstanzo, Temp, and 2016 world champion SlasheR. The team had a mixed bag of results before CWL Dallas, where the team placed in the top eight, much to the surprise of fans expecting the ex-Denial team to finish what they started on Advanced Warfare. CWL New Orleans was even worse for the boys in blue. A top-12 placement looked like a roster change would be on the cards, but the boys in blue rebounded in some style, finishing fourth at CWL Atlanta.
The fourth-place finish in Atlanta looked to be a small positive in what was a largely disappointing run of form for a team on the verge of beating OpTic Gaming just a few years prior. The Stage One Playoffs and another top-12 placement would be the nail in the coffin for this particular Envy team. Soon after, Huke got the opportunity to rebuild the team for the rest of the season and bought in Martin “Chino” Chino and Jacob “Decemate” Cato alongside Classic in order to reverse Envy’s fortunes in 2018.
The change did nothing to minimise the downward spiral. CWL Anaheim saw the team move from the top 12 and into the top 16 before a late surge in form managed to rescue a top-six finish at the 2018 World Championship. A lot was expected from Huke on his return to Call of Duty, and perhaps the wild expectations hindered his ability to perform on a game that was hugely different from the exo-movement of Advanced Warfare.
In a bid to avoid another disappointing season on Black Ops 4, Envy bought out the contracts of the Evil Geniuses roster that had just won the 2018 world title. Joining Huke would be Patrick “Aches” Price, Bryan “Apathy” Zhelyazkov, Justin “SiLLY” Fargo-Palmer, and Adam “Assault” Garcia as Call of Duty made the switch to 5v5 competition for the very first time. CWL Las Vegas was certainly an improvement from last season, but Envy only managed to secure a top-12 finish once again, despite a huge increase in the pace of the game suiting Huke well. The next step was qualification for the Pro League, and the boys in blue did just that, much to the relief of Envy fans desperately hoping for some kind of resurgence in form.
Another top-12 result followed in CWL Fort Worth, an event that would be the last for Apathy. Joining the team in his place would be the late Maurice “Fero” Henriquez, another aggressive young talent that was brought in to give some kind of spark to a dwindling Envy team. CWL London looked like a real return to form for Envy, scoring a fourth-place finish thanks to the deadly slaying power of Huke and Fero, proving to be a formidable force against tough opposition. Unfortunately, the fourth-place looked to be another one-off. At Anaheim 2019, Envy scored another top-16 finish. The organisation was a shadow of what had reached back-to-back world championship finals in 2016 and 2017. Drastic change was required for Envy to reach the top once again.
With Huke, now cemented as Envy’s poster boy, struggling again, he was loaned to Splyce for the remainder of the Black Ops 4 season. There were a few glimpses of brilliance from the player still looking to reach those levels that had seen him rise to the top in his early career, but a top-16 finish at the final world championship of the CWL era rounded off a torrid time for Huke.
2020 marked a new era for Call of Duty competition; the CWL was no more, and in its place was the Call of Duty League (CDL), a geo-located franchise league where only 12 franchises would compete at the top. Having returned to Envy after his tenure under Splyce, Huke was inserted into the Dallas Empire starting line-up. Alongside James “Clayster” Eubanks and Ian “Crimsix” Porter, Huke had two veterans to guide him back to the top of the Call of Duty mountain.
The early stages of the Modern Warfare season were filled with online tournaments as teams waited for the CDL to get underway. Huke and the Empire won six consecutive tournaments to assert the Empire’s dominance at the front of the field before the season got underway.
With Dallas expected to come out swinging at Launch Weekend, expectations were high on the team, but a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Huntsmen and a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Atlanta FaZe shocked many, but the team wasn’t worried. The London Home Series closely followed, and Huke found himself facing off against the Huntsmen once more. Another second-place finish prompted Crimsix to come out and tell the team that they won’t lose to their arch-rivals again.
The Los Angeles Home Series was the final offline event of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Dallas finally found their feet, securing their first championship of the season and Huke’s first since returning to Call of Duty. This was the catalyst Huke needed. The combination of raw aggression coming from a player that had now found his feet in the best team on Modern Warfare began to show why he was considered the next big thing before his unplanned switch to Halo.
After scoring another two Home Series victories, Huke and the Empire placed no lower than fourth during the regular season, and heading into the inaugural CDL Championships, they and the FaZe were the two teams to beat. They found themselves in the final, where Dallas put on a clinic, taking the finals 5-1 to be crowned champions.
Huke had finally done it. After a couple of rocky seasons and even talks of leaving Call of Duty altogether, the player had managed to reach the high expectations that were laid upon him from the outset. With a championship ring to his name, there is no question that Huke is one of the best players to grace Call of Duty.
Cementing The Legacy
For Black Ops Cold War and the return to 4v4 competition, Huke remained on the Empire, finishing second and third at the first two Majors of the season. A recent dip in form saw Dallas make a surprise change, swapping Huke for substitute Tyler “FeLo” Johnson in a bid to rekindle some kind of form ahead of the Stage 3 Major.
After a few weeks out of a team, it was announced that Huke would be joining the LA Thieves, a team that has also experienced its fair share of mixed fortunes throughout the course of the Black Ops Cold War season. Now free from the Envy banner and competing alongside some of the hottest young talents that have emerged in recent months, Huke has a chance to cement his legacy with another strong showing during the remainder of the 2021 season. Perhaps considered as the elder statesman of the Thieves, Huke’s experience gained by bouncing around the top 12 could do wonders in transforming the LA Thieves into a championship-winning team.
At the tender age of 21, Huke still has plenty of time ahead of him, and if he manages to defend his CDL title at the end of the season, it would be an incredible achievement for a player that has experienced so much in what feels like an incredibly short period of time.
Images via Dallas Morning News | MLG | LA Thieves | Beyond Entertainment | Dallas Empire