Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Randy Fitzgerald plays to win.

"I don’t believe in letting up," says the professional video gamer and designer-in-training. "If anybody let up on me, I’d be crushed. … I’d be hurt. … I’d be upset. I’m just as good as anybody else, and I want to prove it."

Fitzgerald of Rochester, whose gaming name is Nomad, has done more than prove he is as good as anyone else. In online and face-to-face tournaments with cash prizes on the line, he has proved that he can dominate.

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His defeated opponents know him as an online game legend. What many don’t know is that Fitzgerald was born without the use of his arms and legs.

All his playing is done with his mouth and chin.

"I had no clue until he told me," says Matthew Kasharian, a military police officer in the Virginia National Guard. "He said, ‘You are not going to believe me,’ and I didn’t."

After his initial reaction, Kasharian says, he "got over it pretty quickly."

"In gaming, it is all about your respectful behavior and your skills," he says.

Now, Kasharian has a gaming "clan" with Fitzgerald and Andrew "Killmore" Montgomery. Their clan, called Equal Opportunity Gamers, has four teams gearing up for the Major League Gaming competition season, which is broadcast on ESPN. Right now, Fitzgerald is staying in a coaching position, though ESPN is interested in getting the well-known player in on the action.

Fitzgerald, 28, is focusing on a getting a new business — Pwned — up and running in Rochester in June. He has been treated at Mayo Clinic off and on for years.

Pwned, named after the gamers’ word for dominating an opponent, will offer pay-to-play networked computers and gaming systems. The plan is to host tournaments, where Fitzgerald hopes to promote good sportsmanship, encourage young gamers and have fun.

Fitzgerald’s father let him play a Pac Man game in the bowling alley of his Belle Plain, Iowa, hometown. He laid his son across a pinball machine, and Fitzgerald used his chin to move the joystick.

By age 4, he had won a community Pac Man competition. He hasn’t stopped playing since.

Like any pro athlete, Fitzgerald has his fans. He remembers when a woman came up to him at a tournament with her 8-year-old son. She said that he wouldn’t stop pestering her, until they came to meet Randy "Nomad" Fitzgerald.

"That really touched me," he said. "They say every man has to have his sport," he says. "This is my sport."

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Randy Fitzgerald http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=88179226