Rolling Out

Sports broadcaster Gus Johnson shares lessons learned in inspiring documentary

Howard alumnus finds a new life purpose

Gus Johnson is one of the greatest sports broadcasters ever. The veteran voice has conquered sports on the collegiate and professional level for football and basketball. His career and place in the industry were solidified, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020 he had an awakening.

Johnson, a Howard University graduate, decided to go back to school. He joined a small group of accomplished adults to complete Harvard‘s Advanced Leadership Initiative, a program designed to solve society’s most significant challenges. During his journey of learning, he found out even more about himself and his life’s mission.

Johnson discussed his upcoming documentary, “Back to School With Gus Johnson,” which is set to premiere on FOX on Feb. 18.

What was it like discovering a new purpose coming out of one of the darkest times in your life during the shutdown?

As you said, it was dark. COVID, quarantine, paranoia, depression. People dying, and you’re afraid to be around older people because you don’t want to give them something. I was very reflective during that time in my life, as we all were.

I just said to myself, if and when things get back to normal because there was one particular time when it felt like we couldn’t go or do anything. I couldn’t go hit golf balls, I could go for a jog, but I’m not a jogger. I couldn’t be around people, and I think that’s what bothered me the most. I wanted to be around people again after this period in human history … sometimes I think we all need some kind of therapy. For me, Harvard was therapy. It worked on my mind, my spirit. One thing I learned during COVID is material things don’t matter … this was an opportunity for me to get out there and be around some people who are my age. The greatest thing in the program is I built new friends at 55 years old that I’m going to have for the rest of my life.

In the documentary, you speak to a group of children in Detroit, give them gear and tell them they all are going to Harvard when they grow up. You grew up to become one of the best in your profession in a White-dominated field as a Black man. How did you accomplish that?

I’m an athlete. I love to play ball, and I’m not afraid of competition. I will compete, and I want to win. The object of the game is to win. If I’m going to play, you might as well try to win.

God is in my heart. I believe in God, I talk to Him, I get on my knees, I fall on my face and say, “Thank you. Praise to the ultimate spirit.” Because I don’t have much fear, in the end, I’m like, “Whatever.” I might not succeed, but I’m going to try. I’m always going to try hard as much as I can.

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