Gus Johnson's unique play-by-play style isn't complicated.
"Screaming Gus" lives vicariously through athletes.
"I dream," Johnson said. "I wish I could do what they do. Don't you? You live vicariously through these kids and their excellence. That's something I really focus on, trying to delight in the excellence of other people."
After spending the past 16 years at CBS calling NFL and NCAA Tournament games, Johnson was hired by Fox as its lead announcer for Big 12 and Pac 12 football and basketball games.
To prepare for his new gig, Johnson and his partner Charles Davis recently completed a 10-day tour of college campuses — Oregon, Washington, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Utah, Texas, Oklahoma and Tulsa.
The announcer with a cultlike following makes his debut on his new network Saturday night in Norman, when he will call the Tulsa-Oklahoma season opener.
"I'm going to love it," Johnson said. "I've already had a chance to draft off the great energy I'm seeing from college athletes. These kids are so positive. The coaches are so positive. They're going to make mistakes. But it's refreshing to see how hard these kids are trying to do well on and off the field.
"For me personally, coming to places like Oklahoma or Texas, and seeing their tradition and watching practices, college football is a whole different dimension unlike the NFL because of the school spirit and energy. That will be fun."
Johnson is best known for his NCAA Tournament calls. But his resume also includes a weekly NFL game the past 14 years. He was the Knicks' radio play-by-play voice for 15 years. One season he called Minnesota Timberwolves games.
And he has more experience calling football games than most realize. When The Sporting News printed its 75th anniversary issue, Johnson was voted one of the top 25 football announcers in America.
Similar to his idiosyncratic call of basketball games, Johnson will raise his voice and scream describing an interception or a touchdown.
"I'm a fan of sport," Johnson said. "I'm a fan of these great athletes, just watching them play. I'm excited for them when they do something great."
Critics say Johnson raises his voice for ratings and effect. Johnson simply is living in the majesty of the moment.
His style is a byproduct of imagining he's the one draining the big shot or he's the one racing down the sidelines for a momentum-changing touchdown.
Growing up in Detroit, Johnson dreamed of being Billy Sims. That explains why he was entranced watching Sims' OU highlights last week in the Switzer Center the day he visited campus.
"Sports saved my life," Johnson said. "There were a lot of trappings growing up in the inner city in my neighborhood. My mother from the time I was 6 years old put me in the Boys Club. I was playing ball from sun up until sun down. That was always a safe haven for me."
Johnson, 44, played three sports in high school — baseball, football and basketball. He played baseball at Howard University.
He's proud to have called legendary games. He's grateful when fans stop to tell him how much they love his enthusiastic style.
"I never want to calm myself down," Johnson said. "I want to keep going 100 miles per hour."
Rarely is he speechless. But Johnson was flabbergasted this summer when the Michigan High School Catholic Association put him in its Hall of Fame, presenting him with a lifetime gold pass.
"That's at the top of the list," Johnson said. "I know it's very small compared to things great athletes have accomplished. But it means so much to me."
Johnson realizes big plays, big moments and big games mean so much to coaches and athletes.
"This is a privilege, not a right," Johnson said. "It's a blessing. I'm flattered and I'm proud of the reaction I get from a lot of fans. I accept the criticism as well. That's part of it."
Johnson also will call the Sept. 24 Missouri-OU game. Maybe a Landry Jones to Ryan Broyles touchdown pass or a Roy Finch touchdown run will become part of Johnson's list of legendary calls.
"I just try to have fun calling the game," Johnson said. "I know I'm not going to be perfect. I'm going to make mistakes. But with me, you know I'm going to give you energy and passion."