Gus Johnson visits OU, excited about calling college football games

BY MIKE BALDWIN Staff Writer mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: August 27, 2011
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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.