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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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."