“My wife jokes that I’m like a doctor that I’m always on call,” Bryan Johnston said. “We’re living in a 24 hour news cycle now that it doesn’t matter if it happens at 2 p.m. or 2 a.m...But, I love my job.”
As Associate Athletic Director for Public Relations and Communications at Georgia Southern, Johnston has seen it all. He worked with then redshirt-freshman quarterback Michael Vick in 2000 during his time at Virginia Tech and got to experience the BCS National Championship Game. He was in Statesboro when GS transitioned to the FBS and when the school won their very first bowl appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl in 2015.
I escorted @MichaelVick to the 2000 ESPYs in Las Vegas. A deer hit our car on the way to the airport. His tux didn’t fit when we got there. We rode in a van to the after party with Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray and I got to take a picture of Mike with @TigerWoods backstage. https://t.co/RGuKobW1Bx— Bryan Johnston (@JohnstonBryan) January 9, 2020
Visual proof. pic.twitter.com/VCPkyD5rUA— Bryan Johnston (@JohnstonBryan) January 9, 2020
After 15 years as the number two football guy at Tech, he was itching to have his own office. He wanted to be the head honcho and applied to the vacant position here at GS in spring of 2015.
“I came down for the interview and fell in love with the town and the people,” he said. “I got a call in early August and they said ‘How quickly can you get down here’ and I packed up and was pretty much down here within the week. I missed football camp, but I got here in the second week of August and we opened up in West Virginia a couple weeks later, so it was kind of a whirlwind.”
Within his time in PR, the field has dramatically changed. The rise of social media and technology has made him stay on his toes, and the department has ventured into making media content for Tik Tok, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. News, no matter how small or big, will be found by fans somehow, he said. His job is to get in front of things and allow the department to communicate things as quickly and accurately as possible.
“People are gonna want to tweet about it and get that information out. So we need to be ready and have our, you know, lines of communication ready,” he said. “Whether it be like... crisis management... or are we putting out a statement? Are we putting out our release? Is it something that can wait until the next morning and just kind of go from there?”
When you read stats and stories on GSEagles, it was written by him. When you see athletes at press conferences, it was arranged by him. Strategically worded statements in times of crisis are written by him.
Four rounds. Thousands of steps. Lots of water and sweat. A national runner up. Worth it. pic.twitter.com/FOOqJJuplK— Bryan Johnston (@JohnstonBryan) May 28, 2019
He is the right hand man to the Athletic Director and is often seen but not heard by GS Athletic fans. He’s worked over 250 straight football games as SID between VT and GS, and he has no plans to move out of his role.
Growing up, the Virginia native thought he wanted to be a sports journalist. He was a high school football player and his father was his coach. But, he soon realized that he wanted to be a part of a team, not just covering it from the outside, so he switched his major to sports administration and invested his time into the PR side of sports at the University of South Carolina.
Currently, he is in charge of media requests, writing game previews and recaps for football and rifle, organizing the annual football media guide, overseeing everyone at the athletic communications and services office, along with traveling with the football team.
Football season is getting close when we start doing these ESPN interviews for game days. Look for these profiles during the game day broadcasts! Thanks to @fields2000 for being our first subject. pic.twitter.com/0B1JiTgA3U— Bryan Johnston (@JohnstonBryan) June 27, 2018
He does many, many other things but everyday is different for him. Keeping track of 17 Division I sports is not an easy feat, but the department has slowly grown as each program climbs in the ranks of the conference. He is finishing his fifth season and wouldn’t change his job for anything else.
“I know there’s some people with bigger aspirations,” he said. “For me, I like building the relationships with the student athletes and the coaches and being able to tell their stories...You know, just kind of getting to talk to the students and hearing something about them like man, it’d be a great story.”
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, email@example.com