Episode 037 Part One: Brent Johnson -- football legend (and all-round great guy)


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What we cover: “You cannot synthetically produce passion.” – Brent Johnson

Every once in a while, you have a conversation with someone who is legitimately hilarious. Legitimately insightful. And legitimately fascinating. And you want to bottle it and crack the formula and then multiply it and sell the patent. But since you can’t, instead you pop it onto the cyberwaves and you call it a podcast episode.

Brent Johnson.

There aren’t a lot of names in Vancouver that are more, or even as, synonymous with greatness, with leadership, and with humility than his.

So of course it was my dream to get him to sit down and chat with me. And, because he’s as generous as they get, when I reached out to him, he responded in under two minutes with an all-caps ABSOLUTELY. Brent, just so you know: I am framing that email.

Brent is about as respected an athlete as they come. The Vancouver Sun once said of Brent: “He is humble, polite and straight-shooting by nature. He was not a football player whose validation and self-worth were tied up in his job, or whose ego contained lopsided control over who he is.”

As an 11-year key member of the CFL team The BC Lions, Brent has lots of shiny hardware to his name. He has two Grey Cup wins. He was presented with The CFL’s Most Outstanding Canadian Award. He’s been named a CFL All-Star more than once. He was the recipient of the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award. And, most recently, he was inducted into the BC Lions Ring of Honour, the highest honour they can give a player.

But despite all of this, this is not a conversation about football. At least, not in the traditional sense. Of course it comes up – it’s the thread. But more than anything, this is a conversation about life. About vulnerability. About commitment. About what Brent identifies as “giving yourself over to something entirely.” It’s a conversation that is ripe with insights.

He talks openly about what he sees as being his role as a dad when it comes to guiding the opportunities for his own young son. He talks openly about the loss of his mother, in a tragic car accident, when he was just 12-years-old, and how that event, in many ways, impacted him. He talks openly about the “if onlys” – those events in all of our lives that make us pause and take stock. And more than all of this, it’s a conversation about what it means to be passionate – what does that look like, and how do we tap into it. Because, as he says, passion cannot be “synthetically” produced. It needs to boil and bubble and generate from deep within.

This conversation is fast-paced and super-charged – because that’s what Brent brings to the table. He’s warm and witty and charming and, to be honest, when we eventually wrapped up three hours – yes, really – three hours after he arrived, I swear I was vibrating at a higher frequency for a few days after.

I’m releasing this episode as part one in a To Be Continued series. And because, at the time, I didn’t know this is what I would be doing, I had to strategically edit this episode at a place where I could subtly, or not-so-subtly fade out, that would leave you wanting more – by just gradually sort of easing out at about the one hour mark. Just as he’s getting ready to embark on an intense 5-year stint playing football with Ohio State, where he played in front of crowds of, get this, 110,000 fans. (There are cities with smaller populations than the number of people who would come to cheer at Brent’s games.) So, that’s where we conclude this week.

Next time: we’ll continue with his days at Ohio State, his experience with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, and his eventual journey to the CFL. Of course we also continue the drill down into greatness and what that means to him. And, just so happens, he’s got a lot of unforgettable thought-provoking perspectives on the matter.


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