Quarterback Josh Johnson Explains There's More to the Game

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Oakland's Josh Johnson, NFL quarterback and Ultimate Gaming League co-creator.  (Khristopher “Squint” Sandifer)

Oakland’s Josh Johnson knows about the commitment, focus and strategy it takes to compete at a high level. He’s a professional NFL quarterback with over ten years of experience in the league. And recently, he’s taken those same qualities to the world of online gaming.

Johnson is a co-founder of the Ultimate Gaming League (UGL), an e-sports platform where gamers compete, create community, and talk trash to one another.

Beyond fun and games, Johnson says there are ample entrepreneurial opportunities in the world of digital gaming, especially when it comes to individuals branding themselves. Johnson’s aim is to make sure folks in his community are taking full advantage of the platforms that are growing more popular by the day.

Johnson, who along with professional football stars Marshawn Lynch and Marcus Peters, is a member of Fam1st Family. Johnson leverages his connections with other pro athletes and entertainers to get them involved in UGL events, and now the league is constantly holding gaming competitions.

Johnson took a break from physical training and video game playing, to chop it up with me on this episode of Rightnowish.

Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Josh Johnson. 

Pen: So, Josh, how did UGL get started?

Josh: Just me, being a gamer. I played the game a lot – everybody always got mad at me for it. And when I got older, I saw, you know, that gaming was becoming an entrepreneurial opportunity. It started with me wanting to throw a Madden tournament, and then we threw something at the Beast Mode store. From there, once COVID hit, we evolved into online facing – really tapping into the streaming world and activating that.  So, basically when this country opens back up we can be the online and in-person e-sports experience. 

Pen: The mindset that it takes to be a gamer: I imagine you have to put in your 10,000 hours to be tight at something. How does that compare to the mindset that it takes to be a professional NFL player?

Josh: I think it’s the same, bruh. Honestly, I laugh about it now because some of these games are structured to where you can’t get good at it unless you put time in. Like, literally, you won’t be good. I know as a professional athlete, you gotta become one with the process. Which all we learn in any professional field is kind of the same thing. You gotta just put the time in, get the games in, not always focus on the gratifications. 

Pen: That’s funny, it made me think about old school Bo Jackson on Tecmo Bowl.

Josh: Hell yeah. 

Pen: Where you can’t play as Bo Jackson, man that’s cheatin’! 

Josh: Man, that’s how we used to tell people! You can’t play with these teams, because they cheat. But now the game kinda structured it to where you can’t be good unless you put time in. 

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.