(1967 - )
Growing up in Grand Forks, North Dakota, young Mark Johnson had definite plans for his future. Well, plans, anyway.
“I was either going to be a sportscaster, a coach, or a preacher.”
As it turned out, he nailed two out of three. After graduating from high school, Johnson played college basketball until a back injury took the spring out of his jump shot, walking off the court with a communications degree in 1991.
His love of sports still perfectly healthy, Johnson quickly found gainful employment as an adjunct professor at Syracuse University and a comfortable niche for deep, euphonious pipes as “The Voice of the Syracuse Orange.” In that position he enjoyed a front row seat to the beginning of Carmelo Anthony’s career, and called the 2003 national championship game that introduced both Anthony and Johnson to a nationwide audience.
“Syracuse is a sportscaster factory,” Johnson smiles. “That game got my voice and name on the national scene.”
That very autumn Johnson got a phone call from Denver’s AM powerhouse, KOA. The “50,000-watt Blowtorch of the West” liked what it was hearing and offered Johnson the job of sports director. Johnson liked the sound of that and – just a few years ahead of Carmelo Anthony – headed west toward the clear skies of Colorado. How Johnson came to land in the Pearl of the Rockies is a story that bears repeating. While still in New York, he and his wife, Sahni, spread a map of the Denver area on their kitchen table and she pointed directly to Evergreen.
“I want to live there,” Sahni announced. Mark asked her why. “Because it has a cool name.”
“You can’t pick a place to live just because it has a cool name,” Mark objected.
“That’s where we’re going to live,” insisted Sahni.
By 2004, the couple and their three children were occupying a rental home in Superior and Mark was coming to grips with his challenging schedule as the sports director of the premier sports radio station in a sports-loving major city, and as the University of Colorado’s “Voice of the Colorado Buffaloes.” Mark was busy at work one day in 2006 when Sahni called.
“Guess where we’re moving,” she said. She’d found a home among the pines of Brook Forest, and Mark has been thankful every day since she did. Fact is, balancing the demands of a successful broadcasting career and the needs of a growing family has never been easy for Johnson, but he’s never once lost sight of the true nature of success.
“The divorce rate in this profession is off the charts because you travel so much,” Johnson says. “When we got married I promised Sahni that I will always be there for our family.”
Eager to share in the cultural life of their new home town, the Johnsons joined the Evergreen Rodeo Association. As it happens, before moving to Grand Forks, young Mark’s family lived on a small spread in tiny Hillsboro, ND, where they boarded horses.
“I fed the animals, cleaned the stalls, and exercised the horses for the boarders,” Mark says. “I fell in love with horses, riding and all things Western.”
And he instantly fell in love with the sometimes strenuous, but always rewarding manual labors occasionally asked of Evergreen Rodeo volunteers.
“As a broadcaster, what I do for a living just disappears into the ether. It’s really satisfying to do something that has tangible results.”
Then again, anyone who’s attended the Evergreen Rodeo Parade lately might argue that Johnson’s intangible talents are plenty satisfying from a spectator’s perspective. For the last four Rodeo Saturdays he’s been stationed on Main Street in front of Zuni Signs, providing easy-listening color commentary for folks who can’t find a vantage closer to the reviewing stand. For what it’s worth, many parade-goers seem to prefer the view from the north end of town.
“We’re kind of like our own little family down there,” Johnson grins. “I see the same faces every year.”
The Evergreen Rodeo and Parade marked the 50th annual in 2016. Serving his first term as the organization’s president, Johnson was responsible for wrangling a lot of the thousand-and-one details that make up a PRCA-sanctioned event and the 150+ volunteers who make it happen.
“It can be overwhelming,” he says, “but it turned out to be a fantastic three days.”
On his own time, Johnson loves hunting and fishing and camping with his family in the mountains and forests outside their front door. And, as he so long ago imagined he might, he’s become a preacher in considerable demand.
Mark isn’t a preacher with a church and a congregation and a closet full of vestments. His ministry is more that of a good-hearted man of deep faith who’s learned a few things along his road and is glad to share them with people who may be struggling along their own. He shares his hard-won insights as a frequent guest host for Daystar Television, Trinity Broadcasting and the Westwood One radio network, and he shares them for the asking with groups along the Front Range from Cheyenne to Cheyenne Mountain.
“I talk to men about being accountable, about being men of integrity and what that looks like from the perspective of their families and their communities.”
There’s another little anecdote the Johnsons like to tell. A few years ago, a friend and “good ol’ boy” from Okahoma who’d never had the pleasure drove up to Evergreen for a visit.
“He pulled into the driveway, got out of the car, and the first words out of his mouth were ‘Well, why wouldn’t you live here?’” laughs Johnson. “My wife and I quote that all the time. Look around! Why wouldn’t you live in Evergreen, Colorado?”
Source: Interview with Mark Johnson