Soaring High with Eagle NationStory by Katrice Williams • Photos from Georgia Southern University
Bryan Johnston is the Media Relations Director for Athletics at Georgia Southern University (GS). Originally from Chesapeake, Virginia, Bryan officially became a GS Eagle more than four years ago after he and his wife Katy, an Orlando, Florida native, moved to Pooler. Bryan felt immensely grateful and privileged to receive the opportunity at GS. In fact, prior to relocating to the area, he worked in a similar role at Virginia Tech (VT) for over 16 years, so the sheer experience and expertise that he brought to the table was certainly valuable. Interestingly enough, Katy, too, was involved in a similar line of business at Florida State University (FSU) when the two first met—a time that VT played against FSU in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Sports is in His Blood
Though Bryan may presently bleed Eagle blue and white, sports have actually been in his blood for a long time, as he was first introduced to it all as a young boy by his dad, who was also his high school football coach.
“By having a father who was a coach, I was always around sports growing up,” he stated.
That said, it is unsurprising that Bryan has been involved in college athletics for such a long time; it has long been a true passion of his. Bryan graduated from the University of South Carolina (USC) with a degree in Sports Administration. While there, he worked on the collegiate newspaper staff and for the Sports Information Office. He also “played rugby for a couple of years.” After graduating, Bryan accepted an internship in media relations within the Virginia Tech Athletic Department, which was the precursor to a long, fulfilling career at the institution.
He long aspired to lead his own office, so when the GS opportunity was presented, both Bryan and Katy felt that it was a quite favorable one and in line with his long-term career goals.
“I wanted to run my own department and be the [primary] contact for football, so it was a good fit,” he said.
After moving down, that good, old-fashioned, warm and welcoming Southern hospitality that Bryan was shown only made the decision even more worthwhile. While Georgia was certainly a big change from Virginia, Bryan was pleased with all the professional dynamics of his career opportunity and quickly grew accustomed to everything … well, almost everything.
“It’s a nice vibe to work in each day—everything’s nice except, well, the heat and gnats,” he joked.
As the Media Relations Director, Bryan “oversees the office that handles public relations.” His overall responsibility is to “tell the story of GS Athletics.”
There is a total of 17 student sports at GS; Bryan specifically “works with the rifle team and football team.” In fact, he travels with the football team everywhere they go. Other sports are divided between the other members of his staff who cover them in their respective seasons. Along with handling such things as the social media presence or even video channels in reference to each sport, some of Bryan’s overall responsibilities may include: “setting up media interviews for athletes and coaches, pre-game and post-game assistance for television broadcasters and media, writing press releases including previews and event recaps, handling athletic awards and honors or promoting ticket sales and fan engagement.”
It's a Family with a Common Interest
Bryan wholeheartedly appreciates all the individuals in the Athletic Department that help everything come together; he is privileged to benefit from such an “experienced team.” Bryan feels that the entire office is more of a “family.” The culture and cohesiveness of the department is truly phenomenal, especially since everyone has a common interest at heart: “the welfare of the student athletes.”
“With Tom Kleinlein as our Athletic Director, we have a really good senior staff in the Athletic Department, and the coaching staff is really good to work with
It’s a camaraderie…a close-knit family in terms of coaches and staff. There’s a big emphasis on each student-athlete’s welfare. We all work together to help our 400 athletes succeed in their sport; we’re trying to build the best experiences for them to [win], get their diploma and become leaders in their communities. It’s a holistic approach to help build them and get them ready for life after sport,” Bryan remarked.
A Winning Season
Speaking of winning, under the leadership of Head Football Coach Chad Lunsford, Bryan and the rest of the Eagle Camp are looking forward to a winning season. This will be Coach Lunsford’s second full year as the GS football coach after successfully assuming the role of assistant coach for over nine years. The team has put in some serious pre-season practicing; their first game is against Louisiana State University (LSU) on August 31st.
Even more, the Eagles have nowhere to look but upward, as “team growth, conference titles and bowl games” are on their minds. Collegiate bowl games are “rewards for a great season,” as teams need a “minimum of six wins to qualify for a bowl;” the games are post-season matchups that usually follow conference championship weekend. As a part of the Sun Belt Conference, the Eagles were ecstatic and grateful last year with their “second bowl win, the Camellia Bowl,” which they played in Montgomery, Alabama against East Michigan State University.
“We won the game on a last second field goal; it was pretty exciting. Bowl games are rewards for a great season, and we’ve won two now. We’ve had a good time both times, and hopefully, we can do it again this year,” Bryan said.
One of the team’s biggest aspirations is to “win the Sun Belt Conference,” which is not out of reach for such a hard-working and talented group of athletes. The GS Athletic Department “feels good about this season” and wants to grow the entire team as much as possible, helping each athlete to capitalize on their full potential in the best ways possible.
“There are 12 regular season games; if we win our side of the Sun Belt, we will play in the conference championship in December; the bowl games are after that. We won 10 games last year. We were good; now, we’re trying to be great,” Bryan stated.
The Road Ahead
One day down the road, Bryan may entertain “getting back at the Power Five Level to be a part of a Big Five Conference: the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12), Big 12 Conference, or Big Ten Conference.” However, Bryan is happy with where he is right now, and he is very grateful for the opportunity. He is looking forward to wonderful days ahead.
“I love my job. The office has grown over the past few years. We’re in a good place at Georgia Southern. I think we still have room to grow, and I’d like to see us get even better. We have some ideas, and hopefully, we can knock it out of the park,” Bryan said.
In his spare time, Bryan loves spending time with his wife Katy, appreciating their moments together, as they often have very busy schedules; he finds that even moments simply relaxing with their “five fur babies” are undeniably priceless. Whether venturing off to new areas or visiting their relatives in Florida and Virginia, Bryan also likes traveling when
he gets the chance. Additionally, he enjoys being the kickball umpire for the Savannah Adult Recreation Club which has a league in Pooler. He, too, likes “exploring the area’s waterways via kayak.”
Bryan Johnston has been an asset to Georgia Southern University’s Athletic Department since he joined the team. He is looking forward to where the program is going, and he is anticipating very promising days ahead in Eagle Nation.