Humans of the U: Preston Johnson

“A master’s in sports psychology is a very unique degree, and it catches people’s eyes when they see it in my bio. But it makes sense since part of my job is analyzing athletes and their performance, so having insight into an athlete’s mental approach and state of mind gives me an advantage that not every analyst and prognosticator has.

The professors I worked with were great, and it was an awesome experience to work with not only Utah Athletics’ teams, but also Olympic athletes who trained in the state.

As a gambler, the mental skills and techniques that we would teach athletes in grad school help tremendously. One of the most difficult skill sets is managing personal headspace. When you have down weeks, you have to put it behind you, trust your process and know that long-term it will work out and that the process is sound. There will be bad variance and you have to work thought that.

I was working for a fantasy sports website, creating content, when a talent recruiter from ESPN contacted me through Twitter. At first, I thought it was spam, but they had been waiting for the federal ban on sports gambling to be lifted, and once that happened, it kicked their idea of a sports wagering show into high gear. They were headed to Vegas to meet with various radio personalities, and I ended up meeting with them the next day for a casual interview. The next week I got the call that they wanted me to fly out to Bristol, Connecticut, to meet producers and the talent who’d be working on the new show, ‘Daily Wager.’

Utah Football is going to be really good. I have them ranked No. 11. If they run the table, they’ll get a spot in the playoffs. And it’s not just the media hyping up Utah, but the betting markets—the smartest people analyzing and breaking down teams—agree.”

Preston Johnson, master’s sports psychology ‘06 and ESPN sports betting analyst

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.