San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Josh Johnson has a secret, but it’s the kind of secret that he’s happy to share, and, in doing so, is creating an exciting world for video game lovers throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
Oh, the secret? He’s a gamer.
“I started loving video games as far back as I can remember, starting with Atari,” Johnson said. “I’ve been growing with it with generations. I’ve never stopped doing it. Even when people made jokes to me, I’ve always done it. It was just part of my hobbies.”
It was this love that inspired Johnson to be the co-founder of the Ultimate Gaming League (UGL), which is an e-sports media company that hosts tournaments and championships.
“I noticed just the culture behind it was more competitive…,” Johnson said. “To be able to bridge those gaps between the e-sports side and just the lifestyle component behind it. I think that is what we’re going with UGL. Then by incorporating athletes in the structure that we have playing at the highest level and build the entertainment value…I think we have the ability to incorporate all that into one environment that doesn’t take you a whole process to be a part of. Like getting drafted and all these things in real sports is a lifelong process. But in gaming, anybody can do it. To be able to also get celebrated at the highest level of competition, I think a lot of people want to experience that, but also just to be able to do what you normally do with your friends, but be able to broadcast that to the world…”
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, “The UGL Call of Duty Deathmatch presented by HyperX” will take place at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. This event will be the kickoff to UGL’s Pros vs. Joes Tournament, which features franchises owned by professional football players, including Jason Verrett, Marcus Peters, John Ross, Preston Williams and many more. The tournament can be found on UGL’s Twitch channel.
“You’ve got female gamers, you’ve got male gamers, you’ve got little kids, you’ve got people from different countries,” Johnson said. “You’ve got all these different people connecting through the gaming lifestyle and it has just evolved now. Everybody is really trying to put their stake in the ground and just to be a part of that growth and not be on the backend of it after the boom. I think that’s the part I’m enjoying the most because me and my partner, we knew from the beginning, like three years, four years ago, gaming is going to be big, to where we are seeing it now. I see a lot of people now starting to catch up with it. It’s just refreshing to know we were ahead of the curve.”
On Monday, Dec. 21, UGL and Antares Gaming will hold a draft for the launch of four new gaming franchises: Da Fam Gaming, Ochocinco Gaming, 4 Brothers Gaming and Glitxh Gaming. Da Fam Gaming is led by Johnson and Marshawn Lynch. Each team’s captains will select members that will compete in Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Madden and FIFA. Applications to be part of the league can be found here.
Closer to home, in September, UGL partnered with 49ers Cal-Hi Sports Report presented by U.S. Bank to host a 13-week Madden franchise tournament featuring players from 32 high schools across the Bay Area. Cal Hi-Sports wanted to continue content, even without high school sports this year. Co-Host Robert Braunstein and Johnson have known each other a long time and a partnership was born.
“Robert, I always was fond of him just for the platform that he was a part of in my childhood, really just providing high school highlights every Friday,” Johnson said. “…He took it to another level with Cal High. I remember when he started it. When he reached out about potentially doing something during the pandemic, because they were missing Friday night highlights, I thought it was a great opportunity to give these kids. That similar platform was something that we all loved to do and to now start bringing that to the forefront for a national TV audience, I think is unique for the high school kids. They get to show their stuff in a different manner, still have a good time.
“Then on top of that, Cal High being able to pivot and still create that space for them to come get highlighted. I’m just glad to be a part of that and just really keep that tradition going on that I felt like it helped me on the football field, being able to get my highlights out there and just being on a platform every Friday. This is really exciting to be a part of that part too.”
Johnson is doing great things in the gaming space, bringing people together to do what they love and showcase their talents. It’s a benefit not only to the players in the Bay Area, but everywhere.