KC Johnson: Beloit at its Best
When you tour Beloit College for the first time, your guide likely emphasized the limitless opportunities of the campus, which seems like a hypocritical statement. How could a school in the middle of nowhere, that only has a campus population of 1,200 be a place where you can truly be whatever you want to be? It must not be true. It cannot be true.
Then you meet the staff and students on campus and hear about alumni—those who came before you. Those who have trail blazed. Those who truly have put Beloit College on the map as a school that shapes great people. Why, even when you’re walking to class in negative 10 degree weather, there’s a reason why it’s worth it. K.C. Johnson‘89 is one of the reasons why. Even if you haven’t heard of him. Yet.
K.C.’s career can’t be summed up in this article. 30 years at the Chicago Tribune, where he spent 20 of them covering the Bulls. To his new job with NBC Sports where he still gets to cover the Bulls.
I was in awe hearing the names he dropped. He doesn’t do it to show off, but because it’s a reflection of his daily life: trying to capture the biggest stars in the world’s performances.
He could tell you tales for hours on end about relationships he built with players and fellow co-workers, who are amongst some of the best writers in America. The tales he can twist are beyond any person, even with a basic understanding of sports, wildest dreams.
Even though he may not admit it, his own personal story touches and captures many moments of modern history. So where his story starts is the same place as yours. Right here at Beloit College.
He always knew he wanted to play basketball at a smaller school. Some of the options he considered were Lawrence University and Macalester College. While on his tour, though, he knew that Beloit College was the one for him.
Why though, is reminiscent of most students’ first experience on campus. Most students can talk about their first time on campus and how there was this draw that they can’t explain other than as something as a feeling of home and belonging.
K.C. also had this feeling, but there was more to it than that for him. The freedom of not being labeled. He wasn’t a basketball player or anything else–he was simply just K.C. He was able to more freely expand his horizons and figure out who he was as a person. Rather than be suffocated into a box as an athlete.
K.C could have spoken more about how his legendary basketball coach Bill Knapton developed him and others not only on the court, but also off. He could have spoken more about working at the Beloit Daily News, and spending his summers covering the Beloit Brewers, and how he had actual newspaper clippings before he graduated.
But he didn’t. What stood out in the interview was K.C.’s credit to the college. The education that molded him to the man he is today.
His mind had now been opened up to a whole new world. A world revolving around writing and how your voice can shape a story. This style of writing that Beloit College helped develop.
He could have read these stories at any old college but because of the professors who personally saw to his development.
These professors who gave him the tools to handle any situation throw at him, and handle it with such grace and charisma, and adaptability that K.C had gained in his time here.
Two professors he mentioned personally who changed him were Clint McCowen and Tom McBride. How they turned his habit of reading strictly sports to a wider variety of literature, including the short stories of Ernest Hemingway.
This educational style has stuck to this day. When I asked him about improving and perfecting my craft it was Micahel Scott-esk with how simple it was.
“Read and write everyday. Don’t just read sports, read everything from short stories to literature.”
It blows my mind to think that K.C. went from living in Aldrich to covering Michael Jordan. That K.C has developed relationships with some of the biggest names in sports, and at some point in time he was eating food in Commons, just like you and me.
Whether you have a vested interest in sports or not, he is the representation of what you want out of the Beloit community. How his writing, and actions reflect his time at Beloit. How the inclusivity, the relationships, and the feel of Beloit are all encapsulated by any interaction with him.
So, what I’m saying is look at him. Look at his career. Look at his work. You heard on those tours that you can do anything you put your mind to at Beloit. K.C. is an example of that. Here at Beloit College, your dreams can become a reality.
A special shoutout to K.C. for letting me interview him, and Meg Kulikowski for editing this. Hopefully, someday, I can be as good a writer as both of them!