Sports Science: An Interview with John Brenkus


Recently I had the opportunity to interview ESPN Sports Science Host John Brenkus.

For those of  you who are not familiar with the Sports Science segments; let me get you up to speed…

Sport Science started seven years ago as a part of FOX Sports Northwest. It ran for about two years before it was picked up by ESPN. The segments now shown on ESPN uncover sports’ biggest myths and mysteries by using cutting-edge technology to measure momentum, friction and the laws of gravity.

Brenkus is a sports enthusiast who grew up a Washington Redskins fan and felt blessed to be a fan as his team won 3 Super Bowls in the 1980′s and early 90′s; it was through that love of sports ans passion for science that led to his involvement in the Sports Science features.

[W]hen I was growing up I was always really fascinated by the difference between good and great. You know I was good in sports, but I wasn’t great and when you look at it…you know I was, on the standard of how good is somebody constantly changes depending on who they are being compared to. So even saying that I was good at sports, you know if you’re the town all-star or the best kid in your town, you know are you good at something relative to the people at the next level who are truly exceptional? I was just always fascinated with how people were able to separate themselves out. You know…the good from the great. So that love of sports I continue ‘til this day to still play sports, but science has really been my passion. Through life I have read and learned as much as I possibly can about science and being able to fuse those two together has been, I feel very blessed to be able to do that.

He is also a little crazy; as proof, I offer example A and example B.

Yeah, the world has to be entertained and educated.

With the seemingly never-ending emergence of new stars and superstars, it is almost a race against the clock to collaborate between the athletes and ESPN to get together with the Sports Science lab (they have a home lab and a mobile lab). The athletes don’t actually know what they will be doing when they arrive to work with John and his team.

[W]hat’s amazing about that is athletes don’t really know exactly what they are going to be doing when they come into the lab. We often surprise them with “Hey, would you be willing to try this?

Brenkus does not have a favorite segment per se because each segment pushes the envelope and raises the bar on the types of things they have done; of course, getting to work with people like Larry Fitzgerald, Colin Kaepernick, and Drew Brees isn’t so bad.

[T]he challenge is we always want to do more.  There are only so many hours in the day, so we have an ever-expanding machine in sports science, you know, we’re creating more content that ever. So our challenge is really that there are only so many hours in the day.

Recently Brenkus has developed a partnership with Gillette and the precision play of the week.

It’s really taping into the sentiment that precision is important in football, just like precision is important in shaving. You know Gillette is a great partner in this in that, what I am doing is really bringing to life here is a fantastic play that happened and here is an aspect of precision that you may not have known. This is how precise the quarterback’s release had to be in order to complete a pass like this or any number of examples.

You can expect to find many more segments from Major League Baseball, the NBA and especially the NFL in the coming weeks, months and years. You can check out the Sports Science segments during ESPN broadcasts and on ESPN.com

You can find a couple of segments done on members of the Bears here and here.

Below is a look at upcoming Bears opponent Calvin Johnson. It’s a little intimidating; which makes what Charles Tillman did last year against him so impressive!

BEAR DOWN!!!

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Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug8:00at Cleveland BrownsBuy Tickets

Tags: Calvin Johnson Charles Tillman Chicago Bears Drew Brees Espn Gillette John Brenkus Larry Fitzgerald