Unpackin’ It: ESPN’s Darren Haynes discussing the influence of his faith

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Bryce Johnson is the host of the nationally syndicated faith-based sports radio show, UNPACKIN’ it, where he interviews intriguing people from the sports and entertainment world about sports, faith and life. This is an interview he did with ESPN’s Darren Haynes. You can listen to the full interview and find out more at UNPACKINIT.COM

BRYCE JOHNSON: Our guest, Darren Haynes, is an award-winning sports anchor currently working for ESPN. He was a running back at the University of New Haven where he broke the single-game rushing record. Now you can see him on SportsCenter delivering highlights. Welcome Darren! You’ve been at ESPN for two years. Take us back to that first day at ESPN. What was it like? What do you remember?

Darren Haynes: Getting to ESPN was always my earthly dream…that’s the best way to put it…and I put a lot of hard work into actually seeing it. A lot of people don’t get a chance to achieve their dream, and I’m actually now living it…and walking into that building. Still to this day, it’s actually surreal that I work for ESPN and I anchor SportsCenter. My dad told me my life was going to change…and it has.

BRYCE JOHNSON: How has your life changed since working at ESPN?

Darren Haynes: I think the biggest change is that I never knew how many people would love to be in the position that I’m in. I went from being a guy who was trying to get to ESPN to now being sort of a role model that people look up to.

BRYCE JOHNSON: Take us into your faith journey, and the importance of now honoring God with this platform that you have…and the role of being able to live out your dream. How do those two things intertwine for you?

Darren Haynes: This is the first time that I’ve had an interview where I’ve talked about my job, and also my faith. God didn’t bless me to be a good preacher, but He knows that I love music and that I gave up secular music. When I spread the Word, I feel my purpose is to get people to listen to good gospel artists. I got in contact with the gospel artist, Christon Gray, and then I went to ESPN and told the guy who was in charge of the music to listen to his songs. They have now licensed three of Christon Gray’s songs that they’re going to play on ESPN, so that’s the way I feel I’m working for God. Those are gospel songs that are going to be on ESPN! When have you ever heard gospel songs on ESPN? That’s a huge platform for people to listen to some good music instead of the other kind of stuff that’s out there.

BRYCE JOHNSON: I want to share this with you and our listeners…I was watching ESPN one day and you came across the TV screen and I saw that you were a new guy I hadn’t heard of before. I was listening to you, and your demeanor and the way you were coming across, I knew that I liked you. I thought you were doing a great job and there was something unique about you. I wondered if you were a Christian guy, so I looked you up on Twitter. So even though you weren’t preaching, the way you were anchoring SportsCenter, it came through the TV. If it did that for me, I’m sure that it does it for other people, too. Just to encourage you in that, you do have a platform and you can make a difference. I appreciate what you are doing, which is really exciting! I just wanted to let you know that.

Darren Haynes: I really appreciate that—thank you so much!

This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Spring 2016 print magazine. Log in HERE to view the issue. Subscribe HERE to receive eight issues of Sports Spectrum a year.