Spirited sports fan stands out in the Bear Pit

Story by Meredith Wagner | Arts & Life Editor, Video by Elisabeth Tharp | Broadcast Reporter

Hayden Johnson is arguably Baylor’s most enthusiastic all-around sports fan. If not by name, Baylor affiliates know him for his green foam hat, which he wears unashamedly in the student section of multiple Baylor sports, including football, tennis, volleyball, acrobatics and tumbling and men’s and women’s basketball.

Johnson was spotted in the Bear Pit at the Baylor men’s basketball game against Iowa State on Saturday night. His enthusiasm for the team was evident in his spurts of energy and loud chants.

A senior geology major from Port Orchard, Wash., Johnson credits his love of supporting Baylor sports to his appreciation and respect for the players.

“I have class with a lot of these people, both the men’s and women’s players,” Johnson said. “It’s fun seeing them in class and then supporting them here.”

In addition to caring for his peers, Johnson said his love of sports drives his fandom. “I’ve always liked sports,” he said. “I think that’s one of the underlying reasons why I picked Baylor.”

Johnson attended every basketball game his freshman year, aside from those during Christmas break, and earned a leadership position for the Bear Pit, Baylor’s basketball student section, the following year. Since then, Johnson has become game day chair for the Bear Pit, where he consistently stands tall at the front of the crowd and prepares the student section before each game.

Johnson lays newspapers across the seats of the Bear Pit so that, as the opposing team’s players are introduced before the game, the Baylor crowd can kick back and pretend to read the newspaper, appearing uninterested. The lights eventually go out for a video, and when they abruptly come back on, students toss shredded newspaper in the air as makeshift confetti.

Most of all, Johnson said his job entails having fun. “We just try to make it a good experience for students,” he said.

Johnson’s signature green foam hat was an impulse buy his freshman year. At the time, he had no idea how integral it would be to his identity in college.

“Freshman year, my mom and I were going to Walmart to get some stuff for my dorm, and [the hat] was in the little $5 bin by the registers,” Johnson said. “I went back the next year and they were $20. I like to think that I’ve won,” he joked.

Fast approaching graduation, Johnson said he plans to attend graduate school next year. Johnson applied to schools in Arkansas and Texas, but said he won’t be continuing his education at Baylor.

With a sigh, Johnson said he’s going to miss attending the games each week and cheering on those he has spent nearly four years supporting.

“I spent four years of my life here, and it’s fun to root on people who have had the same experiences that I do,” Johnson said. “I’ll be back for some games. I’ll find my way in.”

Scott Drew, Baylor men’s basketball head coach, said the crowd played a big part in the Bears’ first win in four games.

“The crowd was tremendous. It was great energy,” Scott said. “The crowd really gave us a lift. They did a great job carrying that momentum for us.”

Bears can catch both Johnson and the men’s basketball team at the next home game Saturday at the Ferrell Center against Kansas.