Q&A: Pac-12 analyst and movie maker Yogi Roth previews Oregon football season

Pac-12 analyst Yogi Roth has had a hectic last couple of months leading up to the college football season. Roth, a best-selling author, former coach, traveler, and current football analyst for the Pac-12 Networks, recently premiered his documentary, “Life in a Walk,” in Portland.

The documentary, which chronicles Yogi’s journey with his dad through the historical Camino de Santiago in Spain and Portugal, aims to spark a national discussion about taking time to spend with your loved ones. It’s done just that since its debut.

After his dad, Will, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, Yogi had an epiphany: he wasn’t going to wait around to later regret not spending enough time with the most important figures in his life. The result was an acclaimed independent film that is not only continuing to gain traction, but also leading a national movement.

Before Saturday’s game between Oregon and Eastern Washington, he took some time to discuss his film and give his take on the state of Oregon football with the Emerald.

Let’s start with your film “Life in a Walk.” It premiered a couple days in Portland. How did that whole experience go and how does this continue to mold into what you initially envisioned it to be?

This experience has really just been about me getting to know my dad on a different level. My father and I have always had a great relationship. This wasn’t a situation where we didn’t talk. We’ve always been really tight. But it kind of hit me a couple years ago that I never dealt with the fact that my dad had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and I never wanted to say the sentence, “I wished I had spent more time with him.” As I’ve gotten older, some of my friends, some of my piers have lost their parents. They’ve all said the same thing, that they wished they had them around to ask ’em questions that they seek answers to: about heart ache, how to deal with good times, bad times, relationships, etc. My dad had always been a wise guy, so I wanted to ask those questions. When we came back from our walk and we captured everything, I didn’t know what we had. I kind of thought that it would be a cool home movie. As I started to tell people about it, they were moved. So many people wanted to talk about this issue, specifically in the sports world. I’m in that alpha male role all the time where it’s okay to cry if you’re Russell Wilson or Marcus Mariota after a game, but not necessarily okay to get emotional in other situations and I wanted to share out story to hopefully change that stereotype.

You’ve been a storyteller, you’ve been a best selling author, an analyst on Pac-12 Networks and you’re a traveler. Did you find that this experience was an opportunity to combine all your passions in life into one project? 

Yeah, it’s a great point. Storytelling is a way to combine a lot of loves. Combine my love for travel. Combine my love for sports. And I love that. It shifted the way I look at everything. I look at a three-and-a-half hour broadcast as a three-and-a-half hour narrative. I look at a 30-minute show as a 30-minute narrative. I look at all of those things in that lens now of everything has a storytelling element to it. I hope this movie changes a couple people’s lives.

What did you learn about yourself or take away from this experience? 

You’re so disconnected from your daily, standard life. You don’t have cell service, you don’t have your job, you don’t have your traditional network that you’re around and you really become free. It was a spiritual journey for me. To go get connected to nature and get away from the grind that I was on, that was a big part of why we picked that place to go. So many people have had breakthroughs or unique elements in their life have happen at this walk. To just be a small sliver of that was something that I took a lot of pride in, a lot of respect in. It kind of parallels with what I do on TV for football.

Oregon names Vernon Adams Jr. over Jeff Lockie. What did you make of this?

I was surprised. Then, I came to talk to the staff and talked to Vernon and I get it. He is a unique individual. First and foremost, tonight is college football history in my opinion. How often do you see someone at an FCS school say, ‘I’m going to take the leap up even though I’m one of the top five players in that division of college football, I’m already on NFL radars and I might not even play, but I’m going to try to prove it.’ The way he grinded, the way he trained himself, the work he put in on his own, as well as obviously the work he put in with Scott Frost in his downtime, that’s impressive. This has never happened in the history of college football. He came to Oregon because he wanted to prove he could play at the highest of levels which is the NFL and felt that Oregon gave him the best opportunity.

Oregon is trying to make it back to the College Football Playoff. Do you feel like they have what it takes?

Yeah, they do. The reason why I didn’t pick them to win the North was because of their quarterback situation. But with Vernon’s skill set and watching him, you got to think that of course they’re a front runner. First and foremost, I go defense. They never get talked about and that’s ok. They know it. They got guys that have played a lot of football. No one has done as well as them in the turnover department. They are the best team in the country that set the standard in takeaways and they score. Then, you got the offense. Royce Freeman is beast, getting Tyler Johnstone back is huge, Matt Hegarty is huge. Then, they got playmakers.

Even after Marcus Mariota, do you believe this offense could rank among the top in school history? 

Yeah, I do. This unit right now is as gifted as it’s been. What Marcus did was magnificent. Nobody earned the Heisman more than he did in the last few years with the way he carried his team. (Having said that) They’re as complete as they’ve been, probably in the last five years.

It looks like the Pac-12 is really stacked this year from top to bottom. What do you make of the conference this year and how does Oregon figure into it?

This is as deep a conference there is in the country and I think that’s just a sheer fact. It’s really hard for teams to go undefeated in this conference and to play perfect week-in-week-out because they’re playing against really dynamic offenses that all have their own unique personalities, their own unique twists. To think that someone is going to roll undefeated, I think is not accurate. I don’t think it’s going to happen again this year. But I think that because of what happened last year in bowl games, in the NFL draft, in the perception of the conference, that the playoff committee is going to award whoever the champion is, at one or two losses, I would expect to get to the Playoff, just because it’s the most competitive conference. It will be fun to see what happens.

To watch “Life in a Walk” in a theater near you, Gathr Films has made it possible to request screenings in your local area. Follow this link for more details.

For more on Yogi, here’s the link to his site.

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

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Hayden Kim

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