Author | Coach | Trainer | Former walk-on point guard at Uconn
Profile: Johnnie Bird III | Age: 27 | Hometown: Fort Bragg, NC/Bridgeport, CT
College: University of Connecticut
Achievements: Author of “The Toughest Two” | Founder of Hoops Star Academy | UConn Basketball player | Final Four appearance | State Champion 02-03 (Bridgeport Central)
PG: When did you first start playing basketball?
JBIII: I first started as young kid. My dad played therefore I played.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I played baseball also. The sport grew on me and I ended up doing well in it.
Who was your favorite athlete(s) and favorite sports teams growing up?
My favorite athlete was Michael Jordan. He was the best of the best in my eyes. I used to wear his jersey to school all the time. Of course I loved the Bulls and still do. I am a big Ken Griffey Fan too. I’m also a Yankee Fan
How and why did you pick to go to UConn?
I went to UConn as a last resort. Being from North Carolina Originally I was wanted to go to UNC Chapel Hill but after that didn’t work out my guidance counselor and mother convinced me to give UConn a try. It was supposed to be only for a year, then I would transfer out. But obviously that didn’t happen.
How was your college experience at UConn?
My college experience was terrible in the beginning. I struggled making friends, with school, and finding my identity. In High school I knew who I was and what I was good at. At UConn I didn’t know either.
What was the hardest part about being a walk on at UConn?
The hardest part about being a walk-on was accepting the fact that we weren’t equals in relation to the Scholarship players. I had a hard time accepting that, which is probably why I worked so hard to change it.
Do you regret not going to a college that you could have played at?
Other than possibly getting my college education fully paid for, I don’t regret it. The things I went through at UConn helped mold me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change that.
Why did you decide to write your book “The Toughest Two”?
I decided to write The Toughest Two because the things that I went through above and beyond just being a walk-on is something that a lot of people go through but many have zero guidance on how to get through. I hope that this book can provide clarity on the subject of walk-ons and hopefully spark a conversation on how they get treated. But above all I hope it can help people who have gone through a similar situation.
Has anyone criticized you about writing this book because you go into ideas that many don’t know about?
In anything that you do there will be some who disagree. The topic of walk-ons on the local and national stage is taboo. Either because no one really cares about what they go through, or they think that we should just be “happy to be there”. Sure there are perks that come along with being affiliated with a team of UConn’s caliber, but to me the perks weren’t enough.
Do you think other walk ons can relate to your book (regardless of the sport)?
All walk-ons can relate. Even people who don’t play sports can relate to this book. It is more than just basketball, and more than just UConn. I’m positive that there are thousands if not millions of student athletes and people that this book will resonate with.
When’s the book signing?
Book Signings along with all of the other information about the book will be posted on my website JohnnieBirdIII.com
What are you up to now besides being an author?
Aside from writing the book, I have started a basketball development organization called Hoop Stars Academy that helps teach young athletes the fundamentals of basketball and coaches them on handling life outside of the court. I also use my Economics degree by working in Finance.
What do you like to do in your free time besides basketball?
What very little free time I have now a days I like to just relax and hang around friends and family.
How do you feel about UConn basketball’s future?
I feel that UConn basketball is in great hands with Coach Ollie. I love his passion for the game and players.
Where can everyone purchase your book?
You can Purchase the Book on Barnes & Noble’s website BN.com and it is also available for digital download on the Nook, Kindle, and all apple devices.