Behind The Scenes

Meet the man behind The Journey spoken-word poetry segments on Sunday NFL Countdown

When ESPN production operations coordinator Yaw Ofori-Atta (his first name is pronounced YOW) steps before a microphone, rhymes, words and emotions flow through every verse.

That’s when he becomes rapper/poet Yaw Geez. For several weeks on ESPN Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m. ET, ESPN) this fall, he’s been featured summarizing teams’ quests for the playoffs with The Journey — a spoken-word poetry piece. The latest installment debuts on this morning’s edition of the show.

Here’s an example of his verse:

Tense is
The coach who hopes to one day be enshrined
He’s been on his grind put in the time
Can you fathom you and your maestro having to orchestrate a drive
With this game this season and this job all on the line at the same time

Yaw Geez’s essays usually run anywhere from 60-to-90 seconds, but that’s boiled down from a video shoot that can last as long as five hours, he says. His ESPN colleague Terrell Bouza works on editing the essays.

“The writing process takes anywhere from three to seven days, then three to four days of memorizing,” said Yaw, who in his “day job” at ESPN edits video for various shows and platforms. The New Jersey native is in his seventh year at ESPN.

In the photo gallery above, Front Row gives you a glimpse behind the scenes of the taping of his latest Journey segment. He tells us more about the process:

What is The Journey?
The Journey is a series of pieces that details the events in an NFL season from start to finish.

How did the concept of The Journey happen?
Terrell and Johann Castillo [both members of ESPN’s Production Department] and I were talking about doing a spoken word for a project. We wanted to do something fresh, something new. The original concept was for one segment of The Journey to open the season. We received such positive feedback that we were able to tape three more pieces. We decided on the name because we wanted the overall concept to be versatile. We thought of the journey of the NFL season or any team’s ultimate goal — to get to the championships. It’s a road, a journey, to that destination.

Were you able to draw on your own experiences to create the lyrics for “The Journey?”
I like to work on challenging projects. I really take this craft seriously. I’m a little of bit of perfectionist, if it’s not right for me then I shouldn’t present it. The final product is a reflection of yourself and your work. I want to create lyrics that are impactful. I never did a spoken word before and hadn’t written about a specific sport. The project has helped me as a writer. I have gotten better with wordplay. Each word is [part of a] puzzle and I’m able to piece them together.

Are you interested in doing The Journey for other sports?
We’d love to do something for other sports after this season.

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