By Dana Becker
Wake up in the morning and tune on "Good Morning Iowa" and the face of Iowa Central alum Elias Johnson is likely to greet you.
Johnson, who attended the school after graduating from Manson Northwest Webster, is the co-anchor and a reporter with WOI-DT, the Local 5 ABC affiliate in Iowa.
After earning his degree from Arizona State University where he continued his career as a wrestler, Johnson eventually found his way back home with his family.
"My career has taken me to places like Phoenix and Reno, Nevada. I wasn't planning to come back home," he said. "My wife and I were making plans to continue my career in Austin, Texas. The offer to come back to Iowa was unexpected and at first, I dismissed the idea. But, with a growing family and my mom and dad back home, we decided the opportunity to give our kids a chance to have an Iowa education and experience you can only find here - we made the move back home and haven't regretted it once."
Johnson has been with the network since 2014, adding to previous positions in Iowa with WHO-TV and KDSM-TV early in his career.
That career, though, all started to take shape on the Iowa Central campus - which was vastly different at that time compared to today.
"In the fall of 2002, there were nine resident housing buildings on campus," he said. "My roommates and I were the first tenants in building nine, living in unit '911' - no pun intended. Now there are over a dozen student housing complexes, state of the art classrooms and a pond. I'm amazed by the changes and I get a great sense of pride when I come back to visit my old stomping grounds."
He was following in the footsteps of his brother by coming to Iowa Central, adding "two big factors for me were proximity to home and affordability."
"My brother attended Iowa Central and received his associate degree before heading to Iowa State," Johnson said. "He spoke highly of his experience and how much he saved by completing courses at Iowa Central compared to Iowa State.
"My time at Iowa Central helped me grow up and learn how to become independent. I always felt supported by staff at the school and I'll be honest - they were very patient with me."
Shortly after making the journey over from Manson to Fort Dodge, Johnson found his way to the nationally-regarded Triton wrestling program.
"I remember that knot in my stomach as my parents left the dorms and I was settling in with my new roommates," he said. "Growing up in small, rural town west of Fort Dodge. Iowa Central was my first experience meeting and living with a diverse mix of people. My roommate, Brian Easterling came from Omaha to wrestle for the Tritons and encouraged me to walk-on the team as a way to stay in shape. I quickly learned why Iowa Central was a national powerhouse and the program set the stage for my future at Arizona State University as a student-athlete."
All that constant hard work and dedication to perfecting his craft as a student continued for Johnson through his work on television.
"Viewers would be amazed by the amount of writing and work that go into putting a newscast together," he said. "You only see a fraction of the staff it takes to put a quality program on the air. A 30-minute newscast takes hours of videography, editing and writing to produce."
He has earned the Edward R. Murrow Award, been recognized by the Northwest Broadcasters Association with the Eric Sevareid Award and helped produce an Emmy nomination. In 2008, Johnson was honored at the annual Broadcast Educators Association Festival as the national news reporter of the year.
In 2015, Johnson scored an Emmy for, the first for the station. He has since been named the top video journalist in the upper midwest region in 2017 and '18.
Johnson and his wife, Niki, currently live in Urbandale with their family.