Roanoke resident prepares to compete on 'American Ninja Warrior'

Jesse Johnson is also man behind HokieTron, SpartanTron

ROANOKE, Va. – The hit NBC show "American Ninja Warrior" returns to WSLS 10 this summer and a Roanoke resident hopes to take home the top prize.

Jesse Johnson, a Virginia Tech graduate who lives and trains in Roanoke, will compete in an "American Ninja Warrior" event in Miami April 13-14. 

He said he couldn't believe when he got the call that he had been picked for the show.

"I just went crazy," Johnson said. "I couldn't think or anything so it turned my whole day upside down, in a good way. I've been super pumped since."

Johnson is well-known for his stilt-walking creations such as HokieTron and SpartanTron. Johnson said he started stilt-walking 10 years ago during a summer job at a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, theme park. He said he returned to Virginia Tech and started making his own costumes.

"I'm making the NinjaTron right now for the show," Johnson said.

Johnson said he's been active his entire life, but never gave a lot of thought to competing on "American Ninja Warrior" until his coaches at Ferguson Fitness in Roanoke encouraged him to try out.

"Always been into fitness and sports and stuff, so I've always kind of been training for something, whether it be a running event or a Spartan event," Johnson said.

Anthony Ferguson, co-owner of Ferguson Fitness, said Johnson has natural athletic abilities that make him a good fit for the show.

"I think it's training throughout a lifetime, but it's also very natural, too," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said he hopes Jesse's "American Ninja Warrior" experience can inspire others to get moving, especially children.

"We hope that with his other personalities, his trons and his personality of having fun and encouraging others that that's just going to be the combination that really helps somebody say 'You know what, I want to exercise," Ferguson said.

Johnson is currently training twice a day, six days a week to get ready for the competition. He also said he's adjusted his nutritional and sleep needs to be prepared.

Johnson said the support he's received as he trains has been fantastic.

"They're all just supporting me and encouraging me," Johnson said. "They're all saying that I can do it and it's really pumping me up."

Johnson is raising money for his "American Ninja Warrior" trip. Click here to donate.

"Of course I want to see him succeed and of course continue taking this wherever it can take him," Ferguson said.

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