Photo | Provided
Samuel Brown played sports his whole life. He excelled in baseball. He was the quarterback of his school’s football team. Then, in the ninth grade, he fractured his spine.
“It was pretty rough,” Brown said.
With actually playing his favorite sports no longer on the table, Brown found another way to enjoy his passions — sports video games. That’s when another idea hit him — starting a YouTube channel.
“I enjoy doing this,” he said. “I enjoy talking sports, I enjoy playing games.”
Over the years, Brown’s channel has amassed almost 800,000 subscribers. If his momentum holds, he thinks he’ll reach 1 million subscribers by the end of the year.
It’s not something he ever intended to be his full-time job. It was a childhood passion Brown, now 26, said took seven years of consistent uploading before it could support him full time.
The channel’s name, RBT, is an acronym of his favorite sports teams: the Boston Red Sox, the University of Alabama and the Tennessee Titans.
“Everyone thinks it’s some super deep, intricate meaning, and it’s just something that I came up with when I was in middle school,” Brown said.
Though he was already making enough money through his channel to support himself, Brown made sure to finish his education, graduating from the University of South Alabama with a degree in exercise science.
The career path for YouTubers is laced with uncertainty — channels can see huge amounts of popularity and seem set for life, only to see their content stagnate and their channel’s popularity plummet, Brown said.
“You always have to be at the top of your game,” he said. “Because at any moment, you can fall off.”
It can also be out of a creator’s control. YouTube’s algorithms, which recommend content to users based on what they like and have already watched, can work for or against creators, regardless of the amount of effort they put into their videos. But Brown doesn’t like keeping a pessimistic outlook.
“I think, at the end of the day, even though sometimes your channel might not perform as well as you think it is, you still have the opportunity to put in more work to balance it out,” he said.
Having full control over his work, deciding what kind of content he makes and how much time and effort he puts in is his favorite part of the job. If he thinks he needs a break, he just takes one.
“Sometimes, when you are your own boss, you get to the point where you think you’re always not doing enough, and that’s definitely a learning experience — balancing to never get burnt out,” Brown said.
He’s been recognized frequently for his channel, usually when he’s traveling. As a private person, he’s not sure it will be something he will ever get used to.
Whenever someone approaches Brown, they already know so much about him — his likes, dislikes, mannerisms and how he communicates, he said. Oftentimes the fans are kids.
“They’ll come up to me and they’ll say, ‘Are you RBT?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, how are you doing? What’s your name?’” Brown said. “And they just look at me. They won’t even talk or keep the conversation going.”
While he thinks most YouTubers maintain a specific persona in their videos, Brown feels like he stays authentic and is glad the online fame hasn’t changed him.
“I think that’s one of the reasons people relate to me a little bit because I just act like myself,” he said. “No matter how big my channel gets or whatever happens in my career, I can’t not be myself.”
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