Not long ago, the pool of internet celebrities who could actually manage to make careers off their YouTube channels was slim. Channels like Smosh, NigaHiga, and Jenna Marbles gained niche celebrity status for their channels in the late 2000s and early 2010s. At the time, YouTubers dominated the ranks of top subscribed channels, and channels with one million subscribers were far and few between.
However, today there are countless individual creators with large fan bases who are drowned out by the sheer volume and variety of successful channels on YouTube. The corporatization of YouTube has changed the platform as well. Brand-based channels like T-Series, Cocomelon, and SET India now have over 143 million subscribers each, over 30 million more than the next closest channel.
If it had existed over a decade ago, Tom Grossi’s channel (currently boasting a hefty 345,000 subscribers) could stand on its own as one of the most popular on YouTube. However, in the late 2010s Grossi found juggling his teaching job with his growing YouTube channel was a near impossible task. “During, like, a study hall or my lunch break, I would be writing scripts,” Grossi explained. “I still had to do a full-time teaching job. I had to create lessons, I had to do grading essays….I was working about a hundred hours a week, so it was rough.”
Grossi’s foray into content creation began in 2015 with his podcast, Packcast, covering the Green Bay Packers. For just two days a week, Grossi would simply recap the Packers game to a modest group of listeners. However, over the years Grossi noticed his reaction videos (which have become a weekly sketch) were adding traction to his content as a whole. “2018, I remember very vividly, that’s when I started doing a lot more reaction videos….and then since August of 2019 I’ve put out content at least five days a week, even through the offseason.”
Through all of this, Grossi had to navigate his life as a teacher and as a YouTuber while working hard enough to be good at both jobs. “It was a balance—and not a great one because I would likely go to bed at like 2:30 in the morning. Usually I’d wake up at 5:30…go teach the full day… and then I would just do it all over again every day.”
Despite three hours of sleep a night and at one point a 90-minute commute to work, Grossi found a way to make it work. As his channel grew, however, so too did Grossi’s desire to transition to YouTube full-time. That is, until the pandemic hit. “I was terrified of the pandemic, and was like ‘Oh man, I don’t know if they’re gonna cancel the NFL.’.But, the more time and effort I put into the podcast and the channel, it was giving back to me in terms of support, growth, money…I never, ever thought about stopping [YouTube].”
Despite all the challenges Grossi faced, the balance between teaching and YouTube made for some fun stories. In 2021, when the Texans released JJ Watt, Grossi was stuck at school. “He got released during fourth period, and one of my students told me… and I was like ‘Oh that’s a big story.’ I had sixth period off…and as soon as fifth period was over I got in my car, I drove the 15 minutes to my house. I recorded, I edited, I uploaded the video, and I raced back to school and made it there as soon as seventh period was about to start.”
Grossi’s students were not strangers to his channel. Some students even expressed their love for the channel after class. On the first day of virtual learning during the pandemic school year, one senior who appeared anxious stayed after class. Concerned, Grossi approached him, “Is everything all right?” The student nervously responded, “I’m a huge Packers fan, and I have been watching you for awhile,” much to Grossi’s relief.
Despite the channel getting more and more popular, school administration never seemed bothered by Grossi’s endeavors outside the classroom. His bosses never pestered him about his work on YouTube. This was a testament to how hard he worked to be great at both jobs. “I did my job, I did it well, and then I came home and did my other job.”
For years, Grossi has worked hard to get a sense of what each fanbase in the NFL is thinking throughout the season. When asked whether his research boiled down to watching highlights, scrolling Reddit, or checking Twitter, he answered like you’d expect a teacher to. “D. All of the above….I wanna get it right, I wanna get it accurate…You get a sense very quickly of what [each] team is, and considering for the past [five years] I have done all 32 NFL teams reactions… I have a good idea of what the fan base is feeling.”
Still, like anyone on the Internet, Grossi is not without his critics. “There’s people out there who literally do death threats. Like, I’ve had stuff sent to my house…to my parent’s house…just cause they don’t like me for whatever reason, you know, it is what it is.” Still, Grossi knows it’s impossible to please everyone in his line of work. “I work really hard to make sure that the information is accurate…when you have an audience that’s pretty sizable, you’re gonna have people who are not going to like it or agree.”
Despite all the care he puts into other teams, Grossi’s loyalty remains with the Green Bay Packers. His followers, the Grossi Posse as they are affectionately known, often join him on live streams of the NFL Draft and primetime Packers’ games. In fact, the most viewed video on Grossi’s channel is a clip of his reaction to the Packers drafting Jordan Love.
With the Packers’ bitter rivals, the Chicago Bears, set for a move to Arlington Heights, many are hopeful that Soldier Field will upgrade to a dome. Grossi was quick to demonstrate his loyalty to the Packers when I suggested a similar move for the Packers. “Here’s the thing, even if I wanted a dome, which I do not, Green Bay would burn itself to the ground if they ever made that kind of change to Lambeau Field—and you might be thinking ‘oh there’s Tom joking again.’ I’m not even remotely kidding.” Much like his own growing community, Packers fans are fiercely loyal to the traditions and history that make their team special.
In June, 2021, Grossi finally quit his teaching job for good, finally alleviating the immense pressure of working both jobs full-time. Grossi’s channel had finally reached a point of success that allowed him to do the job full-time. Still, the way Grossi runs his channel, it’s still hard for him not to feel nervous about it being his only source of income. “A lot of creators start the month and they have guaranteed money, because they have sponsorships…I don’t have that. You know, I have sponsorships through other shows that I do like GPS and Click Bait [Sports], but I start the month off at zero. It relies purely on ad revenue, and then if people want to donate they can, but it’s never, ever begged for.”
Plenty of sponsors have reached out to Grossi in the past, but he is committed to preserving the genuine nature of his channel. Rather than accept a sponsor for a product he would not use, Grossi would rather run the channel his way. “I am confident enough in the content I create, I feel like I’m getting better at it still in year seven.” In the world of content creation, Grossi will continue to succeed with that mentality. Since we last spoke, Grossi’s channel has already added more than 5,000 more subscribers, and with the NFL season in full swing, the Grossi Posse will only continue to grow.