Willie Geist on Al Roker's Health Battle and 'Today' Show Return: 'He's the Heart and Soul' (Exclusive)

Geist is happy to have his former 'Today' co-host, Al Roker, back on the air.

Willie Geist is celebrating Al Roker's return to the Today show along with the rest of the country. The 47-year-old journalist spoke with ET's Rachel Smith at the National Board of Review on Sunday, where he was hosting the event, about Roker's recent health battle and his emotional return to the NBC morning show last week. 

"Al means so much to all of us," Geist tells ET. "I could get emotional but I won't, maybe I will. He's so much more than our role model as a professional. He's been my role model as a dad, as a husband, how to handle this thing as I step into the Today show, this role, what does it mean? He grounds us all."

Geist, who now hosts Sunday Today With Willie Geist, adds of his friend and mentor, "I'm just so happy Al's in good health. And I think I and the whole country's so happy he's back on the screen. We missed our Al."

Calling the 68-year-old weatherman the "heart and soul of that show," Geist admits that he didn't realize how serious Roker's condition was until his doctors spoke in Friday's package. 

"Honestly, I didn't until Friday when they played the piece where his doctors spoke out," he says. "Al gives off positivity and light all the time... It was a serious deal."

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During Roker's emotional return to the Today show last Friday, he and his wife, Deborah Roberts, detailed just how serious his condition was after more than two months off the air. 

Roker shared, "I had two complicating things. I had blood clots that they think came up after I had COVID in September and then I had this internal bleeding going on. I lost half my blood. They were trying to figure out where it was. And finally they went in, did this surgery. I had two bleeding ulcers. They had to resection the colon, take out my gal bladder."

He added of his various ailments and treatments, "I went in for one operation, I got four free, so I got that going for me."