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Survivor: Nicaragua — How ‘Bout That Jimmy Johnson?!

September 15, 2010 02:10 PM by Ryan Haidet


For the last 10 years, Survivor has stranded everyday people from different walks of life in exotic locations all around the globe.  When the show returns tonight for its 21st season, this time in Nicaragua, one of the 20 contestants is no stranger to the spotlight.  Jimmy Johnson, who led the Dallas Cowboys to a pair of championships, is one of the people competing for the $1 million prize.  In a recent conference call with reporters, Johnson, who is a self-proclaimed fan of Survivor, revealed he has been trying for several years to be placed on the CBS reality giant, but medical concerns stalled his dreams three years ago.

Jimmy Johnson: Well, actually I tried about six years ago and got turned down. I did all the paperwork. I did my little video and everything and went through the regular application.  And then I tried again about three years ago and went all the way through and got pretty well approved up until the medical and, you know. I always worked out and jogged — and you know, I was heavy but I always worked out.  And the Survivor doctors called me and said, “Coach, we’d love to take you but you’ve got one artery 100 percent blocked and another one 70 percent blocked. You need to see your cardiologist.  I went to see the cardiologist and a week later I had a stent put in, went on a strict diet, lost 30 pounds, my cholesterol went from 220 to under a hundred and so I got healthy and in fact Survivor may have actually, you know, made me a survivor.  It probably saved my life and then so I thought I would give it one more shot once I got in shape and got approved and it was a great experience.

Question: Why are you obsessed with Survivor?

Jimmy: I think just liking the outdoors. Right now I do a lot of fishing, a lot of scuba diving and like I said I live on the beach. I love that whole atmosphere but I think coming out of Survivor, it gave me appreciation for what we have and it also I think it brought to life what a lot of people in the world don’t have. Having to go through that of sleeping on bamboo and the pouring down rain, no food, boiling my water, you know, realizing what a lot of people in the world have to do and gives me such an appreciation of what a soft bed feels like. And, you know, having a plate of food on the table and being able to actually have what the comforts we have here at home and it gives me a better appreciation for what we have.


Question: How did the other competitors treat you? Were you a target because of who you are?

Jimmy: Well, I think the number one thing is, you know, and I talked to them. I said “Listen, you know, they’re not going to award me a million bucks.” So I don’t know that they really trusted me on that part.  They said “Well, we know what kind of competitor you are.” But they’re fans, and they enjoyed talking football. And in fact a lot of them would say, you know, when things were kind of rough, we’re laying there on the bamboo at night, say “Jimmy give us a football story.” So we really had a great relationship. I mean, you know, first of all, I thought it was a great group. They were really interesting people, very unique individuals and I enjoyed every one of them and so we really had a good relationship.

Question: As a fan of the show, can you talk about what you may have learned in terms of strategy and just the social game from prior seasons and some of the best Survivor contestants to do it?

Jimmy: Well, the one thing I didn’t want to do is I didn’t want to lie to people. People that know me here and have known me for 67 years, that’s just something that I don’t do. I might not volunteer something, but I told them, I said “Listen. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m going to be up front with you and so here’s the way it is.” I don’t know that it was the same social game that a lot of people do play, having watched it over the years. But I tried to be up front with everybody and, you know, as far as the other tribe members, they said surely that’s not Jimmy Johnson. That’s a lookalike. Jimmy Johnson’s not going to come on Survivor and I told them, I said “Listen. I’m here for the adventure.” And I was on it with them when I told them that.


Question: Coach, I wanted to ask you about the young versus old setup. How do you think that worked?

Jimmy: I can’t tell you exactly how it played out, but I can tell you initially I was a upset because we went through the first meeting with Jeff and we thought we had certain tribes. And when he said it was old versus young, then I was upset because I wanted some of those young bucks to carry me. I didn’t want to be with a bunch of old people and unfortunately we were with the 40 years and older and I was the oldest. But I was hoping a couple of those 25-year-olds would carry me through some of the challenges.

Question: Were you called on to be the coach at all?

Jimmy: They wanted me to be the leader and I told them right up front, I said “Listen. I don’t want to be the leader. I’ve watched Survivor enough to where the guy that’s the leader, the guy out front, he’s the first guy voted off.” And I said “I don’t want to be your leader.” And they kept on and they said, you know, “Listen. You’ve got to be the voice at least.” And I said “Okay. I will. I will listen to the suggestions and I will help you make a final decision. But I’m not the boss and I’m not the leader but I will help you in some of your decision-making.”


Question: What strategy did you have going in?

Jimmy: Well, the one thing that I tried to convince everybody of is listen, the jury’s not going to award me a million bucks, so I’m the least threat of anybody. Because I knew going I was going to be a target being a celebrity and, you know, they’re going to say hey, he doesn’t need a million bucks; get him out of here. But I tried to convince them and said “I’m not a threat to you at all because nobody’s going to, you know, award me a million bucks and in fact, I would be the number one person to take to the final three. I’d be the one person that you should be aligned with because I’m not a threat.”

Question: What about the skeptics who often say Survivor truly isn’t what it seems to be. Now having experienced it, what would you say to those people who question the show?

Jimmy: Well, anybody that’s a skeptic of the show, they really don’t know what they’re talking about because it’s everything that I thought it was and more. It’s as difficult as I thought it was going to be and more and it’s as beautiful as what I thought it was and more.

Question: How long would Terry Bradshaw last on this thing?

Jimmy: About one minute. Terry is spoiled. He’s had people cater to him for so long, and Terry’s one of my best friends. In fact, he just called about an hour and a half ago. He just came back from the dentist and I told him that’s what happens to old people, their teeth fall out. But, you know, Terry would not last. I promise you, he’s too accustomed to the good life.


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Images courtesy of CBS.

Topics: CBS Reality TV Shows, Survivor |

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