At 67-years-old, former Super Bowl winning coach and NFL Analyst Jimmy Johnson has had his fair share of adventures. He was a member of the 1964 National Championship college football team. He won both the 1992 and 1993 Super Bowls while coaching the Dallas Cowboys. But he hasn’t stopped there.
Johnson joined the 20-person cast of Survivor: Nicaragua after being a long-time fan of the show and applying three times. He was originally set to be cast for the show’s 17th season set in Gabon but couldn’t participate because of medical reasons. Now 30 lbs lighter and a lot stronger, Johnson was given the OK to participate on this season.
Even before the show began, Johnson knew his strategy and we saw it unfold on last week’s premiere episode.
“I knew going in that I was going to be a target being a celebrity,” Johnson said. “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 award me a million bucks. I’d be the one person that you should be aligned with because I’m not a threat,’ so that was the strategy going in.”
Back during casting for Survivor: Gabon, Johnson was told by doctors that he had one artery 100% blocked and another one 70% blocked, making it impossible for him to compete on the show. However, he worked to change that.
“I went to see the cardiologist and a week later I had a stent put in, went on a strict diet, lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol went from 220 to under 100. So I got healthy. In fact, Survivor may have actually, you know, made me a survivor. It probably saved my life.”
Johnson said he’s never missed an episode of the show and calls himself “obsessed.”
“I love the show,” Johnson said. “I’m obsessed with the show. I never miss a second of it and sitting on your couch watching it with all the beautiful shots, it really is cool looking. The only thing I can say is it’s a lot more difficult out there in the wild than it is sitting on your couch.”
Survivor: Nicaragua‘s big twist is that the tribes are set up in an Old vs. Young format. Being 67, Johnson is the oldest person on the “Old” Espada tribe. He said that originally he was upset about the Old vs. Young because he “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,” Johnson said. “But I was hoping a couple of those 25-year-olds would carry me through some of the challenges.”
Reoccurring throughout Survivor is that the leader usually goes home early. With a coaching background, Johnson said he made it a point to let his tribe know he wouldn’t be the coach and instead would just be there to help.
“They wanted me to be the leader and I told them right up front, ‘Listen. I don’t want to be the leader,’” Johnson said. “And they kept on and they said, ‘Listen. You’ve got to be the voice at least.’ And I said “Okay. 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.”
Johnson said although the show was similar to a lot of other seasons of Survivor, he promises a few surprises around the corner.
“It was easy to see who was aligned with who early, but then just like it’s been on every show that I’ve ever watched, there were plenty of surprises.”