This is the one youíve all been waiting for: Coach. The man, the myth, the legend, the pygmy snack. The 37 year old soccer coach from Missouri has survived shark attacks, hurricanes, been stalked by jaguars and tied up by pygmies in the Amazon. Don't believe it? Just ask him, he'll tell you. Read on to see what the Renaissance Man slash Dragonslayer has to say about the game and his fellow warriors. Not surprisingly, he's very talkative:
When did you feel your hold on the game started to slip?
Without question, when Tyson was voted out, that was a shock to me. I donít know if you watched the deleted scene but I actually choked up the next day thinking about what a great and noble warrior he had been. It hurt, you know - he was my best friend in the game and when he left I realized that things were going to permanently change.
Is it frustrating for you to know that a lot of people think your stories are just tall tales?
You know what...it is tough! I think that I am a unique individual and I think that if you guys were telling me the stories and I was on the flip side, I think that I would be a little bit incredulous as well about them. Itís hard because I donít tell those stories to edify myself. I know at the beginning of the season that I came off as, you know, as a little bit arrogant. That was actually my way of psyching myself up because I knew people like Brendan would be stronger, I knew people like Tyson would be faster, I knew Debbie would have a better social game than me. And so it was just kind of my way to psych myself up. I donít think Iím better than anybody. If I wouldnít lie for a million dollars, why would I lie about anything else?
In your opinion, whatís the biggest mistake you made in terms of gameplay?
[laughs] Honestly, my gameplay was horrible! I mean, I look at myself and I see everything crumbling around me and yet here I am, this noble warrior that is saying I will be loyal to the people that I said I was going to be loyal to. And meanwhile, everything is crumbling around me and Iím too set in my ways to make any changes. But again, Iím comfortable with that. I wouldnít have played the game any different. But as far as my gameplay Iím probably one of the most harmless, worst Survivors in history. As far as just the gameplay itself and I look at myself and Iím like - oh, my goodness, I canít believe it, you could see the writing on the wall and Iím just like a lamb led to the slaughter. No, Iím gonna be loyal to the end and it was to my detriment.
You appeared to be a master manipulator. Did it surprise you how easy it was to steer people in the direction you wanted?
You know, I donít know. As far as being a master manipulator, I mean, mani talks about your hands. And pulation talks about moving. So if you look at ďmoving with your handsĒ and you look at manipulation as a good thing, directing with your hands, like I do with the soccer team and the orchestra, then I guess that you could say that. But manipulation in a negative connotation? I donít think so. I think if you look at each one - Candace - everybody saw that. Brendan, that was a great coup. Really, Brendan was my only strategic move in the game, which Tyson, of course, obviously helped pave the way for that one. So, I donít know. I donít think that Iím this master manipulator, but if itís a positive thing, sure, Iíll take it.
What did you think of Jeffís persistent questioning? Did it screw up your plans?
Mmm, I love Jeff. No, no, not in a sexual way, gotta clarify that like what I said with Tyson - uh, no, Jeffís the man. And Iím not saying that to be sycophantic, Iím just saying. He has very good intuition, he tries to get to the bottom of everything and he likes to push your buttons to see how you react. I loved it. You know, it would be great to come out with - this sounds very egotistical but itís not - but I think it would be really cool to have a Tribal of Jeff and my interaction, the whole game. Because you guys see like, just the tip of the iceberg. He and I would go back and forth, and it was a great sparring match that I think both of us looked forward to, going to Tribal.
You said you tried to psych yourself up and it came across as arrogant. Are you arrogant in real life?
No, the thing is that, I think that arrogance is thinking youíre better than other people. And I know for a fact that Iím not better than other people. I donít really consider myself an athlete, (though) I might look like one. I donít consider myself smart. I think I have some charisma, and I think that I have the ability to focus really well and do something that I set my mind to that to other people might seem impossible. So I would definitely not say that Iím arrogant. But there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, as far as the public perception. And I think that this experience on Survivor, even starting with that first video where they ask you to talk about yourself, has humbled me. I think Iíll use it hopefully for the betterment of my character.
But no, Iím certainly not like that in real life. Iím a very down-to-earth person, I think that Iím very sensitive, I love to give back to the community. If I were arrogant, then over the last thirteen, fifteen years I wouldnít have spoken to high schools and colleges and rotary clubs and adventure clubs and middle schools.
You said that you played the game with honesty and integrity, does that mean what we saw on the screen, that was honesty?
Yeah, I think that when I talk about playing with honor and integrity, I talk about not compromising who I was. Jeff asked me, hey, youíre going to get the short end of the stick eventually if you continue with this honesty thing. He said that in the last Tribal. And I said the only way Iím going to do that is if I compromise who I am. I never betrayed my loyalty to anybody. Where I said I was gonna vote for somebody, I always voted for that person. Thatís why it exasperated me that night when there was two rogue votes: one for Debbie, one for Stephen. And I think that I was a man of my word.
You said you wanted to take the strong people to the end, and yet you voted out Brendan...
I love that question, thatís a good question. I think overall, Tyson was probably the best competitor but Brendan was an animal, and he was awesome in the challenges. As Duk Koo Kim said one time, he wrote on his lampshade the night before he fought ďBoom BoomĒ Mancini in the ring - and actually ďBoom BoomĒ Mancini killed him in the ring - Duk Koo Kim wrote in Korean ďKill or be killed.Ē And I think that thatís the case with Brendan. I would have been stupid to sit there and have Brendan vote me out because thatís exactly what he was gonna do. I knew that, so I knew I had to get to him before he came to me. But I did ask him that very first day on the hike: Brendan, letís change the game together. And if he had been astute enough to go with me, I think that myself and Brendan would have been an unbreakable force.
So you didnít change your strategy?
No, not at all. In fact, Tyson asked me a week before that, before the merge: Brendan is gunning for me, we gotta take him out, heís a big threat. And I told Tyson no, we canít do that. This is my philosophy. So Tyson and I actually, our one moment of disagreement in the show, was when he wanted to vote out Brendan immediately and I said no, letís still try to get him on our side.
But ultimately, you voted Brendan out.
I had to. Because again, I would have not been able to change any game if I would have left before the merge! Or right at the merge, which is what Brendan was planning.
In his confessionals, it seemed like Tyson was just playing you. How much of that was kidding around, and how much was real?
Tyson, I love Tyson. The funny thing was, is that Tyson is one of the few people that can come up to you and say ďYouíre worthless, Iím so much better than you, etc. etcĒ and you laugh about it and say ďTyson, youíre the man.Ē So, obviously the whole assistant coach thing, when I saw that, I just cracked up laughing when he said that. And he was having fun at my expense. But thatís cool, you know? He was loyal to me, he never betrayed me, I never betrayed him. I thought that we had a great relationship in the game.
That thing we couldnít google, tell me about that.
Thatís a great question. There was two things that I did down there where I was having fun and I did it, hamming up for the cameras and hamming up for you guys, that it would be a little more sensational. One was, of course, calling myself the Dragonslayer and coming up with that. The other thing was the meditation. I meditate, I pray daily. But as far as the Chong Rand, I got that out of a book and I thought boy, this is going to be great, and it was the art of untying a rope in your mind. And so I told the cameramen that this is a three part meditation. One of them is Chong Rand, which you canít google and itís a Tibetan form passed down verbally or whatever I said. And the other one is breathing exercises and the other one is doing these movements with my body and trying to get everything in tune, like youíre flexing every muscle. So I gotta say that those were two things I really enjoyed kind of elaborating on, and kind of developing. And if you look at the early meditation, it looks okay, and then the later meditation looks cool because obviously Iím getting more comfortable with myself out there in the water, doing all these moves.
But I gotta tell you, it worked. Because how I felt going into the water was not the same as I felt coming out of the water. I always had a smile on my face, I felt like the burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. Part of that meditation was me just asking God on a continual basis, I know that Iím not worthy and that Iím a man and Iím gonna mess up, please keep me from lying to my competitors, please keep me with honestly and integrity.
Letís talk about the lying to Sierra issue. What happened there?
Another good question. Iíll say that two says before that episode, Sierra came up to me in the water and she laid out the whole game and it was brilliant how she said it. She said Tyson, I think is gonna get blindsided, JT wants to win this game more than anybody, Stephenís a snake, Taj, whatever, has the idol I think. And she laid out the whole game and she says we need to get Timbira back together. And I thought about it, and I debated on it and I said I want to be loyal to JT and Stephen.
So you fast forward a couple of days, and the episode that they took a molehill and it became a mountain, with me lying, during that whole episode I was true to my word. I said Sierra came to me. But when I watched the show, I realized that it had become a gray area. And I was disappointed in myself, and I do make mistakes. I should have been smarter about it, and should have said you know what, thereís a better way to handle this. And I should have handled it better. But at that point when I was very adamant about it, to me, I had not lied about that.
Some nasty things have been said about you on the internet. How does that make you feel?
You know, Nietzsche once said that the most humane effort that we can have is to spare another manís shame. And I think that people should probably take a lesson. And in the next breath, Nietzsche also says that what does not destroy me, makes me stronger. Itís been tough. I mean, these last three months Iíve gone through the ringer with the public reputation, people trying to cast disparaging comments on my stories, and losing my job, and...thereís been a lot of things that Iíve gone through. But itís made me a better person, I know who I am inside, and to be the most hated - you know, itís tough. But you gotta take it with a grain of salt and you gotta move forward and you gotta know who your identity is with. And I think that my faith has helped me in that and I also think that having gone through so many difficult experiences in my life, Iíve been able to forge that character thatís not going to be broken, just like I said on Exile last night.
Were you surprised by anything you saw on the televised show, anything you didnít realize was going on out there?
The Exile alliance early, was like wow, man, those guys were sharp! I mean, look at my gameplay. My gameplay is like, nonexistent. I look at all these other people, I told you going into the game I felt Iím not going to be the smartest one - and obviously I wasnít! I mean, the Exile alliance, thatís brilliant. Gee, I wish I would have thought about that. But I think that was a surprise, and fo course Debbie turning on me, that was a surprise. But I knew it. So those two things I think were the biggest surprise.
How did you get cast for the show?
Well, a year ago my coaching staff came up to me and said ďCoach, you are like, one of a kind. You need to be on reality TV.Ē And we were watching a lot of shows, it was in the off season. You know, the spring for a college soccer coach is kind of boring and they were all ďYou gotta get on this show, you gotta get on some show!Ē So I got online and I googled it - this is actually something of course that you can google, not Chong Rand - but I googled upcoming reality show auditions. And the first one that came up was Survivor. And I was like, oh my goodness, I was made to be on this show, why havenít I applied for it earlier? So I was one of the ones that applied for it, and I sent in the three parts of my personality that I think define me. I put in a thirty second clip of me coaching, on the soccer field. Thirty second clip of me conducting my symphony. And then thirty second thing of when I used to be a professional kayaker. And some spots from CBS and FOX, and that kind of stuff. So I sent those in, and said hey, I donít think youíve ever had a character quite like me, the rest is history.
Was the experience everything you expected?
Much, much more, I think. You know the game part was easy, being down there was easy, losing close to sixty pounds from the middle of October to the middle of December was tough. But I think the toughest part is actually the aftermath. And you donít realize that when youíre going through the show, you come back and - I told my parents man, I was like, noble, and I was honorable and you guys are gonna love it - and of course, it was the exact opposite. So I think the aftermath is probably the hardest. But it was well worth it, Iíve definitely even learned things about myself that I didnít know beforehand and I think overall itís made me a more humble person. Which, with the Dragonslayer, thatís always a good thing.
We talked about how some fans didnít like you so much, but Jeff has said that youíre one of his favorite Survivors of all time. How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel good. And I think that the bloggers, they have a certain mentality, and the people that I meet in the street are just raving about how the season was so fun to watch because I was on it. I take both sides with a grain of salt. But Jeff, because heís been doing it for so long and because I have a lot of respect for him, as a host and you know, his personality, it feels really good. It got me through the tough times, clinging onto those words of hope that Jeff would say. And of course, he made fun of me a lot of times too. So you just gotta be balanced and know who you are and take both sides of it.
Many of the others weíve interviewed were surprised at how much Stephen is controlling in this game. Are you surprised by him?
Actually, he didnít (surprise me). Because at one point, before Tyson got voted off, I was asked during one of my confessionals, whoís in control of this game. And I almost said Tyson, then I stopped and I said I actually think Stephen is in control of this game. So it did not surprise me.
Did you know he and JT were so tight?
Yeah, I thought though that when JT and I started hanging out, I thought that maybe JT and I would form that same type of bond. But those bonds that you form early in life and early in the game of Survivor are definitely ones that stick through a long ways.
At the beginning of the season, you really wouldnít have expected that Erinn would be in the final four. What are your thoughts about her being there?
Well, in every season you have these people that slip under the radar. And my friends are always asking me ďWhy didnít you get rid of her?Ē And I was like well, again, what did you want me to do? Eliminate Erinn and then have Brendan actually vote me out and have two votes for Erinn or one vote for Erinn? So, you always have that person that kind of slips under the radar - and this is no disrespect to Erinn, I know she said a lot of bad things about me, but I donít hold it against her, I think that she did go through a lot of change down there. And I think that I saw her develop as a young lady, and thatís always fulfilling when you can see somebody change like that.
What did you think of her comments about you after the reward challenge?
I was disappointed because I felt like she had made so much progress and you know, her and I, I actually sat down with her one day and got a little emotional. Iím telling you, Iím a really sensitive guy and I cried for Tyson a little bit, you know, when he left. I got choked up because I thought about the fallen comrade, so to speak, and I know it sounds sensational to you guys but it hurt me when he left. And I think that with Erinn, I sat down and had this one on one and I just said Erinn, Iím so proud of you. Iím so proud of who youíve become over the course of this game, and your appreciation for life and your appreciation for things. And so for her to say that was kind of like resorting back to her old personality, and so I was disappointed for her. I can take it, you guys, like I said, it was a cool line - ďhit me with your best shotĒ - so, I was more sad for her.
If you got to single-handedly pick the winner from the final four, who would you pick?
Stephen. Because I think that Stephen went from a boy who loved to read adventure novels to a man living an adventure without complaining. I think that heís really had a life-changing experience out there, and I think that I mentored him. And I hope that that comes out in the next episode.
Back when Candace didnít fall in line with your wishes right away, and you started calling her a ďcancer on the tribeĒ - why didnít you just say she was your target, you didnít see eye to eye? Why did you kick it to name calling like that?
Yeah, when it comes to name calling, though, you gotta admit that I - yeah, I did say that, and I was just like some of the other people. But I think people said a lot worse about me. Um, itís a saying that I use in soccer. And I probably shouldnít have said it, but for me, I say one of two things. When you have unity, and then it was about the unity of our tribe, and I talk to my soccer players all the time. You have 35 women on a college soccer team and one poisoned apple will ruin the bunch. And so I use that analogy and I also use the analogy I heard, I think Anson Dorrance from North Carolina once said: if youíre the cancer, Iím the chemo. And Iím gonna get rid of you. So, itís not - I know Candace has said a lot of bad things about me, misogynistic, chauvinist, and I feel bad that she says those kind of things. I hold no animosity towards her. I think sheís a very strong person, very strong personality, and thatís great. And eventually we would clash. I certainly donít mean that in real life she was a cancer, itís just that in the tribe dynamics, thatís kind of my analogy of saying hey, if you donít get rid of this, itís going to spread.
I guess it just seemed jarring to me because you said you were a cancer survivor.
I mean, maybe thatís a more powerful analogy, and itís more closer to my heart. I actually think, you know, itís a good point. Because I think five, six years ago I was using the poisoned apple kind of analogy with my soccer players and now itís kind of switched to the cancer. But again, I didnít mean to offend anybody by any comments. Iíve tried to be pretty, I think, chivalrous, from giving my food away to refusing to turn my back on those who are gunning for me, and very forgiving about everything. So I hope that they have the same courtesy that Iíve had towards them.
I know you canít tell us who you got to question in the final Tribal council, but do you feel you got a chance to get your final words in?
You know I think a lot of people who go to that final Tribal, they have a vendetta, they have an axe to grind. And you know, people at Ponderosa are all talking and you know, ďmake this person feel uncomfortable, make that person feel uncomfortableĒ and they all told me to do that in the jury. And I didnít. I just looked at them and smiled and I gave them...you know, like [name taken out to remove spoiler] was really bothered, actually, by it. And I gave him a smile and looked at him with forgiving eyes as if, you know what? Donít worry about it, itís just a game. So I didnít have an agenda, all I wanted to know was who played the game the most honorably. And the most nobly, and with the most integrity of the four that were left, you know, I canít say the two that were left, so Iíll just say the four that were left.
So how can you reconcile honor in a game where the entire purpose is to outwit, outlast, outplay? Youíve got to betray somebody.
I know, itís definitely tough, but I think that I did have that change on the game. I think that in most Survivors you see this person going with this person, and changing, then changing again, and then changing again...and I think that there was a lot less of that this season. There was a lot of blindsides! And youíre right, itís hard. Itís hard to go down there. But that was kind of like the way I wanted to put my stamp on the game, was to play it differently than a lot of people have played it. Was it harder to do that? Yes. Did I make myself a target from day one? Yes. Brendan went out there and said well, I work in the business world. I went out there and said Iím a professional kayaker, I conduct a symphony, and I coach a soccer team, here I am, this is what Iíve done. So it was just kind of my stamp on being completely different. But to be honorable in a dishonorable world I think is very important.