'Survivor' Interview: Jimmy Johnson on his Great 'Survivor' Adventure
'Survivor' Interview: Jimmy Johnson on his Great 'Survivor' Adventure
Ben Watson
Ben Watson
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
When the news first broke that former NFL coach, current ExtenZe spokesman, and all around good guy Jimmy Johnson was going to be a castaway on Survivor: Nicaragua, feelings were mixed. People weren't sure if casting a highly recognizable celebrity was merely a gimmick, or if Jimmy Johnson had a shot at being a real contender?

This isn't the first time Survivor has used celebrities as castaways before. Former NFL player Gary Hogeboom (Guatemala), Olympic gold medalist Crystal Cox (Gabon), and a member of the R&B group SWV Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George (Tocantins) have all played the game. There have also been a handful of z level stars (Jonathan Penner, Rita Verreos), but never has the show cast someone as well knows as Jimmy Johnson.

In all the seasons that featured a "famous" castaway, the contestant did their best to conceal their celebrity. Jimmy Johnson had no chance, he is too recognizable. Instead, Jimmy J.'s strategy was to be up-front about his superstar status and roll with the consequences. When people first noticed Jimmy Johnson, they fell into one of two camps. They either worshiped the guy or started gunning for him immediately.

99280_D10150.jpgJimmy J. thought his celebrity would go over better with the younger players but when Probst announced that the tribes would be divided by age, Jimmy J. had to quickly change his game plan. "When they divided the tribes I'm thinking, 'oh man, I was hoping some of these young bucks would carry me' but now I'm going to be with the older group. As it turned out, it was pretty good, because watching the shows the last few weeks, I'm almost glad I wasn't with those young people man, a couple of them are off the wall."

Jimmy Johnson was straight with everybody from day one, and that probably led to his downfall. He made sure his tribe mates knew that he was there for the adventure. When Jimmy, an avid outdoorsman, was a boy he often imagined having an adventure out in the Amazon. Survivor was a way of fulfilling one of his childhood wishes. He wasn't concerned with the money. In fact, before the show began, he worked out a deal with producers to donate any possible winnings to three different charities.      

Being such a fan of the show, Jimmy J. had tried for years to be on Survivor. Unfortunately for Jimmy J., he failed the physical exams every time he auditioned. After whipping himself into shape he finally got his chance at the other game he loves. However, from the moment the 67 year old Jimmy J. landed on that Nicaraguan beach, the game started taking its toll. Soon after the game began our beloved coach was hacking up gunk all night, and suffering from dehydration.  

99280_D10675.jpgWhen asked about his Survivor experience, Jimmy J. said:

"I'm probably a bigger fan of the show now than I've ever been. Now that I know the dynamics of the show and how really difficult it is. I don't think anybody watching on television can really get the full impact of how difficult it is when: you're dehydrated, you don't have any food, you don't have any sleep, your cold at night, and it's raining. It's really harsh conditions and you can't really feel that watching on television. But it was so much more difficult that I thought it was going to be, but I was able to accomplish what I set out to do and that's to have a great adventure."

Like the team player he is, Jimmy J. harnesses no ill will towards any members of Espada. He's rooting for them all to win:

"Like I told them when I left tribal council, I said 'I hope one of you wins a million bucks.' I think it's going to be tough for Daniel because they're kind of carrying him, and then Jimmy T is kind of volatile, but I'd love to see any one of the group from my tribe win."

Survivor's experiment with celebrity only lasted 3 episodes (2 more than most people predicted) but it may not have been a complete blowout. Jimmy J. left tribal with his head held high, knowing full well that it was his strength that sent him home, not his weakness.

(Images courtesy of CBS)