FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Another former Dallas Cowboys star has joined the hit CBS reality program “Survivor” for the show’s 22nd season. Offensive tackle Steve Wright will be the second oldest member in the group of 18 contestants set to compete in “Survivor: Redemption Island” when the series premieres on Wednesday night.
Wright was one of three free agents to join the Cowboys in 1981. He went on to play in the NFL for 13 years, later with the Baltimore Colts and the Indianapolis Colts. He spent his final seven years in the NFL with the Los Angeles Raiders. Wright currently resides in Huntington Beach, California.
The 51-year-old credits the NFL with building his teamwork skills, something that he intends to bring to the beaches of Nicaragua, where the “Redemption Island” season was filmed this past summer. “I’m a fighter to the end, and will bring anyone along that desires to work,” Wright said. “I’ll be stronger, fitter and wiser than the others. I’ve experienced trials others haven’t. I’ve had my will tested and have always rose above all challenges.”
Wright described himself to show producers as “honest, sincere and relentless,” and compared himself to “Survivor: Palau” champion Tom Westman, a fan favorite. In addition to the million dollar prize, Wright said that he wanted to be on the show to teach others about teamwork.
But there is more to Wright behind the smile. “I can be a real jerk at times,” he said. “My nice guy is going to be there for as long as it can be, and I’m going to love them all as much as I can. But I’ve already envisioned getting papaya leaves and rubbing it on the backs of some people. That’s my mark. I am going to eat them up. Man, woman and child – nobody’s going to be safe with me.”
Even “Survivor” host Jeff Probst is rooting for Wright. “Not because he’s a football player,” Probst said just before filming began. “I like him because he loves ‘Survivor.’ He’s enthusiastic about ‘Survivor.’ He knows how to pump himself up. He knows what a competition is. And I’m guessing he’s probably pretty good at social dynamics. I would love to see Steve go deep in the game.”
However, Wright will have plenty of twists to contend with this season. For the first time in show history, the castaway voted out at Tribal Council will not go home. Rather, votes send players to Redemption Island, a separate camp where ‘eliminated’ contestants duel for a chance to return to the game. Also, two infamous show villains – Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz — are joining Wright and the other new players.
Mariano — better known to fans as “Boston Rob” – is back for his fourth shot at the million dollar prize, after appearing in “Survivor: Marquesas,” “Survivor: All-Stars” and last year’s “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains.” He met his wife, Amber, while competing on “Survivor: All-Stars” and proposed to her on the show’s live finale. She ultimately won the game that season. Mariano placed second.
Hantz is back for his third appearance in four seasons, playing first on “Survivor: Samoa” and then against Mariano in “Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains.” He immediately ruffled feathers within his tribe by hiding camp tools, burning another player’s socks, dumping out his team’s water supply and locating hidden immunity idols without the benefit of clues. Despite all of this, Hantz advanced to the end of the game on both of his seasons, losing each time because he could not earn the votes of his fellow castaways.
When asked about Hantz and his game tactics, Wright said, “I want to be able to hold my head high and not be a Russell at the end, when it comes down to everybody else voting for that million dollars.”
But Wright will also not be the only former NFL player in the game this season. Wide receiver Grant Mattos is also competing on “Survivor: Redemption Island.” The 29-year-old played with the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans from 2003-2006. Mattos will join the orange-colored Ometepe tribe with Mariano. Wright will be on the purple-colored Zapatera tribe with Hantz.
Wright will become the third Dallas Cowboys alum to participate on “Survivor.” Former quarterback Gary Hogeboom placed seventh out of 18 players on the show’s 11th season in Guatemala. His famous identity would have remained a secret if not for sports radio host Danni Boatwright, who immediately recognized Hogeboom, aligned with him and went on to win the game. And just last season, in Nicaragua, Super Bowl winning head coach Jimmy Johnson was the third person voted out of the game from a group of 20 people split into teams of young and old. Johnson was instantly seen as a celebrity, and his high-profile status was seen as a threat to some of his tribemates.