“Survivor Nicaragua” contestant Jimmy Johnson is 67 years old, some four decades older than many of the people he’ll be competing with when the show premieres tonight (new timeslot—it moves from Thursdays). But let’s give the former Dallas Cowboys coach the edge: He dealt with Michael Irvin, and if he could do that, he can sure best a group of whippersnappers as the tribes are divided into young and old this season.
Johnson, the father of two sons, is the very oldest contestant on this year’s show. He’s also by far the most famous person ever to join the cast, though his poor health almost kept him away. To see why, and hear an interview with the Super Bowl-winning coach, read on.
Johnson first applied to appear on “Survivor” seven years ago and was turned down. He tried again a few years ago and made it through several rounds of selection before being disqualified by a physical, where doctors found he had blocked arteries.
That sent him on a workout and low-cholesterol eating plan that helped him drop 30 pounds and improve his overall health. He applied again and was accepted.
“In some ways you might say ‘Survivor’ saved my life,” he says.
As for the show, where he’s shown shirtless in this clip: “It’s much more difficult than I ever imagined.”