Ranking the Former Pro Athletes of Survivor

As we said goodbye to Scot Pollard last week, it only seemed appropriate to rank the Survivor players that Scot is most like: the other professional athletes, because that was his profession.

"Play or Go Home" -- Scot Pollard during the sixth episode of SURVIVOR KAOH: RONG -- Brains vs. Brawn vs. Beauty. The show airs, Wednesday, March 23 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Robert Voets /CBS Entertainment ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights. Reserved.

There has been some controversy about who is considered a professional athlete/Survivor contestant, so I shall start off by saying who we will not include:

  • Jimmy Johnson was never a professional athlete, he was a college athlete and a coach.
  • Ethan Zohn only played minor league soccer. If you’re not on TV, you don’t count. Same goes for Tyson Apostol and cycling and Matt Bischoff with BMX. Julia Landauer only made it to the NASCAR minor leagues as well, and is driving really a sport anyway?
  • Ashley Massaro may have been on TV, and you have to be athletic to be in the WWE, but I’m more inclined to consider pro wrestlers performers than athletes. Not saying it’s not hard work, don’t @ me, wrestling fans.
  • Crystal Cox only ran in the preliminary rounds for the relay, not the final, with no evidence that she ever ran pro in Europe. Also, she was stripped of her medal anyway.
  • No, Kenny Hoang’s gaming career doesn’t make him an athlete, are you fucking kidding me? Get out of here, nerd.

With that settled, here are the men (sigh, classic Survivor, classic sports) who did make the cut.

8. John Rocker – Survivor: San Juan del Sur

john rocker baseball
I made sure to find a picture where he looks stupid. I got your back, New York.

Many people were against this casting from the beginning; John Rocker has a rather unsavory reputation and many Survivor fans didn’t want to risk things getting ugly. Sure, he didn’t end up saying anything as controversial as he did in Sports Illustrated except for, you know, threatening to knock out Natalie’s teeth… if she were a man. Some might argue he brought more entertainment in his short time on Survivor than the following entries, but he didn’t stick around long enough for a satisfying comeuppance, and he dragged a quitter along with him.

7. Steve Wright – Survivor: Redemption Island

Steve Wright football

While we appreciate the gesture of quickly dispatching Russell Hantz after his third time playing in four seasons, Steve was a big supporter of one of the more misguided thrown challenges in Survivor (I’m looking at you, Ozzy). The only other noteworthy moment of Steve’s game was the unfortunate “rice wars” incident with Phillip. Though it’s hard to blame the guy, it’s not anything that makes him seem like great casting. Unlike most of the other athletes on this list, he wasn’t even stunt casting, as evidence of not being the only other former NFL player on the season.

6. Grant Mattos – Survivor: Redemption Island

Grant Mattos football

As the other NFL player on Redemption Island, Grant was slightly more interesting than Steve due to A) lasting longer (phrasing), B) being Rob’s BFUF (best friend until the finale), and C) white boy dreads. He was one of the more major non-Rob players in the season, but unfortunately that says very little.

5. Brad Culpepper – Survivor: Blood vs. Water

brad culpepper football

Sure, he couldn’t count and was perhaps overprotective of his wife, but at least he created an alpha male alliance! I’ve been lead to understand that’s a favorite demo of the Purple Rock audience. Brad was not super appealing, but that made Caleb’s flip that much better. And remember kids, “four with nine is out, five with nine is in”.

4. Cliff Robinson – Survivor: Cagayan

Heh, Blazers.
Heh, Blazers.

The bromance between Uncle Cliffy and Woo was one for the ages, if not for the post-merge. Cliff didn’t get much to do, but he was a fun presence and had one of the better instances of being discovered by his tribemates – with Woo admitted he had a Cliff Robinson basketball card growing up. But Cliff’s true legacy was gifting us with the first instance of Woo blindside face.

3. Gary Hogeboom – Survivor: Guatemala

gary hogeboom football

Gary Hogeboom (née Hawkins) is not only the first professional athlete (in a major league, Ethan) but he was also the first to ever find and play a hidden immunity idol, however under powered it may have been.  As such, he introduced the Survivor world to the trope of professional athletes lying about their identity and being discovered (along with the trope of their identity being discovered by someone in the game). Though he was not the most dynamic individual, his insistence of being Gary Hawkins: landscaper, is enough to place him at third on our list.

2. Jeff Kent – Survivor: Philippines

jeff-kent baseball

While I may be biased because Jeff Kent spent years playing second base for my beloved Giants, I’m also biased because he spent years playing second base for my despised Dodgers. Kent is arguably the most successful athlete on this list, yet he made it through with only one person knowing his identity. She was dispatched as soon as possible and never told anyone else. Everyone remembers his final words, but Kent actually had some game in him. Unfortunately, he was too focused on voting out returning players. On the bright side, the tribal council where he was booted was the Cinderella story in our Ultimate Tribal Council tournament.

1. Scot Pollard – Survivor: Kaoh Rong

He was eccentric. There were so many looks to choose from!
He was eccentric. There were so many looks to choose from!

I generally try to avoid discussing current players while writing my blogs, but Andy said I had to because “this list only has value with Scot in it. It’s an attempt to see where he rates”. And for my money, he rates at number one. Sure, he didn’t always come across great, and Gary may have finished one place higher, but he was certainly entertaining. When your boot instantly enters Survivor lore as historic, satisfying, and dramatic as hell, you get to be on top of a lot of lists.