While “Survivor” originally started as a show about a group of strangers who had no knowledge of each other before the game, things have changed a bit in the years since. Starting in Season 11 (“Guatemala”) with ex-NFL quarterback Gary Hogeboom, the show has featured notable figures from the world of sports and entertainment, some of whom are identifiable by other castaways on the island with them. Above you can tour our gallery of the 31 celebrity cast members who had some level of fame prior to playing “Survivor.”
“Survivor” being such a physical game has made it attractive to athletes from the world of the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA and even the Olympics. In addition to Gary, some names familiar to those who follow professional football have included: former coach Jimmy Johnson (“Nicaragua”), Steve Wright and Grant Mattos (“Redemption Island”), Brad Culpepper (“Blood vs. Water” and “Game Changers”) and Alan Ball (“Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers”). Jeff Kent (“Philippines”) and John Rocker (“San Juan del Sur”) are two former MLB players who competed on the show while Miami Marlins President David Samson was on “Cagayan.” Former NBA players include Cliff Robinson (“Cagayan”) and Scot Pollard (“Kaoh Rong”).
Looking at the world of entertainment, Lisa Whelchel is arguably the most well-known celebrity to play “Survivor,” at least for those who watched her grow up on the TV series “The Facts of Life.” She would compete in “Philippines,” making it all the way to Final Tribal Council before her secret was revealed. There’s also actor/filmmaker Mike White, a longtime fan of the show who was also a runner-up in “David vs. Goliath.” Meanwhile, younger generations certainly recognized prominent gamers like Ken Hoang (“Gabon”) and Mari Takahashi (“Millennials vs. Gen X”). Then there’s three-time player Jonathan Penner, who was known for acting and writing before playing his first season, “Cook Islands.” Not every famous face has been able to hack it out in the wilderness, but even those who do well have admitted that “Survivor” is the most difficult thing they’ve ever done up to that point.
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