For the first time ever, Fox NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson will appear on TV with his hair messed up.
As a competitor on "Survivor: Nicaragua," which premieres at 7 p.m. Wednesday on CBS, Johnson's normally immaculate hairstyle was the least of his concerns.
"When you're worrying about getting something to eat or boiling some water and getting some water and you're just physically exhausted, the last thought on your mind is how you look," Johnson, 67, said in a recent conference call. "In fact, a big part of the show I was standing around in my underwear, so I wasn't really concerned about what I looked like."
Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, Johnson had dreamed of taking a trip to the rugged Amazon. He said his hectic football coaching career, which included stops as a head coach at Oklahoma State and Miami in college and the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins in the NFL, kept that from happening.
An avid fan of "Survivor," he hoped his favorite TV show would provide the adventure he had missed out on. A Florida Keys resident, he already loved the beach life, including fishing and scuba diving.
Johnson's trek to "Survivor" took him several years. He first applied six years ago, and three years ago he nearly sewed up a berth until he was disqualified because of a heart condition. A physician for the show discovered one of Johnson's arteries was 100 percent blocked and another was 70 percent blocked.
"A week later, I had a stent put in and went on a strict diet," Johnson said. "I lost 30 pounds and my cholesterol went from 220 to under 100. I got healthy. In fact, 'Survivor' may have actually made me a survivor. It probably saved my life."
Johnson persuaded his wife, Rhonda, to let him try for the third time — promising her he would be in top condition — and he finally made the cut.
When he showed up in Nicaragua for the filming, he said his fellow competitors were stunned he was on the show. "Surely that's not Jimmy Johnson," he said, "that's a look-alike."
A psychology major at the University of Arkansas, Johnson reassured his tribemates that he wasn't really trying to win the game.
"I said, 'Listen, no jury is going to award me a million bucks. My goal is for one of you to win a million bucks. I am here for the adventure,' " he said. "Now, I can't tell you what the results were, but I was very happy with the adventure."
Johnson did mention that he had lost a substantial amount of weight and has only gained about half of it back, indicating he probably wasn't voted out early.
In the Nicaragua edition, the competitors are divided into two tribes — the Espada, for those who are over 40, and the La Flor, for those 30 and under. Johnson said he was initially was disappointed by the split.
"I was hoping a couple of those 25-year-olds would carry me through some of the challenges," he said.
Johnson said his older group included several athletes, including a swimmer, runner, triathlete and a cyclist, and his team was optimistic about the matchups with the younger team, which included a Miami Dolphins cheerleader.
Comparing the show to football, Johnson said the hardships he endured were much worse than anything he experienced as a player or coach, even demanding three-a-day practices.
Because of time restrictions, he said viewers don't see the long, hard days the competitors endure as they bid for the $1 million top prize.
"You can't see the pouring down rain for the five straight hours in the middle of the night. You don't have a watch. You don't know what time it is. You're cold and shivering and it's raining. And you haven't had a minute of sleep all night. You're just saying, 'I wonder what time is? When is the sun going to come up?'"
Johnson, of course, is prohibited from revealing any of the show's results, but he said he would decline an invitation to return for another installment. One adventure was enough for him.
However, he said his experience helped him understand the conditions that people face in less-developed countries.
"It gives me such an appreciation what a soft bed feels like, a plate of food on the table," he said.