- Associated Press - Sunday, September 25, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Chris Hammons has been surviving all his life; challenging the odds, proving the doubters wrong.

Now he’ll do it on television.

As CBS’s “Survivor” kicks off its 33rd season, Millennials vs. Gen X, Sooner football fans can tune in to see Hammons, a captain on the 2000 national championship team compete to become the sole survivor and winner of $1 million.

“This is a lifelong dream of mine,” Hammons told The Oklahoman (9https://bit.ly/2cp8ZtN). “Living on an island with strangers and not only surviving but trying to scheme and out-think all your competitors, that’s what makes ‘Survivor’ great.”

Hammons, 38, grew up in Sulphur and lived a hardscrabble life. He says his father was a drug trafficker and described him as an “off-the-grid-hillbilly.” Hammons and his older brother lived in a trailer without running water until they were 15, when his dad was arrested and sent to prison.



Hammons, who has a 6-foot-4 frame, excelled in football and earned a scholarship to East Central in Ada. But Hammons said he felt like he wanted more, so after his sophomore year he decided to leave East Central and walk on at OU.

“People kept asking me ‘What are you doing?’ and ‘There’s no chance,’” Hammons said. “All I said back was ‘We’ll see.’”

Hammons walked on, and though he never produced many stats at tight end for the Sooners (in his two years he caught only one touchdown) he was considered a key leader and impressed coach Bob Stoops enough that he earned a scholarship.

You might remember Hammons from one of the biggest games in Sooner history, standing at midfield during the coin toss to the 2000 national championship.

“It worked out,” Hammons said. “It was definitely a long road. But it was worth it.”

After football, Hammons went on to become an attorney. He started his own law firm, Laird Hammons Laird, with fellow attorney Jeff Laird in 2009.

Hammons said he became a fan of “Survivor” during the first season, which premiered in March of 2000.

“I’ve never missed an episode of “Survivor” ever,” he said. “It’s just a phenomenon.”

He began auditioning off and on every few years, but never heard back from CBS. Then one day, he got a call back.

“From there it was just all about piquing the interest of CBS,” he said. “Thankfully I’m pretty comfortable telling my story.”

The auditions had many steps along the way, but Hammons kept making the cut; telling his story about growing up poor in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma, working his way onto the football team at OU, starting his own law firm.

“It’s been like I’ve been on that survival edge for so long I felt like that environment, that chaotic environment, that I would just fit in it,” he said. “The game just felt like it suited me.”

CBS ate it up.

“Survivor” host Jeff Probst said he loved Hammons the minute he met him.

“I love his experience, I love his college football experience, I love that he’s been in big-game situations in sports and in the courtroom,” Probst said. “Chris would be an awesome winner, and I’d be very happy if he made it deep.”

So Hammons was shipped off to Fiji, where this season of “Survivor” was filmed. Hammons, as well as 19 other contestants, will live off of meager rations, make their own shelter, compete in strenuous challenges and vote each other off for 39 days.

While the show only runs for 39 days, Hammons said he was forced to be away from home for more than 50 days. Worse, he was unable to tell anyone where he was going due to contractual reasons. He left his wife and two sons, as well as his staff at the law firm.

Though he knew the situation would be tough, Hammons said he knew it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and didn’t want to pass it up.

“When we were out there and things were awful, it all lent itself well for me to say “this is bad, but it’s not that bad,” Hammons said. “I’ve been on my own for a long time and I’ve had to use my social skills and every skill I have, mental and physical, to make it in the world.”

Will Hammons be the next winner of “Survivor?” He’s got the tease all ready:

“We’ll see.”

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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