Steve Wright: I don't think Phillip Sheppard is acting, he's just crazy
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/05/2011
Steve Wright was eliminated from Survivor: Redemption Island after he lost the season's tenth Redemption Island duel to Matt Elrod, Mike Chiesl and Ralph Kiser during Wednesday night's broadcast of the twelfth episode of the CBS reality series' 22nd edition.
On Thursday, the 51-year-old former NFL player from Huntington, CA talked to the media about his Survivor: Redemption Island experience -- including what he thinks about fellow castaway Phillip Sheppard and his allegations that Steve made a racist comment about him, whether he believes Phillip's private claims that he's just misbehaving to ensure his competitors will take him to the game's final jury vote, and what he thought about "Boston" Rob Mariano and his gameplay.
Do you think Phillip Sheppard is crazy or no?
Steve Wright: I don't think he's acting. I think when you're getting filmed 24/7, the truth comes out, so I think he's crazy and I'm not shy to say it. That was all that was meant by it, just the way that I would call you crazy.
What was it like to be caught in the awkward situation with Phillip over the "black and white" card?
Steve Wright: It wasn't a big deal. I saw it as a positive that he's imploding and I felt it was going to be for my benefit. I knew that I would shine out of something like that, and I did my best to try and get him removed. I was a little concerned about my safety going into the evening and the dark hours with hatchets and machetes around there.
Who knows how far he'd want to take it. That was the really uncomfortable part, but other than that, I got a ton of support from black guys that I've played with, my black brother-in-law and everyone else. So, I didn't really have an issue or think that I was going to be shown in any bad light, because there's none to shine.
Did you really think that Phillip was [deliberately] acting so strangely as [a] strategy? He's been shown saying that during his private interviews on the show, including on last night's episode.
Steve Wright: Yeah, he was acting strange to begin with. Like I said in the beginning, I think he can only be an actor for a short time. There's no way you can act when the cameras are on you 24/7 for 30-plus days. The real you is going to come out just like it did with me or [Grant Mattos] or [Mike Chiesl] or Phillip or anybody else.
The real you gets exposed the same way he said that he's "the red-headed step child" to the girls and thought that Grant and ["Boston" Rob Mariano] thought that they were after him. He thinks the world's coming down on him, and I've never walked in his shoes and he feels the world's out to get him.
So, he feels he's going to blow his chest up and talk about his FBI experience, which I'm sure was a very short span, if at all. I don't think they would take somebody that's so unstable mentally and emotionally.
What was Rob's hold on Ometepe like and do you think you should have done anything differently with him?
Steve Wright: I attempted to do everything I possibly could. The fact was that I let them know we were voting for him. The only thing I would have possibly done different is -- what would make good television -- is go over when they're all waiting up in their bamboo bed -- when they're all laying there with Rob -- and say, "We're all voting for Rob, and anyone who wants to jump onboard, this is your time to do it, otherwise, you know."
With me, they were all calling me a T-Rex or something like that because I was losing so much weight you could see my bones. I was falling apart and I was beatable, but "the bed you're in right now is his bed. You're going to boot him out when you're ready to."
I wish I would have done that in hindsight, but I did let him bring me out even at Tribal Council that we were voting one way or another. We were all voting for Grant at one time and we were all voting for Rob, just hoping that one or two of them would flip -- whether up there quietly writing the names down -- I couldn't get them to shake off that Kool-aid that they were drinking.
Survivor host Jeff Probst has claimed that your Zapatera tribe made a big mistake and lost momentum when the tribe intentionally threw the challenge to get rid of Russell Hantz. Do you agree with that?
Steve Wright: It's total circumstantial. It was, more than anything, a one man wrecking crew. It was Grant. He was just killing us. Just by himself he was killing us -- out there catching the balls on the beach and shooting the basket and just other competitions -- he was.
We won the challenge right after we threw Russell off. Russell wasn't contributing anything. He's a little pudgy guy that brings a lot of bad vibes to the camp. We had to live with him for eight days and it was eight miserable days from the day that we landed on the beach to just setting up Zapatera.
He was starting to work on picking us apart and dividing us. I pulled him off a couple of times and I said, "Hey, let it go. Let it go for a couple of weeks. I'll be glad to talk with you about in a couple of weeks after we win a few challenges and whittled Ometepe down."
And he'd said, "Okay." And then [Julie Wolfe] would come over to me and say, "Hey he's wearing me out." And I said, "What are you talking about? He's trying to tell me, "Hey, let's kick Steve out because he's a big man and he's a big threat." So, it was just non-stop and you just can't have somebody around like that.
It's business, you know? You hire fast, or hire slow and fire fast. And when you feel there's somebody that's going to tear apart your team, get rid of them. So, it had nothing to do with Russell. It was just all Grant.
Jeff has suggested that you may have thrown the Redemption Island duel because you were so beat and maybe wanted to just relax and join the jury. What is your response to that?
Steve Wright: No, I didn't. In the first week, you think, "Oh my Lord. Get me out of here." But you just keep plugging along. I knew it was only like eight days away or seven days away. I mean, anybody could hang in there for that.
If you were in Rob's shoes, would you keep Phillip "the goat" around until the end even though he is crazy, assuming that you would get the votes over him from the jury members?
Steve Wright: Yeah, you might keep him around, but I can't stand having crazy people around me. I don't know. I mean, Rob played a pretty straight-up game, a very smart game. Who knows if someone is going to bring him along, you know? I would think [Rob]'s got a pretty good mark on his head too.
Did you know Ralph Kiser had been talking about your dramatic weight loss?
Steve Wright: I was looking pitiful. (Laughs) I mean, everybody was thinking I was looking pretty pitiful -- just hanging on.
If Rob was on the Zapatera tribe instead of Russell to begin with, would you have voted him out right away as well? Also, what was it about Rob and Russell that your tribe found so threatening?
Steve Wright: With Russell, I come from a professional team background. Just seeing through the years you get rid of somebody that's going to survive the team. You do the same thing in business. You hire slow and fire fast.
When Russell got there, we gave him a scare so he changed and said he was in it for the team, and I swear to you within a half hour, he had me off to the side because he thought we were going to connect.
He was a little intimidated -- he just didn't like Mike -- he thought Mike had to go. I said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "We haven't even built the shelter yet." That guy just went on and on and on. I was like, "Let's slow it down and let's talk about this in a couple weeks." He said, "Alright. You're right."
And then Julie would come over to me or [David Murphy] and say, "Geez, Russell is just working the hell out of me wanting to get rid of Ralph or wanting to get rid of you." He was just trying to divide us as much as he could and I talked to him a couple of times.
I slowed it down and he just kept going on and on, and as we're working to gather wood or out fishing or whatever we were doing or crabbing, he would just lay around. He would start doing something and we just knew from his history that he's hiding my shoes or doing something with my canteen, or something.
He always just kind of kept me on edge and made me uncomfortable. He put that energy on the camp. So, I'd rather just do the best we can and then just get rid of his ass. It's really the play that's been going on in a lot of interviews. A lot of people are asking about him. He's dust.
So would you have voted Rob out too, had he been there on your tribe instead?
Steve Wright: No, I don't think so. Rob's just more of a team guy. I think he gets it a little bit more. I like Rob. Rob's just been playing a smart game and he doesn't rub you the wrong way. He just kind of flies low under the radar, and doesn't really upset anybody, and brings a lot of experience, and no, it would not have been the same with him. Who knows, I could have been drinking the Kool-aid too. I don't know.
How would you compare how Survivorbeat down on you physically and mentally with your time in the NFL?
Steve Wright: Not even close. At training camp, you've got so much food at your disposal and they're making sure that you're keeping your weight up. I mean, we're getting weighed every single morning at training camp and I would lose roughly 10 pounds everyday at practice, but then you'd have to be back up the next day. You get a soft bed and you get an air conditioner.
Nothing prepares you for starving. Just a handful of rice day after day, week after week. Plus, 250 pounds -- my body needs 1,500 calories, I'm just guessing, to stay even. And then I was just eating a little bit of rice.
I was just broken down, losing over a pound a day. Nothing even close. Nothing can prepare you for that, and you're losing sleep. You're not sleeping very much. You're laying on bamboo and it's raining on you.
Has there been anything you've seen on the show that has surprised you?
Steve Wright: Yeah, sure. It's been pretty humorous and I can't wait to see them in New York [at the finale]. Just little things, mostly from the other tribe. It's stuff that's predictable. Just them kind of making fun of you or many a time I would be talking to the girls trying to get them -- "Just vote with us!" -- and then having them run back and tell their daddy.
I was just like, "Really?!" (Laughs) That was something that you had to talk about? It's pretty funny to watch but it'd be embarrassing, I think, for them to watch and see that they stooped to that and just got sucked into Rob's world. (Laughs)
Who would have been your ideal final three if you made it further in the game?
Steve Wright: Probably Mike and I and maybe Julie.
Do you think you would have won in that situation?
Steve Wright: I will say yes. People should give into the old tired guy. Yeah, I just felt a big heart for [Matt Elrod] because of what he went through. I would like to see him at least make it to the finals or something.
Out of all the remaining players, who would you not like to see win the game?
Steve Wright: (Laughs) Probably Phillip.
Are there any other reasons for that besides he's crazy?
Steve Wright: Not really any other reason. Everybody's pretty cool and I don't think he's got a bad soul either, he's just a little nutty.
Do you think Matt deserves to win, given the fact he's spent most of the season on Redemption Island?
Steve Wright: Um, yeah I think he deserves to win. I think anybody that's been out there enduring all those elements for that long, I think, has got a right to win. There's no way in the world -- I was just kind of watching him crying on a commercial a week or two ago, and I was going "My Lord," I'd have been bawling a month ago.
That's a lonely hard place to be by yourself. At least, we're with crazy Phillip, but there's food and normal activity -- but you're just over there talking to a coconut.