HOUSTON - OCTOBER 1: Tackle Ephraim Salaam #74 of the Houston Texans during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Reliant Stadium on October 1, 2006 in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Dolphins 17-15. (Photo by Bill Baptist/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ephraim Salaam
As you are about to find out, Ephraim Salaam is one of the contestants on the new season of The Amazing Race which premieres Sunday, September 29th.
Before the first show, he sat down with Fox Sports Live staff writer Aaron Torres to discuss the experience, traveling the world with his best friend, and why it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
What was the process? Were you seeking this opportunity? How did it start? How did you get involved?
This started seven years ago. It originally started when someone approached my wife and asked her if she’d want to be on reality on TV. They found out we were married and asked if we wanted to do it together. But while I was playing I couldn’t take a month off in the fall or summer to tape.
So it kind of fell by the wayside, although I always had interest in doing it. Well I got a call in December asking if I was still interested in doing it.
The call kind of just rejuvenated me and I was like, "I would love to do this." So I reached out to Chester (Pitts) who is one of my friends- not only on the field, but off the field too. We have a great relationship and have been friends for a long time, both in the NFL and college.
So I called him up and asked him, "Do you want to do ‘The Amazing Race?"
Well, he had never actually seen the show before. He said, "Is that the show that comes on before The Good Wife? I swear, that was his answer."
I was like, "The Good Wife? What are you talking about?" And he was like, "The Good Wife is a good show!"
Anyway I told him to watch an episode and he loved it, and it all just went from there.
What was the time frame between when you found out and when you shipped off?
In January we did finals for casting. In May we found that we made it. And we left in June. Just like that.
You’re obviously an ex-pro athlete, been training your whole life. Did you train for this? Can you train for this?
I just tried to get myself in shape. I went and bought my backpack, I’d fill it up with 40 or 50 lbs., and just go hiking in the blazing sun. I’d go running; uphill, downhill. I just wanted to be active. I didn’t want to be in the middle of wherever (in the world) and be on national television about to pass out.
I lost about 30 lbs. before I left on the race. I just felt good. I didn’t want my knees to bother me, my back. Chester and I are carrying around a lot of injuries from our playing days, so I just wanted to be in shape.
Who are some of the other people you traveled with? Other reality stars?
There were a couple of the Baseball Wives, Nicky Getz and Kim DeJesus. They were on there. My buddy Shane (Partlow), my buddy Rowan (Joseph).
You knew them from before?
No, we’re all friends now.
On TV it looks extremely competitive, which it is. But when you’re with a group of people and thrust into a situation where you’re not in your comfort zone, may not speak the language, a lot of people haven’t traveled outside the U.S., you kind of bond. You want to compete against them, but you bond with them too.
It’s just like playing in the game on Sundays; I want to beat them, but they’re also my friends.
Without giving away anything from the show, was it about what you expected? More than you expected? Less?
It was definitely different than watching it at home. It’s so many you things you don’t think about when you’re at home.
Think about it like this: If you have to take a long flight, over 6,000 miles, on TV that only lasts like 15 seconds with a little red, yellow or green line on the screen. Well in real life you have to travel those actual 6,000 plus miles.
Which can take quite a bit of time. It’s a lot of little things like that.
What did you learn about yourself and what did you take out of the experience?
I learned that everyone handles stressful situation differently.
I know how Chester handles it; I know how I handle it, because we played together in stressful situations, right next to each other. That’s why Chester was a great partner because I know what to expect from him when the "stuff" hit the fan, when it had to happen, when we had to hone in and get a task done, because we had been there before.
Other people argue with each other. Chester and I don’t really have that kind of relationship where we argue with each other. I might get mad at him but we get back on track.
So you just see the different personalities come out.
This might be a dumb question to ask, but I’m assuming you’re glad you did the show?
Oh, I had a great time. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. No matter how much money you have, no matter how many people you know, you’ll never be able to set that up like that.
It’s a once-a-lifetime experience and I’m glad to have done it.
Best part of the experience?
The best part of the experience was just re-connecting with Chester. Chester lives in Houston, he has his family. I live here (in Los Angeles) and have my family. We talk, but we don’t get to see each other that much.
Basically we were just able to reconnect. Which was really cool.
Have you stayed in touch with other people from the show?
I’m still in touch with others. I play dominoes every night with Tim right on my phone. My buddy Shane taught me this wonderful game called "pounce" that I play with my wife.
I can’t wait to see these guys again. We really created a bond. We really got to know each other. I genuinely like these people?
The only other question I have is where will you be Sunday night?
I’ll be at home. We’ll have some friends over and watch. Nothing crazy!