East Tennessee man competes on latest season of Survivor


Gavin Whitson, 24, has been a self-described “superfan” of the show Survivor since he was seven years old. 

So when the Erwin, Tennessee native finally got the opportunity to compete after auditioning for five consecutive seasons, he was willing to do anything, including rescheduling his wedding. 

His wife said yes. 

“She knows this has been my dream for so long,” said Whitson. “I had to change venues, we were changing caterers, we were resending out invitations because we already sent out invitations.” 

Especially after rearranging their big day, Whitson knew he had to do whatever he could to stay in the game. 

But even after nearly two decades of watching the show, he said there are some things you just can’t prepare for. 

“I don’t think there’s any way you can really mentally prepare for Survivor. That was something that I learned whenever I was out there,” said Whitson. “It’s a heck of a lot easier sitting on the couch watching while you’re eating a hamburger. So it gave me a deeper appreciation for how real the game really is.” 

Before the show began, he speculated that his job as a YMCA program director would give him an edge. “I told the producers before I went on the show if I can deal with one hundred crazy kids at summer camp then cutting back to one hundred crazy adults on an island…it’ll be a cake walk. We’ll see if that was true.” 

He hopes that some of those kids may be inspired to play Survivor, just like he was after watching four others from the Tri-Cities region compete in past seasons. 

“I hope they fall in love with the show like I did and they start applying and make their dreams come true just like mine did,” said Whitson. 

Now, Whitson said he can’t wait to watch from home. “I wish everyone could get the chance to play a game like this because it makes you truly realize what’s important in life. It’s not the materialistic things. It’s the people that’s waiting on you back home.” 

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