South Side native Tony Simmons played for four NFL teams but competing on a team of strangers for the new Fox military-inspired series “American Grit” may have been his toughest challenge yet.
“I was preparing my mind for the worst,” Simmons, 41, said about joining the competition, which is hosted by WWE Superstar John Cena.
Simmons and Elgin professional bodybuilder Marc Lobliner are two of 16 contestants on the show, set to premiere 8 p.m. Thursday. The athletes, divided into four teams guided by military experts, battle in survival-themed challenges for a grand prize of up to $1 million.
Simmons, who was raised in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood and played for St. Rita High School, was picked by team captain Tawanda “Tee” Hanible, who grew up on the South Side and recently retired from the U.S. .
Hanible’s team is the center of the drama in Thursday’s episode after a disagreement about the best way to tackle the obstacle course. Simmons said it was tough having different personalities live and compete together.
The real test of adversity, though, is getting to the finish line. The teams compete in a series of grueling challenges each episode. The winning team is safe from elimination, while the other three teams must send a member into “The Circus.”
Competitors in “The Circus” endure an obstacle course and an endurance challenge. The first endurance challenge involves holding on to a rope attached to a sandbag while the second challenge requires alternating between submerging in a tub of ice water and doing burpees.
A contestant is eliminated if he/she taps out during “The Circus.”
“You’re going to see a lot of people not give up,” Simmons said.
Simmons, who coaches the Warsaw Sharks football team in Poland, said he didn’t have time to train for the show. Lobliner, 35, said he also didn’t have time to prepare and he was at a disadvantage because he did not have much body fat.
“I went into the mode where I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to win this damn thing, whatever it takes,'” said Lobliner, owner of MTS Nutrition and chief marketing officer for tigerfitness.com.
Lobliner, who was on former Navy Seal Commander Rorke Denver’s team, said the experience was exhilarating and excruciating.
“This was, honestly, outside of seeing my children being born, this was the most amazing experience of my life, by far,” Lobliner said.
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