Utahn to test his wits on 'Survivor'

Thursday » Heber City man battles on 'Survivor: Tocantins.'
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Tyson Apostol says a successful "Survivor" needs physical prowess, brain power and just a dash of arrogance.

And the 29-year-old Heber City man believes he has what it takes to be the ultimate player on one of television's most popular reality shows.

Apostol is one of 16 contestants who will strive to "outwit, outlast and outplay" in the 18th season of CBS' hit show, which this time takes place in the highlands of the Brazilian state known as Tocantins. The season premieres Thursday at 7 p.m. on KUTV Channel 2.

"The thing with 'Survivor,' " Apostol told The Salt Lake Tribune , "is the people who are really strong in just one aspect of the game are not the ones who are successful. You need a well-rounded individual."

Apostol considers himself that. Born in Provo and raised mostly in Lindon, the Orem High School graduate was a professional cyclist for about six years in Europe before returning to Utah to live in Heber. He also was on Brigham Young University's swim team before he dropped out of school to race bicycles.

He credits his two-year LDS mission in the Philippines for helping him adapt to places far from home, including that country's extreme heat.

"I didn't have a hard time adjusting as a 19-year-old boy. It's never been a problem for me," he said about his church mission. "Every time you step out of your comfort zone, learning how to deal with it definitely helps in the game of 'Survivor.' "

Apostol is the third Utahn to star in "Survivor," after Bountiful's Neleh Dennis, who went to the finals but lost in Season 3's "Marquesas," and Todd Herzog, who won the million dollars in the China installment two seasons ago.

Apostol, who now manages the Euclid Outdoors bicycle store in Heber, said he wasn't the biggest "Survivor" follower when he received an e-mail last summer from "someone who knew someone in casting."

But before he left for Brazil, Apostol hunkered down and watched several seasons of the show. He says one of his favorite winners was Herzog, from Utah County.

What did he take away from all those "Survivor" seasons?

"You have to keep everyone close," he said. "Even if you don't like somebody or get along with them, you need to keep everyone close because you don't know what that person can do to you."

If there is one character trait Apostol said he has to keep in check, it's a streak of arrogance. But he also says self-confidence can be a strength.

"There are a lot of people who don't like me at first, but they do after and even grow to love me," he said about his personality. "In my head, I definitely said I needed to hold back and not do this and this and not be so outspoken in some areas."

Herzog, who contacted Apostol through Facebook when he learned the Heber resident was a contestant, said the new Utah "survivor" has the advantage of charm to spare. (In fact, Apostol was voted by fans on CBS.com as the contestant most likely to win.)

"I absolutely believe Tyson has what it takes," said Herzog, who has used his prize money to travel to 15 countries, buy a car and a condominium, and learn to be a hairdresser. "This kid says how it is, and he knows how to work with your brain. If you can't socialize well, you're screwed. Tyson can socialize with a freakin' flower."