Survivor Redemption Island, Cast

Monty Brinton/CBS

Retired NFL pro Steve Wright left Survivor: Redemption Island with lasting friendships— "We would take a bullet for each other," he told us about his enduring alliance—and one sworn enemy.

What was it like for the former offensive lineman to be on the receiving end of Phillip Sheppard's crazy? Read on to find out—and to hear his real opinion of the befeathered special agent/samurai.

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What was your initial reaction when Phillip equated your calling him "crazy" with a racial slur?
It was shocking and sad. I was just pissed at him for having the gall to think that he could just mix in his nasty rice in with ours when they had just been cutting us out and separating us. He's crazy. It just got ugly. My brother-in-law is black and I was one of nine guys on the Raiders who were white and the rest were black—[racism is] just not in my nature. There is no black or white line with me, and to hear a bonehead like that get so ugly, it's sad for him. I knew I was going to be fine [but] I felt sorry for his son, just showing what an idiot his dad is.

Do you believe that Phillip is a federal agent?
No. I have known a lot of people who actually have been in the FBI. Someone in that position doesn't just blow their chest out like that, you don't go around bragging. I mean a NASA astronaut doesn't go around telling everyone they are one...You're humble. You don't have to go off about it.

Julie said she was genuinely frightened of Phillip. Did you share her concern?
I [kept] my eye on him because it is dark there for 11 hours...and who knows if the guy's tweaked that much or is deprived that much or was that pissed at me...yeah, I kept my eye on him the best that I could and just hoped for the best. But yeah, I was definitely a little concerned about it.

Did you have any eye contact with him during your final duel at Redemption Island?
No. He is a bug on the wall for me. I don't care to cross paths with him ever again. I am sure I will see him at the finale [but] life is too short—I don't need to go in there. I have already reached out to him once and obviously that doesn't do anything. I was kind of shocked to see it on TV the other night to see that he thought it was insincere.

What was your reaction to Mike sacrificing his reward to your enemies?
I don't second-guess a war hero like Mike serving two tours. I thought it was a pretty cool move. I wouldn't have done it that way—I would have given it to Matt and Ralph over the other tribe. But that is what he wanted to do, and I honor him for doing that.

What was your assessment Matt's psychological state when you joined him at Redemption Island?
[Laughs.] I saw him crying on one of the commercials and I told everyone that I would've been crying two weeks earlier—he is tougher than I am. I would have been talking to a tree, and I would have had a volleyball with a face painted on it, talking to it. To be honest with you, I just don't know how he did it. That's why I would have given him his loved one—we just really felt for the guy, we talked about it quite a bit over the course of a couple of weeks and we all couldn't believe that he was still there. I was just bummed for him. I think I would have kept walking and not stopped if I were him. Over there by yourself for that long? Man that is a tough road.

What's your opinion of how Rob is playing the game?
I think Rob is just playing an absolutely stellar game. I even told him that during the game—I said, "Let me take my hat off to you. It's amazing the Kool-Aid you're having these people drink." He's a good guy. I was just pretty shocked to see a stud like Grant just drinking the Kool-Aid too and not having the cojones to make a move.

How much of the Ometepe's blind devotion derives from being starstruck by Rob vs. his manipulation of them?
Probably 60/40 starstruck. He is one of these guys who is a good leader and doesn't piss anyone off, he's not goofy, he is pretty low key. And then I just take my hat off for him too not just for being a stud but for putting it out there [four] different times. It was hard for me for 30 days. So yeah, he is a star and a good leader to get his troops to follow him in line.

Is this season's emphasis on religion consistent with your experience on Survivor, or has it been amplified in the editing of the show?
I am a Christian. Julie, Mike and I got really close just talking about our faith...And then having Matt around—he is just a very strong influence. When you're out there in that environment I think you get to see the real sincere love and support that our tribe had compared to the other tribe, where they were basically on their knees worshiping Rob. Our tribe was just brotherly love. We would take a bullet for each other, all of us.

Last question, as a former football pro, who in the NFL do you think would be the best Survivor?
Just for fun I am going to say Ronnie Lott. A big heart, caring, and just a real tough guy.

MORE: Strained Rice Relations Ignite Ugly Race War on Survivor: Redemption Island

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