All of the Men Who Were Almost the Bachelor

Some went on to stir up drama on Bachelor in Paradise. Some went on to date former Bachelorettes.

By Tierney Bricker Aug 14, 2019 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Chris Harrison Explains How They Pick "The Bachelor" & "Bachelorette"

Always a contestant, never a lead.

While hundreds of men have appeared as contestants in the Bachelor franchise since it began in 2002, only 22 men have served as the star of The Bachelor, with one man even handing out roses twice. (What's up, Brad Womack?)

Beginning with businessman Alex Michel in its inaugural season, ABC picked eligible normal men to be their lead, sometimes choosing a more high-profile name like NFL player Jesse Palmer or actor Charlie O'Connell or Firestone Tire heir Andrew Firestone

But midway through The Bachelor's 23-season run, the show realized its viewers were way more invested when they knew the lead from the previous season, especially when they chose single dad Jason Mesnick as their new Bachelor in season 13.

All of the Men Who Were Almost the Bachelor

Since his season aired, every Bachelor has been a previous contestant, and since it started in 2003, each of the 15 Bachelorettes have also been a former suitor looking for her own love story;  there's  already a built-in story and emotional investment in these leads, as viewers recently watched them have their heart broken by the previous lead in a vicious-yet-compelling cycle. 

George Burns/ABC

That means that from the moment the first contestant steps out of the limo on night one, Bachelor Nation is already scouting their next Bachelor or Bachelorette, with Bachelor in Paradise also playing a major factor in the decision-making process since its debut in 2014 as two men have gone on to become the Bachelor after their trip to Mexico.

Seeing as how quickly things can change in the Bachelor world, several men are often courted to be the next Bachelor, with many even signing contracts only to never be named the franchise's next leading man in the end.

Over the years, several almost-Bachelors have talked about the process and ultimately losing out on the gig. For some, it actually helped their love lives. For others, it lead to some f--kboy drama in Paradise...

Peter Kraus

Before Arie Luyendyk Jr., who had been the runner-up on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette five years prior, was unexpectedly named the next lead, Rachel Lindsay's beloved runner-up seemed like the obvious choice, given the fan response as soon as the personal trainer/model stepped out of the limo. His dramatic and emotional breakup with Rachel only made the call for him to be the Bachelor even louder.

 So what the hell happened, especially since insiders at the time said he was the producers' No. 1 pick?

There were rumors of stalled contract negotiations and Peter's hesitance to propose being an issue, but the non-Bachelor seemed to confirm it was his own indecisiveness that caused him to miss out on the gig.

"When you let uncertainty or fear guide your decisions, you risk missing out on what could potentially be the greatest opportunity of a life time," he wrote on Instagram after the Arie announcement. "So live dangerously, live without the fear of the unknown, and continue to live and love with a heart that is truly open to anything."

But Peter's name still comes up in the Bachelor casting conversation, as he is still single.

Jason Tartick

After Becca Kufrin's season ended with her engaged to Garrett Yrigoyen, producers met with the three other men who rounded out her final four, all fan-favorites, before deciding to go with Colton Underwood after his emotional storyline on Bachelor in Paradise

One of the fan-favorites for the gig was Jason, who was sent home heartbroken during the fantasy suites episode and won viewers over throughout his time on the show, and expressed interest in being the next Bachelor in his post-show interviews.

Ultimately, Colton's story proved too irresistible for producers, with a source telling E! News at the time, "Colton was by far the safest pick. He's a virgin and he works in non-profit. He screams wholesome, middle America." 

After he  was not picked, Jason told us, "I was so open to giving The Bachelor an opportunity [for me] to find that person. I thought that it would put me in the best position to find my person, my one."

And it all worked out in the end: viewers were treated to Colton's iconic fence jump before he found love (but not an engagement) with Cassie Randolph, while Jason got his own happily ever after when he fell for fan-favorite Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe. Dating since early 2019, the couple lives together in Nashville and adopted a dog, named Ramen Noodle. Oh, and Colton is Ramen's godfather. 

Blake Horstmann

In addition to Jason, producers also met with Blake, Becca's devastated runner-up, before officially announcing Colton as their next lead, and it seemed like the beer salesman was actually the fan-favorite to the gig after his emotional journey during The Bachelorette. In fact, ABC was concerned Blake

 "The hardest turn that a lead has to make is then getting the empathy toward, 'Oh my god, now I know what this person went through.' And for him to have to say, 'Now I know what Becca went through,' and break someone's heart…you just want to make sure he can handle that because I think he is a guy that loves deeply and there's a potential to fall in love with not even two women, but three or four, which would make for great TV," Rob Mills, ABC's SVP of alternative series, specials, and late-night programming explained at the time. "But you will definitely want to do right by him as well. That would probably be the big thing, but he certainly has a lot of the attributes you love seeing in Bachelor." 

Of course, producers ultimately went in a different direction, and after the announcement, Blake took to Instagram to congratulate Colton and wish him luck, as well as thank the fans for their support.

"I wanna thank you all for the support over the last few months! It has been incredibly humbling and it means the world. There really is nothing like #bachelornation," he wrote. "I wouldn't change the man I am if I was the bachelor and wasn't going to change the man I am to become the bachelor. I am excited to close this chapter and see what the future holds!"

Well, the future held a "dumpster fire" turn on Bachelor in Paradise season six, when his various hook-ups (most notably at the Stagecoach country music festival) when several Bachelor Nation contestants, including Caelynn Miller-Keyes, Kristina Schulman and Hannah Godwin, were exposed. As the drama played out on-screen, it also took over social media, with Blake sharing private text messages between him and Caelynn ahead of Paradise in an attempt to clear his name. 

"Blake himself was an absolute dumpster fire," Chris Harrison recently told E! News of Blake's BIP run. "He was just a car wreck."

Chase McNary

Just like Luke, Chase, also from JoJo's season, felt a bit blindsided when Nick Viall was announced as the star of season 21.

"I went through the negotiations, I accepted the offer, I signed the contract," Chase told Us Weekly. "I talked to my family friends about being the Bachelor. It was the Monday before they announced it that they told me I wasn't the Bachelor. So I found out with the rest of the world that it was Nick."

The personal trainer decided to step away from the franchise and join other reality TV franchises, heading to MTV for stints on Ex on the Beach and The Challenge.

As for why the Nick trumped Chase and Luke for the job, Chris Harrison explained on Good Morning America that after three "sincere" appearances on the franchise's shows, a season starring Nick felt "just crazy enough to work."

Luke Pell

While he would go on to become somewhat of a Bachelor Nation villain after his cold and calculating turn on The Bachelor Winter Games, the country singer/veteran who made it the final three of JoJo Fletcher's season was once this close to being the next leading man. In fact, he had signed the contract and everything before producers called an audible and surprised everyone, including Luke, by going with Nick Viall after his time on Bachelor in Paradise.

"I was supposed to fly to L.A. Monday and already had all my bags packed. They called me Sunday night and said it wasn't me," Luke told E! News at the time. "I didn't know who the Bachelor was—I found out with the rest of America."

He continued, "I'm fine, I'm content…I felt like I didn't deserve that. It's the way they handled it. me to be genuine and authentic and open and vulnerable…and then I don't get genuine and authentic in return from the organization."

Ryan Lochte

Back in 2012, fresh off of his star-making turn at the Olympics, the swimmer was actually in talks with producers for the gig.

"No money has been talked about with regard to the Bachelor, but yes, he has been approached," a source said at the time, "He is open to featuring his dating life on TV."

The decision came down between Lochte, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Sean Lowe, with producers ultimately saying "Jeah!" to Sean, who went on to become the only Bachelor to marry his final pick.

Instead of handing out roses, Lochte decided to star on his own reality show, E!'s What Would Ryan Lochte Do?

Lochte ended up finding love off-screen, marrying Kayla Rae Reid in January 2018 and the couple has two children together.

Chris Lambton

America fell in love with Chris, the sweet landscaper who had just lost his mother, during Ali Fedotowky's season of The Bachelorette, and he was the No. 1 guy for the producers, who brought him in to meet all of the bosses and attempted to woo him with a trip to Los Angeles and an appearance at a charity golf event.  

But then fate intervened, and Chris met his future wife Peyton Wright, a contestant from Andy Baldwin's season and Bachelor Pad, at that very event, and nine months later, they were engaged.

"They offered me a good amount of money, way more than I'd make landscaping," the HGTV/DIY Network star said on the Reality Steve podcast. "but again, I talked to my brothers and my dad about it, and Peyton got in the picture and that relationship was starting."

Chris and Peyton have two children and live in Massachusetts, where Chris was recently elected to his hometown's board of selectmen.

Jay Overbye

Before the franchise courted criticism in 2015 for having two women—Kaitlyn Bristowe and Britt Nilsson—serve as the Bachelorette on night one and allowing the men decide who would ultimately get to keep the title, they actually did the same thing with two men in 2004 during The Bachelor's sixth season.

On night one, the ladies met Byron Velvick, a divorced pro fisherman, and Jay, a real estate agent and former model, and by the end of "Lady's Choice Ceremony" they had to choose which 40-year-old they were most excited to continue getting to know. Ultimately, Byron won the vote.

"I got a call from [ABC], and they said ‘Hey, we have great news for you! You are chosen as the Bachelor!'" Jay later recalled of his brief time as the Bachelor during an interview on the Here to Make Friends podcast. "They were congratulating me, and they said, 'Just so you know, there's going to be another Bachelor.' "I was like, 'Wait a second, that's not fair! I just went through this whole process as the one guy!'"

While he didn't find love on The Bachelor, Jay did reveal he's been in a committed relationship since 2009, and married in 2015. "It was meant to happen later for me," he said.

Tim Tebow

Back when producers considered bring in fresh faces as the next lead rather than cast from the previous cycle, the religious NFL star was approached about taking on the role.

"I met about him becoming our next Bachelor, I think he'd be a great Bachelor," Harrison said on Access Hollywood in 2012. "He did say yes, but he'd never do it. He has a little job called quarterback in the NFL."

Just 24 at the time, Tim, who had previously made headlines when he revealed he was saving himself for marriage, set the record straight on Twitter.

"Haha rumors can be crazy! Even though I've watched the show before, I'm definitely not gonna be on the Bachelor. #JessePalmer," Tebow tweeted, referring to the former New York Giants quarterback who did go on The Bachelor back in 2004.

In January 2019, the Million Dollar Mile host announced he was engaged to Miss Universe 2017 Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters. They wed in January 2020.

The next Bachelor will be announced later this summer, with season 24 premiering in early 2020. 

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