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Pierce: Utahns on 'Survivor' surprisingly similar
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dawn Meehan and Rick Nelson are both from Utah. They're both contestants on "Survivor: South Pacific" (Wednesday at 7 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2).

Other than that, they don't seem to have a lot in common. Meehan, 41, is a BYU English professor who lives in suburban South Jordan — a wife and mother to six adopted children. Nelson, 51, is a cattle rancher, husband and father who lives in rural Aurora.

They'd never met until they got to Samoa. They're on different tribes when the season begins. But their "Survivor" stories are strangely similar.

Meehan began auditioning for the show in 2000.

"Since Season 2, this has been a lifelong commitment for me," she said. "This is something I really wanted to do."

Nelson was a fan of the show from the beginning, and began applying in 2004.

"Ever since it first came out, I remember watching it thinking: I want to do that," he said.

Both applied repeatedly. Both were flown to California to be interviewed, without success.

"That just made it worse," Nelson said. "I was, like, 'I'm doing this no matter what I've got to do, no matter how long it takes.' And it took a long time!

"Heck, I've been married 31 years. I keep trying lots of weird deals," he said, with a laugh.

Both worried about leaving their spouses alone for a month and a half.

"I'm out there playing for a million dollars," Meehan said. "My husband really had the million-dollar challenge of working and operating the family."

Nelson worried about leaving his wife alone on their ranch.

"She said, 'Hey, it's your dream. If you want to do it, do it,' " he said.

But she did have some advice, he said.

"I told the family before everything started, 'I don't want to embarrass you,' " he said. "And the wife said, 'Rick, don't be the old guy in the underwear, please.' "

Both worried about being "older" contestants in a game generally won by younger contestants.

"I worked out for 10 months, two times a day to get ready physically for it," Meehan said. "Because I knew that I was going to be one of the older people playing the game."

Nelson rode a bike 10 miles a day and ran a lot.

"Ten years ago, I'll guarantee you I was in a lot better physical shape," he said. "I think the seasoning probably helped me, too. To not be so quick-tempered, because I'm sure people are going to get on your nerves pretty heavy."

And neither of them could say enough about what a great experience "Survivor" was for them, unknowingly choosing the same words to describe it.

"I really believe for me it was life-changing," Meehan said.

"When they say it's a life-changing deal? Oh, yeah," echoed Nelson.

Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com .

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