UF sophomore on 'Survivor'

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 10:34 p.m.

It has been a thrilling but tiring few days for University of Florida student Spencer Duhm.

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Spencer Duhm, a UF student from Lakeland, is one of the 16 castaways set to compete in Survivor.


Last Thursday night, he joined fellow students in the O'Connell Center to watch the Gators' football team win a national championship, and he then celebrated late into the night.

And on Wednesday, the Lakeland native was finally able to disclose a secret he'd been keeping for months: He is one of 16 contestants on "Survivor: Tocantins The Brazilian Highlands," the upcoming season of the CBS reality show. The broadcasts begin Feb. 12.

Duhm, a sophomore at UF, said Wednesday he had been deluged with phone calls and text messages since CBS released the cast list.

"I'm tired," Duhm said by phone from Gainesville. "It's been a long day for me. But don't let that fool you. I'm good."

Duhm, 20, was 19 during last fall's filming, making him the youngest contestant in the show's 10-year history. The show lowered its minimum age from 21 to 18 for this season, giving Duhm (pronounced "doom") the chance to become the first teenaged competitor.

Duhm, a 2007 graduate of Bartow's International Baccalaureate School, said he applied last summer, as soon as he learned about the change in the age policy. He learned last October he had made the cut.

Filming in Brazil soon followed, forcing Duhm to withdraw from classes at UF, where he is a telecommunications major and a member of the crew team.

"I have no idea what one thing about me impressed them over other young applicants," Duhm said. "Obviously I tried to be as personable as possible (during auditions), but I tried to just be myself because they're going to pick you for you, and you don't want to be fake. I know there are a lot of young fans out there; that's why it was such a shock" to be selected.

Upon being chosen, Duhm had to sign a confidentiality agreement, promising to tell no one but family about his involvement with the show. He explained his abrupt departure to friends by saying he had received an internship in Chicago, where he has relatives.

"For the most part they bought it," Duhm said. "Obviously they were a little skeptical because I didn't have a lot of details for them, but they bought it. I didn't enjoy lying to my friends, but in the end obviously they forgive me for that."

Duhm joined a cast ranging in age up to 53. The contestants include a U.S. Army sergeant, three professional models and the wife of former pro football player Eddie George.

"Survivor" places contestants in exotic locations and divides them into two teams for tests of physical and psychological endurance. Under the show's format, competitors vote off one person at a time until reaching a winner, who receives $1 million. The runner-up gets $100,000.

Duhm said he has watched "Survivor" religiously since it debuted and has long yearned to be a competitor.

"It was just the idea and concept around the show, just the competition and strategy involved and the physical fortitude and mental fortitude it took to do well," he said. "Eventually I had this ridiculous addiction to the show. My friends all thought I was very strange for having that, but they're all excited now that I'm going to be on the show."

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