Hickory native Will Simms competes on SURVIVOR

Graduating as an Indian from St. Stephens High School, Will Simms II knows something about being a part of a tribe.

Now, the Hickory native is trying to outwit, outplay and outlast 17 other contestants on the 30th season of the CBS show SURVIVOR for a chance to claim the $1 million prize.

Simms was shocked when he found out he was chosen for the show.

“It’s like winning the ‘Willy Wonka Golden Ticket.’ Here I am on SURVIVOR Season 30,” Simms said in a cast interview on CBS.com. “I mean, who could have imagined? Out of the millions of people who auditioned for this show, I got it. So, I’ve got to make the most of it. I’ve got to play the game my way and get to the final three and get that million.”

This season, the theme is “Worlds Apart,” showcasing three different six-person tribes comprised of people from different walks of life.

Simms is part of the “No Collar” Nagarote tribe, which is made up of people who are considered “free spirits.”

The other two tribes — the “Blue Collar” Escameca tribe and the “White Collar” Masaya tribe — feature players from the working class and business worlds, respectively.

The show was filmed in San Juan del Sur and Nicaragua.

Simms believes his interpersonal ability will aid him on the show.

“What’s going to help me are my people skills,” he said. “Being a bartender, you interact with all different types of people. So, I’m going to have to use my ‘spidey sense’ and figure out people quickly so I can win this game.”

“I’m a people person,” Simms added. “Sometimes I’m giving to a fault, so to say. I trust very easy. People sometimes use my kindness as a weakness. So, I’m going to have to flip it and use my kindness to keep me in the game.”

Simms and his wife of 13 years, Monifa, caught fame in May 2013 on an episode of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” when the couple was caught singing Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” at a gas station.

“Last year, I had a video of that went viral of me and my wife dancing and singing at a gas station,” Simms said on Wednesday’s premiere. “The reason why people liked the video is because sometimes people take life too seriously and don’t take advantage of an opportunity like that. Just live in the moment,  let your guard down and have fun.”

During the show’s premiere on Wednesday, Simms was voted by his Nagarote tribemates as leader, helping the group to team immunity and his safety for the first week.

Several local fans tuned into the show Wednesday night to root on their favorite local face.

“I have never watched SURVIVOR, but I will tonight to see fellow St. Stephens High alumni, Will Sims II!” said Amy Lafone Rucker, of Hickory, on Facebook. “Go Will!”

Leaving behind his wife and 12-year-old daughter, Simms is hoping the sacrifice pays off in the end.

“Everything’s at stake,” he said. “For me to sacrifice 39 days of leaving them, I have to win. I at least have to give it my all, and if I give it my all and I play the game hard and I play it smart the way I can and I don’t win, I can live with that. If I don’t give it my all and lack on the challenges and not play the game that I need to play then I’m going to be very, very disappointed of myself.”

SURVIVOR airs Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on CBS.