By Dalton Ross
Updated September 21, 2015 at 02:26 PM EDT
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

Andrew Savage — or simply Savage, as Jeff Probst calls him — had a moment of challenge glory on Survivor: Pearl Islands when he held 175 pounds on his back all the way to immunity victory. But now, 12 years later, can he still do it? Can Savage still come up big when he needs to in a physical competition?

We asked the player exactly that when we sat down with him on location the day before filming began on Survivor: Cambodia—Second Chance. Does he still wonder if he has the right stuff? “I do think about that,” Savage admitted. “And everyone does. Pearl Islands was this devastatingly physical season. I mean, it was unbelievable. And I was 39. And now I’m 51. I feel like I’m 25 years old. Then I look in the mirror and I’m like, ‘Oooooh, yeah, not so much.’ But mentally, physically, I’m super fit. And I think I can get back on that box, put 175 pounds on my back, and I’ll tell you what — I’m a determined, grumpy, and stubborn curmudgeon, and I’m not getting off that box unless I pass out. So I do think I can do it.”

Savage also talked about whether he gave up hope that he would be asked back to play again after being passed over so many times. “I did,” he says. “I didn’t give up in the sense that I’m not going to quit or give up anything. But I did get a call three or four times and said, ‘Well maybe this will work out,’ and then it always just vanished. But I’m a reasonably bright guy, pretty mature. So in my own mind I came to peace with the notion that it is not going to happen for me. I had to do that, honestly, because it was so painful to get those calls.”

It turns out the wait to come back was not Savage’s first round of disappointing Survivor cast omissions. “A lot of folks don’t know this, but I was on a short list for seasons 3, 4, 5, and 6 — and group dynamic, I didn’t make it. And 7, Pearl Islands, finally I made it. So the lead up to Pearl Islands was unbelievably painful, when you get that call that you’re on the list and then you get that call that you’re not. And then three or four times after Pearl Islands, I get my heart racing and then I get that call — ‘You’re not on’ — and I’m like, oh my goodness. So mentally I kind of had to jigger a few things in my mind, come to peace with it’s not going to happen. You know, I’m living the dream. I have an amazing life outside of Survivor, and I was okay with that. And then I got the call and it just ripped off the old Band-Aids and wounds and I’m like, holy Toledo, this season could actually happen for me.”

It is happening, In fact, it’s already happened, as the season finished wrapping in July. The only thing left to see is if Savage made it count. And if he can still hold up that 175 pounds.

To see my interview with Andrew Savage, click on the video at the top of the post. And for more Survivor scoop, follow me on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS

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