Survivor 44

Brandon Cottom: Actually 'Newtown Tribe' Is Most Fitting

One of the 18 contestants on the present CBS reality competition show "Survivor" was none other than Newtown resident Brandon Cottom.

Deemed "Survivor 44" due to its 44th season, 30-year-old and South Jersey native Brandon says he applied life skills learned from growing up in Newtown since his 8th grade in Newtown Middle School, as well as lessons from his years in sports. "Newtown is a nice community where everyone seems to know everyone else. I got to interact there with people of different backgrounds in new ways of relating to each other, and my friends expanded my experiences, such as snowboarding in the mountains." 

He says he wanted to be part of "Survivor" because it's a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. "Survivor is the perfect combination of physical and mental strength. I wanted to challenge myself in an avenue that I really have no experience in," he adds. "By no means am I a survivalist. I've never even been camping."

However, Brandon verifies he's very happy he participated in the show.

"It was a super cool experience. And it was a great way to open up new opportunities to come in the future," confirms Brandon, who used to watch the show with his father, Richard Cottom, also a Newtown resident. His mother, Tammie Cottom, currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Survivor 44" features 26 days of gameplay, pitting contestants against one another in three initial tribes. Filming began on June 5, 2022, in the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji, and concluded on June 30, 2022. The cast was announced on Jan. 31, 2023, and consisted of players divided into three tribes: Ratu, Soka and Tika. The name of the merged tribe in the middle of the show was Va Va. 

The original "Survivor" premiered on May 31, 2000, and aired a spring and fall season each year until fall 2020, picking back up in 2021. 

As a retired Seattle Seahawks NFL fullback (2015-2017), Brandon says for this unusual television competition, he relied on many elements from his varied sports experiences, including lacrosse, indoor/outdoor track and basketball. He credits Council Rock North High School football coach Tom Coates for teaching him to persevere through tough, hard work. "He was old school in training, and instilled in me the mentality of even though you may be the best going into different situations, you still have to work at them as though you're not," he says. 

Additionally, Brandon says his time in the NFL taught him how to overcome obstacles and how to believe in himself, even when the cards were stacked against him. Good thing regarding that, given he lost 35 pounds during the "Survivor" competition. 

Brandon is a security specialist with Sovereign Security LLC in Philadelphia. He's also a coach at Parisi Speed School in Newtown. 

During one of the show's episodes, Brandon revealed he is a self-proclaimed Renaissance Man, who also is a pilot, magician and scuba diver. For hobbies, Brandon enjoys lakes, cooking, grilling, baking pies and playing the piano or drums. "I don't really like to be put in one box," he quips. 

He's also a big language enthusiast, with Spanish being his favorite subject in high school. While attending Purdue University, he majored in professional flying/aviation. 

"Much that I learned came from my parents. They are my biggest inspiration because they both became successful on their terms. They taught me to always go after what you want and never take no for an answer. They never let me quit, whether I liked something or I didn't. I realized you have to be willing to take risks to get the rewards," says the ambitious yet easy-going man who seems to always try to find ways to step up his game. 

Brandon recognizes he was competing with what's called 'Survivor Superfans,' which are longtime viewers who have studied the game to great lengths. He says teamwork attributes helped in the early stages of the game, before the initial teams merged. "Learning everyone's styles and feelings helps you understand how they work, but you can't trust anyone in the game. You can go into this competition with a plan, but there's so much that's uncontrollable, you have to be quick on your feet. The dynamics in the game are so fluid. You just have to focus on making it to the next day. Every day there was a fresh start."

(After nearly half of the competitors already had exited, Brandon made it through Day 15 of the competition. The show's finale is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, at 8 p.m. EST on CBS. This last show is slated to be 3 hours, with the last hour spent in a cast reunion.)

 "Survivor" can still be viewed on demand at Paramount+.

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