Overcoming Adversity; A&S Political Science Alum Competing on 37th Season of 'Survivor'

By Lindsey Piercy

You are probably familiar with the story of David and Goliath. The biblical account is one of the most popular scriptures, perhaps because of its literary meaning — anything is possible.

Nick Wilson can relate to the young, resilient shepherd. The University of Kentucky alum is no stranger to overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations, making him the perfect competitor for the 37th season of "Survivor," themed "David vs. Goliath." Wilson, a self-proclaimed "Survivor" superfan, has always dreamed of being on the Emmy award-winning show, but turning that dream into reality would be the ultimate challenge.

"Ever since that phone call, it has been an experience of endless excitement. David has always been one of my favorite biblical figures because of his extreme faith and love. So, being labeled a 'David' motivates me to play extremely hard and to intensely believe in myself," Wilson said.

With Fiji as the backdrop, this edition of "Survivor" started with 20 new castaways divided into two groups of 10 strangers, who make up the "David" tribe and the "Goliath" tribe. This extreme game of social politics focuses on the "underdogs" versus the "favorites." The players are forced to compete against each other with the same ultimate goal: to become the sole survivor.

On the premiere, Wilson revealed he was raised in the "hollers of Eastern Kentucky." With a thick southern accent and appreciation for small town life, the Whitley County man feels he is often underestimated. "Eastern Kentucky suffers from a poor economy and a drug epidemic, both of which have affected me personally," Wilson said. "When I was growing up, I didn’t have someone to tell me how to apply for college or how to become successful. I figured it out by doing it."

Despite humble beginnings, Wilson has always chased and achieved great success. A first-generation college student, he graduated from UK in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in political science. During his time at UK, Wilson participated in "WilDCats at the Capitol," where he was an intern for Congressman Hal Rogers. Wilson was also a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity.

"When I arrived on UK’s campus in 2009 as a 19-year-old, I was a fish out of water. However, I was determined. I would never forget the small town, more laid-back lifestyle that I had grown up in, but I was excited to expand my horizons, to learn more about other places and cultures within the state of Kentucky and beyond."

Wilson refers to his education as his slingshot — the tool that helped him find his way, even when times were tough. In 2013, he was accepted into the University of Alabama School of Law. Just one year later, Wilson lost his mother to addiction.

"My mother’s passing helped me realize that there were more important things than to use my success for my own personal riches. I began to feel a duty to my community, and I felt a responsibility to return home and help in any way I could."

Upon graduation, Wilson became a public defender in Williamsburg. In this role, he is working to combat the opioid epidemic — by helping those at the heart of the issue. "I hope that I am making a difference for those people and their families. I truly believe that if there is a breath left in someone’s body, that life is worth fighting for."

Now, Wilson is channeling that steadfast determination in "Survivor." Throughout the competition, he is also drawing on life lessons from his time at UK. "It helped me grow from a country boy, who was fun to be around, into a man who understands how to relate to others and connect on a deeper level. This is a skill that is crucial in 'Survivor.' 'Survivor' is a game of relationships, and these social skills that I learned at UK are what help me build relationships."

Those relationships could ultimately help Wilson outwit, outplay and outlast his competitors — earning him the $1 million prize, but there's much more at stake. He hopes to relay an important message to the "Davids" of the world.

"I hope that people see, you should never give up: not on your dreams, not on those you love, and not on what you want to achieve. Always fight for what you want to earn. Diligence is rewarded with success. And, most importantly, never forget where you came from. Go Cats!"

You can catch Wilson on "Survivor," which airs every Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue


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