Former Dallas Cowboys Player Danny McCray Is Starring on 'Survivor' Season 41

Shannon Raphael - Author

Sep. 23 2021, Published 2:37 p.m. ET

Danny McCray
Source: CBS

While viewers have seen many types of players use a variety of different strategies since Survivor premiered in 2000, all of the contestants tend to have one thing in common: a competitive spirit.

The hit CBS reality series returned from a long, pandemic-related hiatus for Season 41 on Sept. 22.

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There are 18 islanders competing to become the Sole Survivor on Season 41 — and one is a former professional athlete.

Danny McCray originally used his competitive nature to his advantage in the NFL as a defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. The athlete isn't the first from the league to appear on Survivor, but he could be the first to win.

Read on to find out more about his playing background, and to learn why he applied for the show.

Danny McCray
Source: CBS
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Who is Danny McCray from 'Survivor' Season 41?

Before the 33-year-old set out on the 26-day adventure, he played football for the Dallas Cowboys. The Lone Star State team signed Danny as an undrafted free agent in 2010 after his time as an undergrad at LSU. The Texas native went on to play for six seasons in the NFL.

He led the special team in tackles for two consecutive seasons, and he later signed a one-year contract to play with the Chicago Bears.

After his time in the Windy City, Danny returned to the Cowboys for the 2015 season. He was not re-signed after the season concluded.

Once his time on the field came to an end, Danny took on a different role for the franchise. He is currently the manager for the Dallas Cowboys Youth Academics program. His Survivor appearance marks the fourth time that a former Cowboy player has competed on the show (Alan Ball, Gary Hogeboom, and Jimmy Johnson previously played).

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Outside of his football career, Danny is married to Kiki McCray, a psychotherapist.

The two are the proud parents of a one-year-old daughter named Zoë.

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Danny McCray binge-watched 'Survivor' after his NFL retirement.

Like many other Survivor players, Danny was a fan of the show before he applied to participate. While some viewers simply watch the show to escape or to be entertained, Danny also studied up on strategies and playing tactics during his binge-watching sessions.

"I was trying to find a way to satisfy this craving to compete. Survivor is a show I was binge-watching after I retired from the NFL, and I was imagining myself competing better than some of the guys I'd seen before me on the show. Better specifically than the Alan Ball-types," he joked in an interview for the Dallas Cowboys. "I figured I could do it. My wife gave me the OK, and I sent in an audition tape and they accepted me. That's how I got started."

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Before he went on the show, Danny worked with a former Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coordinator to develop an exercise routine and training regimen.

Because Season 41 was originally supposed to film in 2020, Danny ended up having more than a year to prepare. In addition to nailing down a diet and exercise plan, the former professional athlete spoke with his friend and former teammate, Alan Ball, about what to expect.

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"One of the biggest NFL fan bases is the Cowboys, and Survivor has a huge following as well," Danny said. "It's great to marry those two. I always enjoyed seeing former Cowboys on the show, especially Alan Ball, since he was my teammate. It was interesting to see how he did."

"He told me the physical stuff was easier than the mental part of the show. Living on the beach and finding wood to make fire and finding your own food, that was easier than dealing with the people," he continued. "If you watch his season, you'll see it rings true for how he was eliminated from the show."

While viewers will have to wait to find out how Danny does on Season 41, he did say that his Survivor experience was "tougher" than when he had to deal with tight ends, running backs, or receivers on the field.

Survivor airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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