From the moment he heard about the TV series "Survivor" on CBS, Orangeburg native Davie Rickenbacker dreamed of being a part of the cast.
While sitting in church one Sunday with his mother, Rickenbacker, who was then 14, heard the announcement that South Carolina State University student and fellow church member JoAnna Ward had been selected to be a part of the cast of Season 6 of "Survivor."
“I’m a country boy who grew up collecting lizards, frogs and snakes in the woods with my brothers. I couldn’t believe that someone was actually going to be on TV to do that kind of stuff and possibly win a million dollars,” Rickenbacker said.
After graduating from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School, Rickenbacker earned graduate and postgraduate degrees from Tuskegee University in Alabama. He later moved to Atlanta, where he worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“One day I randomly checked the 'Survivor' website just to see if there were any casting calls coming up. And, lo and behold, there was a casting call later that same week," he said.
Rickenbacker attended the casting call.
“I spoke to a camera for about 60 seconds about nothing and felt like I did horribly," he said.
He said he didn’t receive a call back but he did get an idea.
“I told myself that if this is my lifelong dream, then I should stop taking the easy way out with these casting calls and make a video," Rickenbacker said.
For the next few months, he and a friend recorded footage of him at work, parties, playing with his dogs and volunteering.
“I wanted the video to show the full essence of who Davie Rickenbacker is,” he said.
The day after submitting the video, he received a call inviting him to Los Angeles for an audition.
”I almost didn’t answer the call, thinking it was a collection call from a student loan company,” Rickenbacker said, joking.
While in Los Angeles, he was interviewed several times and then returned home.
“I didn’t hear anything for a while," Rickenbacker said.
Then he got a call from the studio explaining that he didn’t make the cut for this season, but would be considered as an alternative.
“I was crushed. But everything happens for a reason,” Rickenbacker said. “My mother was praying for me and kept telling me she felt like they were going to call.”
Two days before filming of this season of 'Survivor,' a producer called Rickenbacker and asked him if he could get on a flight ASAP.
“I boarded a plane for Fiji the next day, and here we are!” he said.
Rickenbacker credits his family and his upbringing in Orangeburg for preparing him for 'Survivor.'
“Growing up in Orangeburg, I had to learn how to adapt to my surroundings. My parents and brothers have been so supportive in this whole process because they know this has been my dream for a long time,” he said.
"Survivor: David vs. Goliath: Season 37" premieres on CBS with a 90-minute episode at 8 p.m. tonight, Wednesday, Sept 26.
Marking his rise to stardom, Rickenbacker has been selected to serve as the grand marshal of the 2018 Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School homecoming parade at 5 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 28.
Everyone is invited to come out to the parade to greet him.