OCEAN — Croatan coach Will Sutton recently got the opportunity of a lifetime with an appearance on NBC’s The Titan Games slated for Monday, July 13.
The Trenton native will represent the eastern region in the second season of the show, hosted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Episodes air at 8 p.m. on NBC.
Sutton still remembers the phone call he got in February, shortly before filming of the show began. He had just finished a long day of fishing, and he didn’t recognize the number.
“I almost didn’t answer it, but I did and it was him, Dwayne Johnson,” Sutton said. “I was just in my room, and he was calling me. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.”
That phone call followed a trip to Los Angeles, where Sutton took part in a 60-athlete combine. A series of physical activities and courses weeded out almost half of the entrants until there were 16 men and 16 women, each handpicked by Johnson who delivered the congratulatory phone calls personally.
“It was definitely a hard thing to compete in,” Sutton said. “The tasks were extremely difficult. You had to be in shape, that’s for sure.”
Even harder, Sutton couldn’t disclose that he was on the show for a few months, waiting to tell his friends and family of the experience until the all-clear.
“It was hard,” he said. “You couldn’t tell people you were on the show for two or three months after it had been filmed and wrapped up. I wanted to tell people, and I just had to wait. God had blessed me with this opportunity of a lifetime, so it was really hard to keep that quiet.”
The actual episodes were all filmed in Atlanta, with athletes representing either the east, central or west regions. Episodes are divided into groups of four male and four female contestants, competing against each other until the two sets of finalists compete on an obstacle course named Mount Olympus. When the time came for Sutton to compete, there was no to anticipate exactly what he would be asked to do.
“There’s no way to prepare,” Sutton said. “You can’t watch anyone else do it, you can’t practice yourself. It’s just a matter of thinking on the fly and reacting.”
During the games, he competed with a variety of athletes specializing in different fields.
“I got to meet some amazing people,” Sutton said. “You get real close to all the competitors in the show. We still talk every day. There were people from Cirque du Soleil, a professional long driver who had been on ESPN, a monster truck driver, just some amazing people and amazing athletes.”
In addition to meeting and seeing Johnson on set, Sutton had the opportunity to mix with retired Cleveland Brown offensive tackle Joe Thomas, former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz and UFC fighter Tyron Woodley.
Sutton can’t go into detail about how he finished in the episode or which physical activities that comprised it. Without knowing exactly what was in store for him, he approached the competition with a can-do attitude and a strong background in powerlifting.
“I’ve been working out pretty religiously since college, since high school really,” Sutton said. “And I’ve always been super competitive.”
He added, “You’re never too old to try new things. If you see something you want to do, a first step is all you need. It’s the hardest part sometimes, but the other things fall into place if you’re willing to take that risk and commit to your goals.”
Sutton is a 2012 graduate of Jones Senior High School, where he played baseball and basketball. After attending Methodist University and playing baseball for one year, Sutton transferred N.C. State to pursue a major in agriculture business. He also played for the club baseball team at the school.
“Whenever I got to N.C. State, I just focused on working out hard,” Sutton said. “My dad was doing the same thing at the time, getting back into powerlifting, so we both kind of just fell into working out together and competing with each other.”
Sutton, who still lives in his native Trenton, received a master’s degree from North Carolina A&T and now teaches agriculture at Croatan, where he serves as the assistant baseball coach and jayvee boys basketball coach. His jayvee hoops team has been conference champions two of the last three years.
At Croatan, he also has a new workout partner in football and wrestling assistant Johnathon “Bean” Rigsby.
“I told coach Rigsby that we should go to a powerlifting competition together, and that lit a fire under him,” Sutton said. “He’s already been to one, and I think he’s ‘drunk the juice.’”
Sutton’s lifting resurgence brought on the application to The Titan Games and a YouTube ad that alerted him to the new show’s creation last year.
“I saw an ad, and then I looked up some stuff about the show and watched a few episodes, and thought, ‘Man, I have to be in this next season,’” Sutton said. “I submitted a video application in January of last year right after we got back from Hurricane Florence,” Sutton said. “They called me in October to say I’d been selected. I had forgotten about it honestly. It was pretty amazing.”