A former Chattanooga Mocs football standout will get to know a new set of teammates - his fellow houseguests - on the new season of "Big Brother," premiering Wednesday on CBS.
Two-time All-American tight end Faysal Shafaat, now 26 and working as a substitute teacher in his hometown of Orlando, Florida, is among 16 contestants on season 20. His competition includes a flight attendant, a former undercover cop, a cybersecurity engineer and a Las Vegas entertainer.
Season 20 of “Big Brother” returns with a two-night premiere, 8-10 p.m. Wednesday and 9-10 p.m. Thursday, on CBS. The show’s regular schedule will be 8 p.m. Sundays starting July 1, 9 p.m. Wednesdays starting July 4 and 9 p.m. Thursdays starting July 5. The Thursday show will be the live-eviction episode, with host Julie Chen debriefing the players as they leave.
Shafaat graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in December 2014 with a degree in psychology. He was a four-year starter (2011-14), had 125 career catches and is No. 4 on UTC's all-time receiving touchdown list with 18, according to GoMocs.com.
His senior year, he made 34 catches for 415 yards and five touchdowns, earning third-team All-American recognition from The Associated Press. He also made the Dean's List, the SoCon Honor Roll and earned the SoCon Commissioner's Medal that same season, according to school records.
Dr. Jay Blackman, communications director for UTC Athletics, remembers him as "an outstanding athlete," but low-key off the field.
"He was a good student, quiet, always easygoing, a good kid," he says. "Once you got to know him, his personality came out."
In the reality show, a diverse group of contestants live together in a custom-built home under constant surveillance by 94 high-definition cameras and 113 microphones. They are completely isolated from the outside world and can have no communication with anyone outside the house. Weekly competitions and evictions will determine who wins the $500,000 grand prize.
This season, a BB App Store will be added as a tech-themed twist. With the additional room, viewers will get hacking power, a chance to get the houseguests trending in order to award them powers or punishments.
The show's website predicts Shafaat will use "his hilarious and confident personality to get him to the end of the game."
In his bio, he says he will miss not being able to communicate with his family during the show's run - and he'll especially miss his pet dog, Cooper.
"I have a blue nose pit bull who's my world, and I treat him like my child," he says.
If he could, he says, he'd take Cooper with him, along with his iPod and stuffed-crust cheese pizza.
His strategy for winning, he says, is "finding a loyal person or two."
He hopes to lie low in the early stages of competition, planning to use his "social game" to form alliances, then letting his physical gameplay "show at the end more than the beginning."
The master plan: "Don't let the other houseguests know I'm a powerhouse from day one."
So far, he's flying under the radar. An interviewer's post at BigBrotherNetwork.com about cast first impressions describes him as "a beast of a man" but "boring."
"He did say he'd rather win 'Big Brother' and be hated than lose and be loved, so I can respect that," wrote the interviewer. "I don't have much of an opinion on him, though."
The contestants are required to do housework and are assigned tasks by the producers of the show, who communicate with the housemates via the omnipresent authority figure known to them only as "Big Brother." The show's premise is based on George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," with its theme of continuous oppressive surveillance. A confession room records their private thoughts to the camera and reveals their nominees for eviction.
Shafaat would seem to have no problem being candid. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he was asked: "Is there anything from your past that you're worried about people finding out?"
He answered: "No, because I played college football, and everything was always in the newspaper."
That included an arrest. He explained in the article: "In college, I lived off campus and we got back to my friend's dorm room and he locked his keys in the car so I ended up sleeping in the car. The police came and knocked on the door, and I got public intoxication. I went to court the next week, and it got dismissed. Nothing is on my record. It was just public intoxication for sleeping in the car. It was one of those things when you're in college."
His "Big Brother" bio also includes the fact that he's a secret Taylor Swift fan and "I wet the bed until the age of 10, which helped me be skilled at laundry at an early age."
What might surprise viewers from the 24/7 surveillance, he told The Hollywood Reporter," is "how much hairspray I use."
"I need a couple of cans ready to go," he said, laughing. "You never know when you're going to need it."
This is not Shafaat's first shot at TV fame. He competed on NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" last summer. He tried out for CBS' "Survivor" last season. He didn't make the cut, but producers said they liked him for "Big Brother."
He told The Hollywood Reporter that he's simply "looking for an experience" by being on the show.
"I know a lot of these houseguests say it's been the best experience of their life," he says. "I want that. My whole life has been school, football and nothing but a grind."
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.