Evan Dollard has two jobs.
One as a brand ambassador for Quest Nutrition. The other as a ninja.
Dollard, a Fox River Grove native, has been a competitor on the TV series “American Ninja Warrior” for three seasons after he won the reboot of NBC’s “American Gladiators” in 2008 to become the Gladiator known as “Rocket.” "ANW" airs Sundays and Tuesday's on G4 Network and Mondays on NBC.
Dollard isn’t competing this season, though he's far from bummed about it.
Instead, the Columbia College grad is getting the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream--performing on camera.
Dollard is hosting G4’s “Well-Trained Warrior,” a web series that focuses on the muscle groups and workouts involved in tackling different obstacles.
RedEye chatted with the 31-year-old about everything from his high school days to his hilarious "ANW" audition video.
How do you explain what you do with “American Ninja Warrior”?
The No. 1 question I get is, ‘It’s MMA?’ They think I’m a fighter. And I’m just not. That’s not my style. I’ve never been one to try to get my skull cracked or bust anyone else’s face open. So, after I clear that up, I say it’s a series of ridiculous obstacles. Then they’ll compare it to “Wipeout.” And I tell them, “No, it’s the athletic version.”
What’s an overlooked aspect that makes the course so difficult?
A lot of people forget it’s TV. We film through the night. I ran my finals course last year at 4 a.m.
Do you have a favorite obstacle?
I like obstacles that require upper-body strength. I worked as a rock-climbing instructor in Chicago while in college. I developed pretty significant upper-body strength. So I would say the salmon ladder.
Umm ... what’s the salmon ladder?
You do pull-ups while taking the bar with you up 12 inches between each rung of this ladder. Then, well, hmm--let’s just say you’re not leaping from these giant bouncy balls, getting thrown into water, then getting hit in the face with a pie like you would on “Wipeout.”
So why aren’t you competing this year?
When I said yes (to host the web series), the guys at G4 said here’s the catch: “You’d be employed by us, which would make you ineligible to compete.” And I was like, “No! Come on!” But, again, there’s only so much longevity in being a ninja. Plus, I’ve always wanted to be on camera. So I had to hang up my shorts. I’d say my wardrobe, but I don’t wear shirts. But I'm not done competing. I'll do it every year if they'll have me.
Where did you get the idea for the audition video (watch it above)?
I viewed the video as a formality this year. They know who I am over there. I wanted to showcase my personality. Performing is my passion. I decided to let them in on that side of me this time. And it’s true. I just don’t like shirts.
What’s the strangest place you’ve been shirtless?
[Long laugh, longer pause] I went snowboarding up at Grand Geneva. I decided I needed to do a shirtless run. And this was in high school? I think. So I left my snow pants on and handed everything else to my buddy in the middle of winter just ‘cuz.
Have you been active and fit your whole life?
Always active, definitely. In high school I was never a varsity athlete. The first couple years I did soccer, basketball and track but never made it to that varsity level. I started acting instead. I love being onstage. But I was also willing to try anything. I started barefoot water skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing and stuff.
If I asked your high school friends if they thought you’d be capable of all this stuff back then, what would they say?
It depends who you ask. I worked at a summer camp in high school. At camp they have all these crazy events … like giant games of tag--all that stuff. And I would crush those events. People from camp would know I was capable of some crazy stuff. But anyone from high school, maybe not. I remember one year, the star of the basketball team pulled me aside and said, “Evan, you’re a great athlete, but you’re just not a good basketball player.”
What would you say to Mr. Basketball Star if you saw him today?
That would be a hilarious conversation. He was right. Can’t fault him there. But it would be nice to face off on the “American Ninja Warrior” course.
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