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The Amazing Texans

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Former Houston Texans linebacker and Fort Bend resident, Chester Pitts, competes on The Amazing Race

Written by Tonya Ellis

Sugar Land, TX News - When he retired from the NFL in 2010, former Houston Texans linebacker Chester Pitts thought his days of enduring physical trials in front of millions were over. Then his old teammate Ephraim Salaam asked him to be his partner on the 23rd season of The Amazing Race.

“I thought he was kidding,” Pitts says with his famous dimpled grin. “Five minutes later, I got a call from the show.”

The Amazing Race is an Emmy award winning reality TV series that pits 11 pairs of contestants against each other in a competition spanning the globe. Teams race to complete mental and physical challenges, traveling through four continents and nine countries. Each week, those last to complete the challenge are eliminated. The winning team receives $1 million.

Chester Pitts II and Ephraim Salaam were Houston Texans teammates from 2006 to 2009 and recently partnered together on CBS’ The Amazing Race Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Chester Pitts II and Ephraim Salaam were Houston Texans teammates from 2006 to 2009 and recently partnered
together on CBS’ The Amazing Race
Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Up to the Challenge
Ask the average person to zip line through the jungle or parachute off a mountain, and they’d think twice. But Pitts felt up to the challenge. “Between Ephraim and me, we’ve had 20 years in the NFL,” he says. “There was nothing in the race that was tougher than two practices in one day in 110-degree weather… for three hours.”

Before the cameras started rolling, the athletes set their game plan. No bad attitudes, and stay true to themselves. “If my mama was there, how would I behave?” asks Pitts. “There’s nothing more important than what the goal is.”

What tested the two tough guys was time spent crammed in cabs and planes. “I’m 6’5”, and Ephraim is 6’8”, and at that time, we were both literally a cucumber away from 300 pounds,” says Pitts. “The world isn’t built for people our size – especially when you get out of America.”

Family Ties
A difficulty for Pitts was being away from his wife LaToya, who is expecting their second child, and his 7-year-old son Chester “Champ” Pitts III. Pitts also has a 16-year-old daughter, Alanna Michele. Contestants had no contact with family members for 30 days.

“That was rough,” he reflected. “The good thing is – I was smart in selecting where I wanted to live. That’s why I chose Fort Bend, where my family was going to be safe and protected, so I wasn’t worried about that.”

Pitts and Salaam competing in the detour challenge during episode two Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting Inc

Pitts and Salaam competing in the
detour challenge during episode two
Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting Inc

Good Times
What Pitts liked most about the show was the cast and crew. “They were just fun, good people,” he said. Pitts’ bond with long-time friend Salaam was strengthened through the experience. “We got to spend more time together, one-onone, talking about investments and plans for our families,” he says.

The California native met Salaam when they were undergraduates at San Diego State University. Salaam encouraged Pitts, who didn’t play football in high school, to try out in college. Later, the pair were teammates on the Houston Texans and even starred in a Super Bowl commercial together – featuring Pitts, an accomplished musician, playing the oboe. Today, both former athletes are sports anchors – Pitts at Houston’s KPRC, and Salaam at FOX’s Sports Live.

The pair proved they were an excellent team both on and off the football field. Salaam says, “It was a great experience. Chester is one of my best friends, and I enjoyed competing with him again.”

Lost Connections
During their three episodes on The Amazing Race the Pitts- Salaam team traveled throughout Chile. In the end, they were beat not by endurance, but chance. A ticket agent made a mistake when booking their flight to Portugal. A competing team got the last tickets on the first flight out.

Pitts and Salaam chose a flight with several connections and ended up missing most of them due to plane delays. Twentyfour hours later they made it to their destination, a day after all the other teams. “We were so far behind, it was absolutely crazy,” Pitts says.

Mining in Chile during their Amazing Race challenge Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting Inc.

Mining in Chile during their
Amazing Race challenge
Photo by Robert Voets/CBS Broadcasting Inc.

No Place Like Home
Now that his stint as a reality TV globetrotter is over, Pitts is happy to be home. In addition to his work as a sports anchor, he is heavily involved in the Chester Pitts Charitable Foundation, which he and his wife founded to expose area underprivileged youth to fine arts and culture. He is also an analyst with ZT Wealth financial investment company. He says he is glad to give back to a place that has given him so much. “Houston’s been so good to me,” he shares. “Everything here has been a true, true blessing.” SLM

TONYA ELLIS is a freelance writer and author who lives in Missouri City with her family.

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