NEWS
08/04/2011 02:28 EDT | Updated 10/04/2011 05:12 EDT

Former CFL tailback Jesse Lumsden to appear on Mantracker reality series

Be it carrying a football or streaking down an ice track at speeds exceeding 150 kilometres an hour, Jesse Lumsden has often been able to rely on speed and brawn to beat his opponent.

But the former CFL player and current Canadian Olympic bobsledder was forced to use something completely different in facing his latest challenge — his wits.

The 28-year-old Lumsden and fellow bobsledder Justin Kripps will be the featured contestants on the reality show "Mantracker," which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Outdoor Life Network (OLN).

"The emotional peaks and valleys you go through on that show was the toughest challenge," said Lumsden, who was born in Edmonton and grew up in Burlington, Ont. "There are times you experience such a rush and you're exhausted but you still have to carry on for another 40 to 50 kilometres through sun and rain.

"Through it all you have to be able to think, you have to be able to run with a purpose and a clear sense of what you have to do in order to succeed. If you run scared you don't stand a chance."

The hour-long program features expert tracker Terry Grant, dubbed "Mantracker," pursuing two contestants in the remote North American wilderness. Those being tracked are called "prey" and must deal with dense brush and ever-changing weather conditions while avoiding being caught by Grant and a sidekick on horseback.

The prey is given only a map and compass to navigate to a finish line anywhere between 35 and 50 kilometres away — usually within a 36-hour span. They have to carry the gear they feel they'll need to complete the competition and are given a two-kilometre head start.

The chase officially begins when a flare gun is fired from their starting position.

Lumsden and Kripps, a 23-year-old Hawaii native now living in Summerland, B.C., aren't the first athletes featured on the show. Olympic freestyle skiers Steve Omischl and Jeff Bean also went up against Grant, as did Phoenix Coyotes star Shane Doan and his brother, Brook.

In both instances, the athletes emerged victorious but Lumsden wouldn't say how he and Kripps fared. Neither has seen the finished product and will be watching it for the first time when it airs.

In fact, Lumsden and Kripps will hold a premiere party in Calgary to raise money for the bobsled program as well as Trek4MS, a cross-Canada bike ride by former McMaster tailback Jordan Kozina to raise funds and awareness for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada.

"Once the editors get their hands on it you never know how it's going to turn out," Lumsden said. "But if they took the raw footage and played it from start to end, I think it would be a great show.

"I'm not much into trash-talking but face-to-face there was some poking fun and Justin definitely has own personality, which I think will add to the show quite a bit. He has some pretty good one-liners I hope make it in. There was a lot of excitement and definitely some laughs between us and at us as well."

This segment was shot in September 2010 just outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. It was done less than two weeks before Lumsden signed with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury with Edmonton to open the '09 season.

The six-foot-three, 228-pound Lumsden retired from football in May to concentrate full-time on his bobsled career and competing for Canada at the 2014 Winter Games.

"Justin and I have the same PR agent and she gave us a call saying the show was looking for a couple of people and if we wanted to go," Lumsden said. "I'm a big fan of the show and there was never a doubt, we jumped all over it.

"I didn't care there wasn't a prize, I just wanted to go head-to-head and see what it takes and what I've got."

Had Lumsden not signed with Calgary, he would've made a second television appearance. He was also scheduled to appear on "Wipeout," a game show that features contestants having to navigate through a whacky and demanding obstacle course.

"I signed with Calgary the week I was supposed to fly out and had to call and tell them I couldn't make it," Lumsden said.

Lumsden and Kripps had only two weeks to prepare for "Mantracker" and that included brushing up on the fine points of orienteering and being able to use a map and compass effectively.

"Everyone is skeptical of television today with all the crumby programming of reality TV and how it's not so real sometimes," Lumsden said. "But this was as real as it got.

"It was, 'Here's your map, here's where you have to go, figure it out."'

Being Olympic-calibre athletes, Lumsden said he and Kripps were able to deal with the physical demands of the chase, whether it was sifting through kilometres of dense brush or covering vast, expansive areas quickly on the run. Even the always-changing weather was a breeze compared to the constant struggle of trying to maintain focus and clarity while not becoming overrun by anxiety and the paranoia of Grant and Lemieux crashing through the bush and launching a surprise attack or ambush.

"Oh, there were plenty of close calls," Lumsden said. "The show is no joke and he (Grant) is legit and very good at what he does.

"When fatigue takes it over it can make you kind of loopy and make you second-guess things. It gets back to the whole mental thing and staying focused, having a plan and sticking to it.

"But it's not easy. Any time you have someone looking down on you on top of a massive horse, it is pretty intimidating. You're always on the alert for the sound of horses' hooves from them galloping up behind you. It can be quite stressful and unsettling."

However, Lumsden would readily welcome a return to the show.

"I went into it with no expectations and not sure what was going to happen," he said. "Coming out of it, I want to do it again.