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Burton Roberts -
Eagle Scout Has What It Takes to Outwit, Outplay, and Outlast

By Kyle Wingfield

Along the way to becoming an Eagle Scout, Burton Roberts earned a lot of merit badges, including Wilderness Survival. He had no idea at the time how valuable such skills would be to him.


Last year, he put those lessons to the test on the hit CBS show "Survivor," where contestants battle an unforgiving environment, a series of physical challenges, and each other to be the last one standing and win a prize of $1 million. Besides the usual twists and turns that go along with the physically and mentally draining experience, Burton had another surprise waiting for him on the Pearl Islands -- a fellow contestant who also was well-schooled in Scouting skills.


Having earned the rank of Eagle as a member of Troop 496 in St. Louis, Missouri, graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, and worked in business, Burton fueled his passion for the outdoors with a variety of challenging activities. He competed in triathlons and also participated in adventure racing -- a multidiscipline sport involving mountain biking, hiking or trail running, and either kayaking or canoeing. Besides the grueling nature of the activities in adventure racing, competitors also have to navigate a course they know nothing about.


"Basically every skill I learned in Scouting, I would apply in every adventure race I've done -- the orienteering, the navigation, the teamwork, everything," said the 32-year-old Burton, who competed in the 10-day Eco Challenge in Fiji in 2002.


Burton had studied previous seasons of "Survivor" before traveling to Panama. He knew about the strategy involved, but he was not necessarily prepared to deal with other players' deceptiveness -- a trademark of the show.


"A lot of people are lying to each other, and the way the game works, you have to partake in that to advance," he said. "It's the nature of the game that you have to win at the expense of others, and that was the hard part for me."


"I have done so many things trying to expand my horizons, so I can't say any one thing I really learned about myself," Burton said, "but it was just such an amazing experience for me that brought out the different aspects of my life.


"To me, it was more of an adventure experience, and an opportunity that most people will never have -- where as an adult, you can go back and play this game, live on an island on your own, completely self-supported," he continued. "I would look around and just felt I was a kid out there having the time of my life."


The experience has also opened doors for Burton, who lives in San Francisco.


"The conversations (with prospective employers) range from doing marketing and business development-type work in the office to looking at some opportunities to being in front of a camera," he said. "I'd like to find something that ties in the adventure and the travel and the things that I love."