The last season of The Biggest Loser may have ended with a controversy, but now a new crop of contestants are getting their chance to lose weight on the NBC reality show – and the season 16 cast includes some familiar faces!
“When I told my wife and kids, ‘Hey, Biggest Loser wants me to come on,’ my kids were like, ‘Dad are you serious? You totally got to do this,’ ” former New York Jets offensive lineman Damien Woody, 36, tells PEOPLE. “I’d never watched The Biggest Loser before but my wife was like, ‘Listen, go handle your business. I’d rather lose you for a few months than something happen down the road.’ So here I am.”
And Woody – who also played for the New England Patriots and the Detroit Lions before arriving at the ranch at 388 lbs. – is just one of 20 former athletes competing on the new season of the NBC weight-loss competition.
Lori Harrigan-Mack is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in softball and played on the U.S. national team for 12 years. “After I retired in 2004, I met my husband, got married, we had a beautiful boy and after that I suffered eight miscarriages,” Harrigan-Mack, 44, explains. “So after that I think I kind of went into, obviously, a depression and I just didn’t deal with it at all.”
“[With] my husband 100 percent behind me, I said [The Biggest Loser] is where I have to change. I have to do this,” says Harrigan-Mack, who arrived at the ranch weighing 301 lbs.
And while all the contestants have been athletes at some point in their lives, not all of them were professionals at their sports.
Andrea Wilamowski was a high school cheerleader before becoming the vice president of operations for the Detroit Pride Cheerleaders.
“It’s very hard for me in my industry to look the way I look and spend every day of my life telling women how they should look,” admits Wilamowski, 43, who weighed 244 lbs. when she arrived at the ranch. “For the last 22 years, I’ve pretty much lived my life for everybody else. This is the first time I have taken a journey for myself. I just want to be healthy and I want to practice what I preach.”
Here’s the full list of contestants who will be competing against one another when the new season of The Biggest Loser premieres Sept. 11 at 8 p.m. on NBC.
• Jordan Alicandro, 32, was a big baseball aficionado growing up who also played football and wrestled. Now at 323 lbs., and with his wife expecting with their first child, Alicandro wants to get healthy so he can be there for his family.
• Rondalee Beardslee, 28, currently weighs 280 lbs. but played basketball, volleyball and softball in high school. She says after she stopped playing sports, she got lazy and went through a “deep, dark depression.”
• Blake Benge, 18, says her problem with her weight began when she went to college and gained the “freshman 50 instead of the freshman 15.” At 251 lbs., she’s the youngest contestant this season.
• Howard “Woody” Carter, 46, played football in a semi-pro league and the Arena Football League. Now 398 lbs., he is on the show to fulfill a promise he made to his wife to get healthy.
• Toma Dobrosavljevic, 33, played soccer and has been active all of his life but now weighs 336 lbs. He says his wake-up call came when his life insurance agent told him he was almost uninsurable because of his weight.
• Zina Garrison, 50, is a retired tennis player who medaled at the 1988 Olympics. Now at 263 lbs., Garrison says she wants to lose weight for herself and be able to try on a nice pair of jeans.
• Rob Guiry, 26, has always dealt with weight issues despite his participation in sports. He says he’s been the biggest guy on every team he’s played on and, at 483 lbs., he’s also the biggest guy at the ranch this season.
• Gina Haddon, 41, was a cheerleader growing up and became a cheer coach, but she always ate very unhealthily. Now the married mom of two children is 242 lbs. and motivated to lose weight for her family.
• Vanessa Johnson, 32, was a former WNBA player, and at 366 lbs., she wants to get fit for her two kids.
• Sonya Jones, 39, currently weighs 283 lbs. She was an All-American two consecutive years for semi-professional softball but has been overweight all of her life. She’s an avid Biggest Loser fan and says the show has always inspired and motivated her, and now she’s a contestant.
• Chandra Maple, 26, is a high school girls basketball coach who grew up on the court but now says she can’t get up and down the court with her girls. At 341 lbs., she’s on the show to fulfill a promise to her grandmother to get healthy.
• Matthew Miller, 31, is a former high school athlete who now weighs 386 lbs. He says he wants to be healthy and get back to the same weight he was when his longtime girlfriend fell in love with him.
• Scott Mitchell, 46, played 12 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback. He now weighs 366 lbs. and admits that when he retired, he retired “from everything.”
• Emmy Lou Munoz, 32, is a wife and a mom of two. She has played sports all of her life but has always been overweight. At 260 lbs., her wake-up call was in 2011 when her son – who was 4 years old at the time – started running away from her and she could barely catch him.
• Mike Murburg, 58, is the oldest in the competition. At 399 lbs., he is on the show to fulfill a promise he made to his son, who passed away toward the end of hell week in Special Forces training.
• John “JJ” O’Malley, 22, played football at Arizona State University but has always struggled with weight. Now at 392 lbs., O’Malley says, “I want to change the perception of myself. I want to drop the ‘big.’ I just want to be JJ O’Malley.”
• Jackie Pierson, 36, played several sports in high school. Now at 291 lbs. and a married mom of two young daughters, she wants to be there for her family and help one of her daughters prevent a potential weight problem.
Behind The Biggest Loser Controversy