Raleigh Eagle Scout proves his toughness on National Geographic TV show

Will Fleming hopes to take shooting skills to the Olympics someday.
Will Fleming hopes to take shooting skills to the Olympics someday. National Geographic Channel

A Raleigh Eagle Scout proved his toughness of skill and character last summer when he got the chance to compete on a new National Geographic Channel program, “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?”

Will Fleming, now a senior at Broughton High School, competed along with 11 other Eagle or Life Scouts against 12 men who were hoping to prove they could go head-to-head with the younger guys.

In each of the six episodes scheduled to run, three men go up against various Scouts in three separate challenges. After each challenge, one person is eliminated based on their performance during the task, their leadership skills and their preparedness.

The series debuted last week, but Will’s first challenge is featured in the episode airing Monday night at 8. He is an active competitor in three of the six episodes.

The challenges on the show include a range of Scouting activities, such as rappelling, rafting, camp building, first aid and orienteering. Will’s specialty is sharp-shooting, a skill he hopes to take to the Olympic level one day.

“That was my main thing on the show,” he said. “In three out of six episodes, I was shooting. I shoot competitively with the National Skeet Shooting Association. Right now I’m shooting 96 percent, which is an A-Class shooter.”

Will said his dad first learned about the TV show when he saw a casting call for Scouts in California.

“Then they opened it up to the U.S.,” Will said. “So my dad asked me if i wanted do to it, and I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

Will did online interviews and apparently made a great impression on the producers.

“They called the next day saying, ‘Hey, can you be in California next week?’” he said.

‘It’s pretty intense’

Each episode took about a week to shoot. Will missed a week of school for his first trip, but other episodes were filmed last summer after school let out. After his second week of filming the show, Will went directly from the show’s California base – Camp Whitsett in the Sequoia National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains – to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, a high-adventure base in a mountain region where Will spent 10 days hiking 80 miles.

“It’s pretty intense,” he said. “It’s like Mecca for Boy Scouts.”

Will left Philmont and went straight back to Camp Whitsett to film his third episode. As much fun as he had at the ranch, he said it couldn’t compare to his experience on the show.

“Not every day do you get to be on a TV show,” Will said. “So I’d have to say the TV show was pretty awesome. You can always go back to Philmont.”

Will has been in Boy Scouts since he was 11. Before that, he joined Cub Scouts at 6. He earned his Eagle Scout in 2010 after completing a project in which he built an outdoor chapel for his church. .

After graduating from Broughton this spring, Will will attend Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, where he’ll major in business marketing and management, with a minor in outdoor leadership studies.

‘Big South’

Will not only proves himself in his physical challenges, but there is a moment in his first episode where he also displays character and sportsmanship toward his 44-year-old competitor – a move the competitor describes as “Scout spirit.”

Will is called “Big South” on the show, but it’s not a nickname he’s had for long. The show’s producers wanted all of the Scouts to have nicknames. (Some of Will’s fellow Scouts on the show are called “Yeti,” “Robin Hood” and “Wolf”).

Will had a hand in choosing what he’d be called.

“They suggested some for me like ‘Top Shot’ and ‘Clay Buster,’ but I thought they sounded corny,” Will said. “I thought ‘Big South’ was original and a better name. Plus I’m from the South. And I’m 6’6”.”