Eddie McGee is the latest reality-TV celebrity, but he doesn't know exactly what that means yet.
"It hasn't all really seeped in," said the winner of $500,000 on CBS' reality/game show "Big Brother." "I've just been running around. Today, I'm going back to my house out on Long Island. I think once I walk in the door, stop, see my dogs and maybe get one good night's rest in my own bed, I'll begin to realize what's happening."
Since leaving the "Big Brother" house a rich man last week, the University of Texas at Arlington student-athlete has been on a whirlwind media tour. A wrap party in Los Angeles. A flight to New York for "The Early Show." Online chats. Newspaper, television and radio interviews.
And if Eddie doesn't know precisely where he's headed other than home for a likely brief rest the 21-year-old broadcasting major, theater minor, wheelchair basketball player and TV star plans to give show business a shot.
That may delay his return to the UTA campus, where he has two years left on a scholarship, and prevent him from playing basketball this season.
"I haven't signed with any agents or lawyers just yet," he said by phone from a Times Square hotel, where he's been holed up with "Big Brother" runners-up Josh Souza and Curtis Kin meeting the press. "I've got a stack of business cards. Everybody and their mother who had a business card or a friend of a friend who knew somebody, they handed them to me."
And what might he do with his celebrity?
"Whatever comes at me, I'll try at least once. I'll do some acting, maybe even some writing. I have a couple of ideas. Possibly even directing I'll give that a whirl, too. I want to go into an area where I can excel and apply myself real well. If it's in front of the camera, that's fine. If it's behind the camera, that's great, too. I just want to be happy and work hard and do a good job."
By most estimations, Eddie did a good job on "Big Brother" by being himself. Unlike the other nine houseguest-contestants who were eliminated one by one over the 88-day run of the show until only Eddie was left he went on the show to play the game and win the money, something he didn't hide.
He became known for his cursing and insensitive jokes not that he wasn't friendly with the rest of the group. But he regularly called them on their whining and their paranoia about how they might be portrayed on the show.
"A bad day in the 'Big Brother' house is running out of toilet paper," he says. "But a bad day out here is maybe a car bomb goes off in Northern Ireland killing a couple of kids, or you go to work and you get fired, and your dog gets hit by a car, and your car breaks down. A bad day in the 'Big Brother' house was nothing. It was all a walk in the park."
The other contestants failed to have that kind of perspective. They seemed more intent on getting along at any cost, creating a surrogate family that frustrated producers and viewers who were hoping for more conflict. That made nominating each other for eviction difficult. In the end, the public, which had the final say, picked Eddie to win the half-million-dollar grand prize.
"Maybe people saw something in me that they see in themselves," he says. "Maybe my outspokenness applied to some people. If somebody upsets me, I'm going to let them know. Or maybe some people saw that in me that they didn't see in themselves, and they wished to possess that.
"A lot of people claimed that I have a big heart," he adds even as he scoffs at himself. "Whether or not it's true, you have to decide. I think I do, and maybe some people saw that and they could like and respect that. I have very passionate fans, from what I understand. They didn't just call in and vote once they called in and voted a couple times. My fans out there are wonderful, and I love and respect all of them."