Mark and Bopper

Despite winning the head-shaving Fast Forward on The Amazing Race, best friends William "Bopper" Minton and Mark Jackson became the second team in franchise history to get eliminated despite completing the Fast Forward. "We were too far back. We started three hours behind everyone else, so it was tough to make up even with the Fast Forward," Bopper tells "The Fast Forward just helped us finish the leg quicker." The self-professed ol' country boys from Kentucky fell so far behind last week after Mark toiled for hours and suffered heat stroke in the Indian sun while learning a Bollywood dance. But he says he would do it all over again for his best buddy. See what else the fan favorites have to say about their tight bond, being threatened by Art and JJ and more.

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How close were you to Art and JJ?
I don't know, but looking at the shadow on the mat, we'd come in pretty late after them. We were three hours behind from the beginning. We did our best, but I think we were beat before we left that morning. [Laughs]
Mark: We put everything we had into that leg —
Bopper: Including my hair!
Mark: We knew no matter what, we gotta try. The Fast Forward was good. It was the only lifeline we had and we went for it. ... We didn't know for sure we would be eliminated, but we thought we might.
Bopper: Yeah, we still had our fingers crossed that we'd still be in it, but we knew we would have fun that day regardless and run as hard as we could.

Was it worth it to shave your head to get eliminated?
Oh yeah! Just for the opportunity — I shaved my head for the chance to win the money for my child and my family, so I could give my family a better life and I could relocate us to a healthier environment. I would shave it again right now!
Mark: My head was already shaved, so I didn't have a problem with it.
Bopper: Mark was concerned about them gapping him up and stuff.

Last week really did you guys in. What about the dance was so hard, Mark? Were you just tired and feeling sick from the bus ride?
Well, on the show, when I got sick, my buddy Bopper here did whatever he had to do while I got healthy. But in that instance, I got sick and when we got there, it was a dance and he couldn't dance because of his leg, so I had to do it. When I started doing it, there were so many steps that after the first two steps, I was like, "Are we ready now?" The teacher said, "No." I looked at him, like, "Man, I don't know if I can do it. I'm weak and getting dizzy." I gave it everything I had.

Bopper, you told him to quit. Did you mean quit the task and take the penalty or quit the whole Race?
I had gotten really concerned about Mark. He had quit sweating. I could tell by the look in his eyes that something was wrong and I didn't want to see my buddy risk his life or his health. As bad as we needed the money, I needed my buddy over the money. I had a cracked femur and I knew that I couldn't do the dance, but when I looked in Mark's eyes, there was nobody home. I just told him, "Let's just take the penalty. I have to take you back to Kentucky walking and not in a body bag."
Mark: The reason I stopped was because when I blacked out, I just saw my kids. I've got three kids and I just couldn't imagine their life without me. Money ain't everything in life. I wish a lot of people will understand that. Your family is what life's about. I'd rather come back to Manchester broke as I left and take care of my kids than risk dying and no one taking care of my kids.

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How did you change your mind? You had your shirt off and it seemed like you were done. Did Bopper and the instructor talk you out of it?
I just sat down, drank a lot of water, poured a lot of water over me. I had to cool off. That was it. When I cooled off, I said to Bopper, "I think I can do it." He said, "Listen, if you think you can, let's do this for our kids and just show them what we'd do for them." When he said that, it was all it took. When someone stands beside you and says, "I don't want you to die. Let's take the penalty," the least I could do was get back out there for him. I'd do it again.

You guys are great friends and were so supportive of each other. Did you ever fight on the Race?
We're of the pact that friends have differences, but true friends will get their arguments over quick because we have to race the next day. That's what it was like on the Race and that's what it's like for us today. We have disagreements, but we know our friendship is deeper than any situation that we're gonna run across. That's the bottom line: Have your little spit-spat and get over it because you're friends.
Mark: You gotta be man enough to humble yourself when you know you're wrong and when you're right. When you're wrong and your partner's right, don't be too proud to say it. It doesn't matter if you argue. You're gonna be friends in the end if you really are friends. If you argue and it causes you to break up your friendship, you never were friends to begin with!
Bopper: That's exactly right. I told Mark before we left, when we were jogging and getting in shape, "We've been friends all our lives. We're gonna leave [for the show] as friends and regardless of what happens, we're gonna come back as friends." And we both agreed to that.

You seem to have gotten along with every team. Art and JJ gave you money in Italy, but then in the airport in Africa, they almost threatened to U-Turn you if you didn't switch sides. What happened there?
The reason Art and JJ gave us the money was because they thought we were out of the Race. But then I think out of that, like you said, when they threatened us, they didn't come to me. They went to Bopper. They gave him that money and I guess they thought Bopper was gonna be willing to do whatever they wanted him to because they gave him the money. The money was a nice gesture from them, but we didn't ask for nothing. But we're two ol' country boys and we're not gonna change — money can't buy us. I told Bopper, "Man, they're not gonna threaten us. They're not gonna tell us what to do." We got along with everybody. If they don't like us, that's their loss. We're friendly to everybody. We talked to all the teams. We didn't just sit in this little group or that little group like some other teams. We mingled with everybody.
Bopper: We talked to all the teams: "Let's help each other along. The last leg is what counts. If I can do something to help you, I will. But we all agree: If we make it to the final three, it's dog-eat-dog." We all agreed. I was not gonna U-Turn anyone unless it came down to keeping me in the game. That's the only way I would've U-turned anyone, including Art and JJ, even after they made that comment.

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You called them babies for ignoring Dave and Rachel when they didn't U-Turn Brendon and Rachel.
Right. I told Art and JJ, "Look, I don't know how you guys were raised or your beliefs or whatever, but there are two things you don't do to a country boy: You don't kick his dog and you don't threaten him." [Laughs] He didn't kick my dog, but I kinda felt threatened, so I didn't like it! I still do appreciate them giving my child that money. I have respect for every single person that ran that Race with us. I keep in touch with them, I talk with them. I've grown to love everybody, not just as friends. I think of them as brothers and sisters now.

You were definitely the fan favorites this season and a lot of people want to see you on the next All-Stars. Are you up for it?
Absolutely! If they called me right now, I'd say, "Sweetie, I have to get off this phone because I gotta get on an airplane because I'm about to do the Race again."
Mark: Do it in a minute!

What are you up to now? How's your daughter doing?
My daughter is doing well. She's got a lot of respiratory problems. Like I said in the beginning, that's why I spilled my guts on that Race. Every time I was down and out, I would picture my child on that breathing machine and I would dig deep and keep going. When we were making our way up Sleeping Beauty's castle and I was having chest pains and out of wind, I dropped to my knees and asked God if he gave me a second wind, I would give my heart and soul into this Race like I have been. And He gave me that second wind.
Mark: I'm just sitting here listening to Bopper. [Laughs] When we went on the show to better the lives of our families, I had a pretty good job and the guy told me I would keep it, but as soon as I got back from the Race, I lost my job. I ain't gonna lie: It's been real tough for us. Me and my family are really struggling. But I don't worry about it because I've got Bopper and my friends. Everyone talks about how close our friendship is. Yes, we're close, but if you come to Manchester, Ky., you can ask anyone around here about Mark and Bopper, and if they're a friend of ours, we'd do anything for them and they would for us. My friends and my family have helped me keep my head up high. God gave me a breath to wake up every morning. Every morning you wake up, you ought to thank God because nobody is promised the next day.
Bopper: We got to travel the world and we've seen what true hard times are. We've seen true poverty. We're blessed every day as Americans. I just keep that in my mind all the time.