*As far as actors go, you can’t get much tougher than Terry Crews.

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Best known for playing the daddy in “Everybody Hates Chris,” the 44-year-old Flint, Michigan native was an NFL defensive end before he left the gridiron for Hollywood.  The 6 ft 2, 245 pound actor has since made a cinematic name for himself by playing “the tough guy” in such films as “Bridesmaids,” “Lottery Ticket,” “Terminator Salvation” and the forthcoming “Expendables 2,” opening Aug. 17.

But, Crews said all of his tough guy ‘ish  went directly out the window when he paired with real special operations and law enforcement elite for the NBC reality series, “Stars Earn Stripes.”

“I can say I almost drowned, and that’s for real,” Crews told TV critics at the recent TCA Press Tour. “There was a moment where I always like to be in shape. I pride myself – like, you know, I’m 5 percent body fat. Well, that don’t work swimming, OK? Found that out, especially when you put 70 pounds of equipment on. And I actually swam the longest I’ve ever swam in my life. But I reached the point where I couldn’t go anymore and I can’t describe the feeling.”

Actor Terry Crews speaks onstage at the ‘Stars Earn Stripes’ panel during day 4 of the NBCUniversal portion of the 2012 Summer TCA Tour held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 24, 2012 in Beverly Hills

Crews wasn’t the only one scared and spent during the challenges, which were all real U.S. military exercises designed to test the stars’ weapons and combat skills. Rounding out the cast is former boxer Laila Ali, fitness trainer Dolvett Quince of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” Olympic skier Picabo Street, TV host and singer Nick Lachey, former first gentleman of Alaska Todd Palin, actor Dean Cain and WWE Divas wrestler Eve Torres.

Each star is playing for a specific military charity and will donate 100 percent of their earnings to the organization, which made the blood, sweat and near drowning all worthwhile, according to Crews.

Below, he goes into detail about that very challenge, and how he went into panic mode despite specific instructions from his military partner not to.

“Stars Earn Stripes” is executive produced by Mark Burnett and Dick Wolf; and hosted by retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander and former presidential candidate Wesley Clark, and former “Dancing with the Stars” co-host Samantha Harris. Watch the promo below.