Freddie Combs, 40, a Greenville, Tenn., minister, told judges Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid how he almost died when his weight peaked at 920 lbs. in 2009.
"Today through exercise and proper diet, I have lost almost 400 lbs.," Combs, now 540 lbs. and using a oversized wheelchair, said before taking the stage with the help of a handful of stagehands and his wife and caretaker, Kay. "When you almost die, your life changes and you look at living in a whole different manner."
"I hope the judges will look past my exterior and give a fat boy a chance," he added, before singing "Wind Beneath My Wings."
The judges were impressed. "I find your voice shockingly amazing," Britney told him.
L.A. called his voice "heavenly."
"I feel a lot of emotion behind what you're singing," Demi said.
Simon wanted to make a deal with Freddie: "When I heard you sing, I had a vision in my mind of you standing, singing that song – healthy, happy – and maybe you need some inspiration," he said. "I don't think you deserve to be stuck in that chair. I really don't. But it has to come from you. And I feel that if we're going to go forward that we have to make a sort of deal with each other that we're both going to work hard to sort this out. I'll back you if you back yourself."
Freddie agreed and all four judges said yes, moving him on to the next round of competition, which begins next week.
"I like the deal Simon made with you," L.A. said at the end of the audition. "He challenged you to stand. And if you stand, I'm going to stand right by you."