TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)– Fred Nelson, a Kansas State University grad, is taking home a big win on a popular game show, seeing a legendary host before his final goodbye.
Fred Nelson is a Kansas native, growing up in a small town south of Salina, but mostly calling the Little Apple home. He is currently a university professor at Fresno State. But, he has more roots in Northeast Kansas besides coming from Manhattan.
“I taught high school science,” he said. “Both in Topeka at Highland Park High School, and then at Manhattan High School.”
Nelson has always loved the game of Jeopardy!, remembering the time when he would watch the show in black and white as a kid, and playing the board game to test his skills. In 2009, he auditioned for the show but didn’t get invited on at the time. Then more than 10 years later, he tried again.
“It was about the end of August, I got a phone call,” he said. “At it says, ‘this is one of the Jeopardy! coordinators. How would you like to be on the show?’ And I’m like, ‘oh my gosh! Absolutely yes!”
In September, he headed to Hollywood to compete in Jeopardy! in front of America’s favorite game show host. He had the chance to see Alex Trebek just a couple of months before his passing from pancreatic cancer.
“Such a treasured moment to be able to be standing there with him and talking to him,” he said. “He’s really funny. He’s also very kind.”
While Alex Trebek was fighting a battle with his health, Nelson said there was one thing Trebek made sure of.
“He was such a true professional,” he said. “He really did not want that to get in the way of how people were enjoying the show.”
Nelson came to play, as he was going against some tough competition. For the first half, he was just slightly behind the returning champion. Then he was on top. The question he answered to secure his win was, “in 1858 these two men face each other in Alton, Freeport, Galesburg and four other towns.”
“Illinois was the home of Abraham Lincoln,” he said. “Back before he was even president, he met with Steven Douglas in a series of what are called ‘The Lincoln-Douglas Debates’. As having lived there, I knew all about Lincoln. And so I knew right away that was, ‘Who are Lincoln and Douglas?’ And that was my final Jeopardy! winning answer. So that was really cool.'”
So, will he go on again or on any other game show?
“No,” he said. “I’m happy to live the rest of my life without being a contestant again.”
Why? Because he just wanted to live the experience once, being given a chance to celebrate knowledge and curiosity on a game show he grew up with.
Nelson’s episode aired Dec. 3, 2020. He then went back for his second game the next day, but he did not win that round.
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