Many grew up watching “Jeopardy!” — pitting their knowledge against the participants’ and wondering how they’d do if they ever got the chance to grace the set.
Not many get the opportunity — and of those who do, fewer still can claim as impressive a winning streak as Brayden Smith.
The young man was even given the nickname “Billy Buzzsaw” by the late, great host Alex Trebek and dubbed “Alex’s Last Great Champion” by fans of the show.
Smith died Feb. 5 at age 24, his family said.
Smith showed up in the twilight of Trebek’s hosting career, and the host reportedly was impressed with the young contestant.
“He loved great games,” “Jeopardy!” producer Mark Richards said, according to EW. “[When] he would get to the end of the show, and he’d go, ‘Great game, I loved it. I hope you did too. We’ll see you next time,’ that was not manufactured. That was him jazzed.
“And he did, I believe, really like [four-day champion] Brayden, because he was young and kind of interesting, and funny in his own way. I could tell that [Trebek] very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch.
“I think that energized him. It was like, ‘That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m putting myself through this.'”
In one “Jeopardy!” interview, Smith also voiced his admiration of Trebek, finding his ability to show up and go on with the show despite his illness inspirational. He also said the show “is so much better than anything that I could have even imagined.”
Billy Buzzsaw ended with a five-game winning streak and amassed over $115,000. He was known for finding and correctly answering Daily Double questions, a point that Trebek made sure to highlight.
Sharp, well-educated and even better-read, the competitive Smith had fulfilled a lifelong dream by participating and winning on “Jeopardy!” as stated in his obituary.
His family later told KLAS-TV that he had experienced complications during surgery.
The JEOPARDY! family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith. He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed. https://t.co/aFQRt6KzPc
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) February 12, 2021
“We are heartbroken to share that our dear Brayden Smith recently passed away unexpectedly,” Debbie Smith, Brayden’s mother, tweeted. “We are so grateful that Brayden was able to live out his dream on @jeopardy.”
“The ‘Jeopardy!’ family is heartbroken by the tragic loss of Brayden Smith,” the show tweeted, sharing her post. “He was kind, funny and absolutely brilliant. Our deepest condolences go out to Brayden’s family. He will be missed.”
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