Ryan Long is in the midst of an 11-day Jeopardy! winning streak with earnings totaling over $200,000. And the bankroll is a much-needed change in his life. Because the day he set flight to the Alex Trebek stage, he was nearly down to his last cent.
The 39-year-old contestant claims to just be a regular guy with a regular job. And he attributes his trivia genius to his passion for reading as well as spending weeknights watching Jeopardy! with his parents. But he didn’t think he’d last long on the game show because he had no post-high school education.
“I thought that I could do okay, maybe,” he once said on the show. ” But I didn’t think I would get anywhere near this level.”
In fact, when he was a teenager, he stopped being interested in school altogether. As he explained, his parents had divorced when he was younger, and they shuffled him around for their custody agreement. Then just as he was entering 12th grade, his father passed away. And he could hardly get through his remaining classes let alone apply for university.
“I was probably not the most conscientious student, I was distracted by other things. … I didn’t go to college right away, I went to work.”
Eventually, Long landed a driving gig with SEPTA’s Customized Community Transportation program. The company helps senior citizens and people with disabilities get around Pennsylvania. But when COVID hit in 2020, things got hard when he contracted the virus.
Along with his already mounting bills, a stay at the hospital on a ventilator gave him endless medical bills that left him pennyless. And to make things harder, he couldn’t stay with his job at SEPTA once he recovered, so he took on a job as a rideshare driver.
But somewhere in there, Jeopardy! contacted Ryan Long. And over a year later, he passed his test to join the stage.
By the time he was ready to compete, Ryan Long couldn’t even afford a ticket to California. He also owned two dress shirts, which he rotates during filming, and he accidentally left his only pair of glasses at home.
Ryan Long Didn’t Prepare Before Joining ‘Jeopardy!’
Luckily, Long was much more knowledgeable than he gave himself credit for. And from the moment he stepped behind the podium, he began blasting through the competition. By doing so, he’s now out of his economic hole and saving for the future.
But if you ask him how he made the history books with a Jeopardy! winning streak, Ryan Long won’t be able to tell you. It all just came to him with sheer luck. And he hopes his “surreal” experience will convince others to give their own dreams a shot.
“I didn’t study or anything, I probably should have perused something, but I just didn’t. I just kind of went in and did my thing,” he said. “…You just have to believe in yourself, lay it on the line, and do it.”