Ken Jennings, best-remembered for his incredible run on the popular game show Jeopardy! — where he became the highest-earning champion in the history of the show, taking home over $2.5 million over the course of 75 total appearances — is lending some advice to the newest whiz kid, James Holzhauer.
As most of us know, Holzhauer’s run on Jeopardy! recently ended after 33 appearances, when he was defeated by the newest champion, Emma Boettcher, which capped a crazy streak that saw the professional sports gambler rack up over $2.4 million, narrowly missing out on Ken Jennings’ all-time record. But, given the 29-year-old’s popularity during the streak, the legendary Jennings is helping mentor him a bit now that his life as a game show icon had ended.
We have a new champion! Congratulations, Emma Boettcher!
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) June 4, 2019
Speaking to Good Morning America today, Ken Jennings not only talked about the possibility of he and Holzhauer going head-to-head on the show at some point, even calling it “inevitable” to happen, but he also detailed his budding relationship with the man who nearly overtook his record earnings. Here’s what Jennings had to say, first offering praise, then discussing how he’s sort of mentoring James Holzhauer.
“For many years I have assumed that the record is beatable.
“It seemed like he might be the guy, the chosen one, so I was very excited,” he said. “I wanted to see it come down to the wire, I wanted to see if it could be beaten because I think it can be done.
“He was so close to the cash record,” Jennings added. “And it just shows how fragile a ‘Jeopardy!’ streak is.”
“Watching James on that show, he feels as close to Watson as you can get and still have a pulse,” he said. “My guess is playing against James is going to be a lot like playing against Watson.”
That’s pretty awesome to hear from Ken Jennings, as he seems to be genuinely amazed at all that James Holzhauer was able to accomplish on Jeopardy!. That said, now that the guy has some newfound popularity, Jennings wants to make sure Holzhauer parlays that into inspiring others in some way, encouraging him to follow his passions.
“I just told him like take some time to think about what it is you want, because you do have a window, like do you want a different job, do you have a book idea, do you have a podcast idea?” Jennings said of the advice he gave. “Because make some phone calls, now is the time.”
Jennings said he would encourage young people who feel like they are different to “follow your obsessions” and “wear those on your sleeves,” adding, “that’s where your life is going to take you.”
So, while James Holzhauer has millions of dollars in the bank and has yet to even turn 30 years old yet, Ken Jennings doesn’t think that he’ll change his lifestyle and blow it all, becoming one of those sad stories of someone falling from fame.
“You hear stories about what any lifestyle change or any windfall can do to people, it’s not always great when somebody gets a lottery ticket,” he said. “I worked very hard at not doing anything dumb.
“I really feel like James has that down,” he added. “He’s got his priorities right and his head screwed on great.”
There aren’t many people in the world who can relate to all that James Holzhauer is going through following his wild Jeopardy! streak. But the one person who can is Ken Jennings, and it’s cool to see how he’s trying to inspire him to use his popularity to do some good for other people, and remind him to take risks on the things he really wants to do.