He came, he saw and he conquered final ‘Jeopardy!’


Q: He is a chemical engineering major with a winning strategy.

A: Who is Terry Heard Jr.?

The UA student became a champion on the popular game show “Jeopardy!” in the episode that aired Feb. 14. He won $19,663, and came back for a second episode that aired Feb. 17. He came in second that time, ending his run.

As viewers of the long-running trivia-style show know, “Jeopardy!” has a unique format — questions are posed by host Alex Trebek as answers, and contestants have to supply the correct answer in the form of a question.

Heard says he was a freshman at Copley High School when he began watching the show. He quickly realized how much he didn’t know, and felt challenged to bone up on many subjects.


Chemical engineering major Terry Heard Jr. is pictured here on the “Jeopardy!” set with longtime host, Alex Trebek.

He’s remained a fan over the years, finding time to watch, along with his studies at UA and his work as an aircraft maintainer at the Air National Guard base in Mansfield.

When he decided to try to be a contestant on the show, he took the online test several times before getting an invitation to audition last June in Cleveland.

“The ‘Jeopardy!’ coordinators were all so nice and energetic, which is exactly how they want you to act on the television,” says Heard of the experience. “They first give you a 50-question written test, in which you need a 70% to pass. This is to make sure that you didn't cheat while taking the online test.”

After doing well on the test, potential contestants play mock “Jeopardy!” in front of the classroom to get a feel for the game. Then, there’s a mini interview to determine if individuals are likely to freeze on camera. At the end of the day, Heard and the others were told they would be put into a contestant pool for the next 18 months. Within that time period, they could get a call to be on the show.

Heard recalls being “in awe” when the call came 16 months later. “It was such a good feeling. It’s one of those feelings that doesn't kick in until the next day. Lots of excitement.”

As eager as he was to get there, Heard admits to a case of nerves.

“It was an exciting kind of nervous,” he recalls. “You have no idea what episode you are going to be on until they randomly select your name out of a coffee mug right before it’s time for the next episode. You wait in the audience until they tell you to get ready to play. The audience is made up of contestants, their families, and people that paid for tickets to be there.”

Now that he’s conquered “Jeopardy!,” Heard, who expects to graduate in 2021, is looking ahead to medical school. He’s focusing on preparing to take the MCAT this summer.

“I am also a big chess player, so I plan to play in tournaments down the road,” Heard says with a smile.

And, he’ll still make time for “Jeopardy!.”

“Watching the show is a way for me to relax,” Heard notes. “If I'm having a rough day, I can always count on Alex to make it a bit better. I'll also continue learning trivia just in case something else comes up. Ambition is the key to success!”