Senior stuns school, wins television trivia
Adam Marshall '12 poses with Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek.
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Whether you turned on the television or even just logged onto Facebook this summer, you have likely heard of Adam Marshall ’12. The current senior rose to an unprecedented level of stardom this summer after he made not one, not two, but three appearances on the television game show, Jeopardy!.
“The episode actually aired on my first day at work at summer camp,” Marshall said. “My parents had some friends over and I watched it with a group of coworkers, but my phone went off a lot during the day. I actually got a back log of texts because every time I would try to reply to one, I would get a new text so what I was writing would get saved to drafts. I eventually had to turn it off so I could go to sleep, and I couldn’t even log on to Facebook without getting chat messages.”
While Marshall’s rise to fame occurred quite recently, his road to Jeopardy! has been paved since high school. He found his affinity for trivia back in high school, where he joined the Walt Whitman High School Quiz Bowl team in his hometown of Bethesda, Md. after encouragement from his parents when they saw that he possessed “a knack for picking up info from things [he] read.” Marshall went on to captain the team for two years and even picked up a national championship. After graduation, however, Marshall was unsure of how he would continue his trivia career. “I figured I was satisfied with the way it ended, and Colby is way out in Waterville so it’s hard to get to college tournaments. I picked up Frisbee instead but then I decided to try out for Jeopardy! online.
Marshall’s decision to apply actually came almost three years ago as a first-year at the College. The television show offers online tests every six months for hopefuls, featuring a round of questions similar to the ones presented on the real show. In the fall of 2008 Marshall applied for College Jeopardy!, and then several months later applied for the regular version of the program. The database stores results for 18 months, and if chosen, contestants must audition at a satellite station to verify their results and play in a sample game to test on-camera demeanor. “At that point everyone has gotten similar results, so the decisions become more subjective,” Marshall noted.
The call Marshall received from the studio was not an expected one. “It had been almost the full 18 months, I was in the Pub playing pool with Evan O’Neill ’12. It was the last day of JanPlan break—I had gotten back that day but a lot of people were unable to make it back due to the snowstorm. When I looked at my phone I thought it was a 301 number, which is my hometown area code, but it was actually a 303 number. The woman on the other line talked for a minute verifying my identity before saying she was from Jeopardy!. I had to sit down and Evan was like, ‘Is this what I think it is?!’”
Marshall flew out on Feb. 28 and sat through a day of tapings before joining the first show taped on March 2. During the time between the call and his episode, he did attempt to brush up on some facts. “It would be pretty ambitious to think you could prepare for Jeopardy! as a whole,” Marshall said, “But I made flashcards for country music and cocktails because they were my weak spots.”
Fortunately, neither of those categories came up during his run on the show, which lasted for three episodes. Marshall recalls his favorite moment to be the Final Jeopardy! question on the first show: he was ahead, but in order to win he would have to get the answer correct and also wager the correct amount of money. The question was, “In 2007, Robbstown, near Corpus Christie, was officially recognized as the birthplace of this game, now widely played online.” All three contestants got the answer correct, “Texas Hold ‘Em,” but Marshall’s wager sealed him the victory.
His second game was notably less eventful, with Marshall winning before the Final Jeopardy! question even appeared. The episode was memorable for other reasons, however, as Alex Trebek came up with several nicknames for Marshall, including “Young Adam” and “We Are Marshall.”
Although Marshall’s stint on the program came to an end after the third episode, those three certainly made an impact. Between the tapings and the airings, he had to conceal the results of his time on the show, with only his parents, grandparents and brother knowing how well he had done. Since the show, Marshall has become a sort of celebrity among friends and even strangers.
“There’s no real way to tell people you’ve been on Jeopardy! without sounding douchey,” Marshall said. “But my friend Evan loves to tell everyone about it.” Marshall even received over 30 friend requests on Facebook from complete strangers who had seen him on the program.
And Marshall certainly didn’t walk away empty handed. He earned $51,800 on the first two shows and a $2,000 consolation prize for the third. His total earnings, $53,800, are a number that hits close to home for many students on the Hill.
“My dad pointed out on the trip home that $53,800 is the exact cost of the College’s comprehensive fee for the school year,” Marshall said. Though he hasn’t received the actual money yet, he’s expecting it to arrive very soon. “I don’t know how to go about spending that much money; I’ve never had that much to spend.” He got some help from his roommate, however, whose first text to Marshall after the first show aired simply read, “You’re buying the TV.”