Ryan Long Opens Up About His Financial Struggles Before ‘Jeopardy!’

Current “Jeopardy!” Champion Ryan Long recently sat down with Inquirer to reveal how a 39-year-old rideshare driver from Philadelphia won over seven games on Jeopardy! as of Monday night for a total of $145,201.

As of Thursday, his fifth win qualifies him for the Jeopardy! competition. 2022 Tournament of Champions, which will air later this year. Long will compete against other Jeopardy! Last season’s greats included Matt Amodio, Amy Schneider and Mattea Roach, among others.

Ryan Long describes his “Jeopardy!” success as “unreal”

Jeopardy!

Long told the publication that his success on the Trivia game show was “really surreal.” He added, “It didn’t feel real until I saw myself on TV and I was like, ‘OK, so this is a thing that happened and it wasn’t a fever dream.'”

Long was born in Philadelphia but moved to Bensalem with his parents when he was nine. They separated when he was thirteen, and his father died just before the start of his senior year of high school. That forced Long to move back to the city to live with his mother. He admitted he “barely” graduated from George Washington High.

“I probably wasn’t the most conscientious student,” Long admitted. “I was distracted by other things. … I didn’t go straight to college. I went to work.”

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Jeopardy!

But it all came to an abrupt end when he was hospitalized for several weeks in January 2021 after contracting COVID-19. After his release, he continued to work as a paratransit driver for SEPTA’s Customized Community Transportation program. However, he realized that he was physically unable to perform the work.

He began working at various ridesharing services to try to provide for himself and his son Nathan, 8. When “Jeopardy!” called him in February to ask him to be on the show – 16 months after he passed the test – he jumped at the chance.

“If this opportunity hadn’t come around, I don’t know what I would do long term,” Long admitted.

Ryan Long talks about his successful “Jeopardy!” strategy…or lack thereof!

Jeopardy!

Struggling financially, Long admitted he needed help from others to afford the plane ticket for his flight to California. He only brought two shirts because, as he says, he couldn’t afford them. He thanked the Jeopardy! wardrobe team for helping him make the most of his looks as he has now amassed over six figures on the show.

Several fans watching at home have noticed that he squints at times. As Long says, he accidentally left his glasses at home in Philadelphia.

“There was a video reference category on Swedish history and there was a photo of a king with his sword. … I couldn’t see what the clue was. I just believed to the best of my knowledge, and of course it was completely wrong,” Long explained. “When you watch it on TV the hint is big and all, but when you get there the video hint screen is way over the stage and it’s not that big. So if you don’t have a good view then good luck to you mate. You’re going to have problems.”

Jeopardy!

Long admitted that he immediately felt out of place among the other contestants who had been churning over books about “Jeopardy!” Strategies and buzzer techniques. “I didn’t study or anything. I probably should have read something, but I just didn’t,” Long admitted. “I just went in and did my thing.”

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Part of Long’s success can be attributed to his big daily double bets. He says he has no strategy, he just feels his way through the game with his intuition.

While there’s no telling how long Long’s winning streak will last, he revealed he’s looking forward to taking on Jeopardy! Greats like Amy and Matt at the Tournament of Champions later this year. However, for now, he just wants to enjoy his winnings with his son.

The first thing the two plan to do together? To go fishing.

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