Sanders Campbell never expected to end up on a TV game show.
But the 34-year-old Dallas man, and former TCU student, ended up competing on “Wheel of Fortune” — and winning $45,000 and a trip to Antigua.
“It’s one of those things that you think would never happen to you, like having your name drawn in a big raffle or winning the lottery,” Campbell, who works in mineral acquisitions at Morado Energy, said after the episode he appeared in aired earlier this week. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
He and his wife, Natalie, aren’t keeping all the winnings, though.
The couple — parents to a two-year-old son, Sanders IV, and a baby due Dec. 1 — decided before the show that they would donate 20 percent of their winnings to charity.
“With all of the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to the Texas Coast, and this being “Salute to Texas Week,” on “Wheel of Fortune,” this is a great opportunity for us to give back to our community in a time of need,” Campbell said.
And he still can’t really believe he made it onto the show in the first place.
His quest started earlier this year, when he and his family were watching the show. They saw a commercial asking anyone interested in being on the show to submit an online video.
A little while later, his wife took a short video of him giving their son a bath and submitted it.
He got a call back inviting him to audition in Dallas. By June he had been invited to be on the show.
Then in August, he headed to the Wheel of Fortune studio in Los Angeles to tape the episode that ended up airing Oct. 9.
“It was such a surreal experience,” he said. “Everything felt like I was dreaming and might wake up at any moment.”
He solved four puzzles.
The first spelled “PITCHER OF SWEET TEA.”
The second contained four words linked to Texas — “FLAG, BARBECUE, TECH, TOAST.”
The third puzzle, which landed him a trip to Antigua, was “A WONDERFUL PLACE TO STAY.”
And the fourth was the name of a song, which turned out to be “A MOMENT LIKE THIS,” by Texan Kelly Clarkson.
On that puzzle, Campbell said he made a mistake.
“Unfortunately, I guessed the correct answer without calling out another letter which would have won me $1,600 more in prize money,” Campbell said. “Definite slip-up there and I’m sure there were plenty of people at home shaking their heads at me.”
His four wins propelled Campbell to the final round, where he chose “Living Thing” as his final puzzle clue.
He was given the standard letters — R,S,T,L,N,E — and chose D,C,M,A as his three consonants and one vowel.
The clue then read: “_ _ LD _R_NC_.”
“I knew “WILD” and that the second word was ‘BR_NC_’ but I had the letter ‘A’ stuck in my head so wasn’t able to solve “WILD BRONCO” and missed out on winning a car as the final prize,” Campbell said.
Even though he knows “Wheel of Fortune” contestants only get to compete once on the game show, Campbell said he sure would love another chance at that final puzzle.
Even so, “it was a total blast,” he said. “Win or lose, that’s a story that not many get to experience.
“I still can’t believe it happened.”