Keller Citizen

Keller teacher returns to ‘Jeopardy’ for Tournament of Champions

Keller teacher David Clemmons poses with Alex Trebek on the set of “Jeopardy” during the spring taping of the Teachers Tournament.
Keller teacher David Clemmons poses with Alex Trebek on the set of “Jeopardy” during the spring taping of the Teachers Tournament. Courtesy of Jeopardy

Keller High School history teacher David Clemmons is back on “Jeopardy” as part of the Tournament of Champions.

Clemmons won $100,000 in May in the 2017 Teachers Tournament and got a call at the beginning of the summer that the Tournament of Champions would be taped in September.

In a recent interview, Clemmons talked about how his second “Jeopardy” tournament compared with his first, but he could not talk about the outcome. Contestants and their families sign a confidentiality agreement that they will not divulge the results before the show airs.

His episode airs at 6 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 8) on KTXA Channel 21. The tournament runs Nov. 6-17.

Once again, Keller High School will host a watch party at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday in the lecture hall near the gym entrance. Community members are welcome to attend, Clemmons said.

The Tournament of Champions doesn’t happen every year; it’s been about two years since the last battle of top players. Clemmons said show organizers wait until they have 15 players who have won a tournament or five or more games. This year’s installment includes 11 players who have won five or more games and four players who have won the Teachers Tournament or the College Tournament.

A huge “Jeopardy” fan since childhood, Clemmons said his approach to his second run on the show changed a little from his first time.

“One thing that was different was I knew who my competitors would be,” he said. “I found some episodes online and could look at their strengths and weaknesses.”

Clemmons also studied his own four episodes and looked at areas where he needed to shore up his knowledge.

If it was a subject that was familiar to him (like Shakespeare), he worked to bring those details to the top of his mind.

“You have to be able to recall something in about three seconds,” he said.

If he had absolutely no knowledge of a topic—like “Potent Potables,” which covers alcoholic drinks —Clemmons didn’t even bother to study because of the limited time until his appearance.

A different vibe

The Tournament of Champions atmosphere differed from what he experienced in the Teachers Tournament. Because they all have similar experiences, the educators “became fast friends,” Clemmons said. He’s had four of the teachers who were in the tournament visit his home in Keller and has met seven for dinner in Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles.

The Tournament of Champions vibe was more focused and subdued. The stakes are bigger: first place wins $250,000, second place $100,000 and $50,000 for third place.

“It was exciting,” he said. “You want to test your mettle against the best. If you like to play, you want to play against the best.”

While the experience was intense, he was not as nervous as he’d been the first time.

“It was not nearly as overwhelming,” he said. “I knew I could answer questions. I knew I could play.”

All players got $5,000 for participating plus airfare, hotel and meal expenses.

Clemmons used his money to bring wife Cindy and daughters Susanna and Carly to Los Angeles for the taping and for a family trip to Disneyland.

Becoming a “pseudo celebrity”

Clemmons calls himself a “pseudo celebrity.”

Big fans of “Jeopardy” know him as “David.” Clemmons said he’s been approached numerous times by those who ask if he was on the show. Those who don’t watch “Jeopardy” have no clue.

Clemmons is now famous among “Jeopardy” fanatics for his big comeback during his second game of the Teachers Tournament. Down to a negative $400, Clemmons came back to win, needing a lucky Double Jeopardy boost to take the lead. The fact that he went on to win the whole tournament cemented him in show lore.

He was interviewed recently for a book commemorating the 35th anniversary of “Jeopardy” as the winner of one of the 15 most exciting games in the show’s history.

The program also allowed him to pay a special tribute to his favorite teacher.

The Teachers Tournament shows aired again in August. During the show, Clemmons mentioned his favorite teacher, Susan Keefe, one of his professors at Duke University where he earned a master’s degree.

Keefe, a single woman, died several years earlier but Clemmons didn’t learn about it until three months later in the Duke alumni magazine. At the time, he’d written a heart-felt letter to her family and sent it to Duke. It never reached them.

Keefe’s aunts were watching “Jeopardy” in August and heard Clemmons mention his favorite teacher. They told everyone in the extended family. Keefe’s brother emailed Clemmons to tell him how much it meant to the family.

When Clemmons learned they never received his letter, he recreated it and emailed it to her brother. The brother called in tears early the next day to say the letter would be a treasured memento the family would read at holidays to remember their loved one.

That was just one of many stories that came out of his Teacher Tournament victory.

Clemmons said, “It’s just been an amazing experience, way bigger than anything I imagined.”

David Clemmons won the 2017 Teachers Tournament and $100,000.

Sandra J. Engelland: 817-390-7323, @SandraEngelland