Austin man to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’

Published 9:11 am Monday, May 30, 2011

AUSTIN — Austin High School alum Matt Larson grew up watching “Jeopardy!” He’d answer questions and wish he could play on the show. Last February, Larson got his wish.

The 2002 AHS graduate’s performance on “Jeopardy!” will be broadcast Monday.

“It’s pretty awesome, really,” Larson said. “It’s pretty incredible.

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Larson, who graduated from Wheaton College in 2006 with a degree in International Studies, works as a technical support specialist for Medtronic near Boulder, Colo. He spends his days helping doctors and nurses use Medtronic’s neurosurgical technology, even leading training sessions out in the field.

“He’s always been a pretty bright guy,” said Pam, Matt’s mother.

Matt applied online in February 2009, answering 50 questions and doing well enough to place him in a prospects pool. “Jeopardy!” producers called him in May for an audition in California, where Matt took a written test and went through a trial game, answering questions from a podium so the producers could see whether he was TV-ready.

They told him he was eligible to be on the show for the next 18 months, but Matt didn’t get called up. Not until last December, more than 18 months later, that is.

“I sort of figured I was out of the running,” he said.

Matt flew out with his wife Ali, his sister-in-law and his parents to throw down against two other contestants for a shot a “Jeopardy!” fame.

“It’s kind of surreal in a way,” he said. “It’s like you’re stepping into this TV world.”

He got to meet Alex Trebek for a short time before the show, although there wasn’t much conversation going on. He said the experience of competing on “Jeopardy!” was nerve-wracking, but his family supported him the entire time.

“My dad was just as excited as I was,” he said with a laugh.

Matt’s strong subjects are history, politics and international affairs, although he suffers when it comes to literature and drama questions. He won’t reveal how he did, but he said it was a memorable experience.

“I’ll make you watch it to find out,” he said.