Fortune favors family tradition

Elliot Byrd poses for a photo on set of Wheel of Fortune

Carol Kaelson/Photographer

Elliot Byrd poses for a photo on set of Wheel of Fortune

Photo courtesy of Elliot Byrd.

Diana Furman

A family settled down in front of the television nearly every evening, never imagining their nightly routine would someday award one of them thousands of dollars.

Elliot Byrd, finance senior, recently competed on Wheel of Fortune’s College Night and won big.

Byrd said he grew up watching the show alongside his family. His grandmother has always been a big fan of the show and her brother was even a contestant in the ’70s. The show had become a family tradition over the years and Byrd continued that tradition when he transitioned into college.

Byrd said he has watched the show every evening since his freshman year, sometimes even watching it with his roommates. Over the years, Byrd’s roommates noticed his skill and ability to answer the riddles before the live contestants.

Jason Lanthier, public relations senior, was Byrd’s roommate freshman year and oftentimes watched the show alongside his friend.

Lantheir said it seemed Byrd had the game down to a science.

“When we’d watch it was always sort of a game to see if he could answer faster,” Lantheir said. “And he always ended up beating everyone.”

Andrew Homann, business economics senior, also took note of Byrd’s talent and encouraged Byrd to audition for the show.

“He’s so quick-minded and has a really mathematical brain,” Homann said. “All those years of watching it provided repetition and continued practice so I knew he’d do really well.”

Byrd said after Homann suggested it they googled the audition process and Byrd proceeded to apply.

Out of two million auditions, Byrd was chosen as one of the 19 contestants for College Night. On Feb. 23 he traveled to California along with his family to tape the show.

Byrd said between the warm lights, multiple cameras and production team, he felt like a movie star. The pressure was intense with a 400-person audience casting their gaze upon the contestants as they filmed the show.

“The first five minutes or so I was almost completely blacked out,” Byrd said. “Time felt so weird and my brain wasn’t working the same. But I just chugged my water and snapped back into it. I was ready to play my game.”

Byrd played his game until the very end. As the last contestant standing with a $25,800 prize, he went into the bonus round. Under a time crunch, he managed to solve the final two words. The phrase ‘fluffy koala,’ won him an extra $35,000 and allotted him a total of $60,800 in the end.

Byrd said it was an adventure he is happily checking off his bucket list. He said every day he thinks about the experience he had on the show.

“It was the most surreal thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Byrd said. “It was a dream come true.”

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