University of Texas at Tyler student Will Edmond Jr. pocketed $214,000 in the game show "Deal or No Deal" as ecstatic classmates celebrated his good fortune Wednesday.
The 22-year-old journalism major from Douglasville wound up his two-part appearance on the NBC show by accepting a "deal" from the show's "Banker." The episode was taped in November.
Edmond took the Banker's $214,000 "deal," stopping the game instead of continuing for a prize that could be as high as $750,000 - or as low as $50.
At a viewing party Wednesday, Edmond said the decision was not a hard one, "because I saw my odds and $214,000 is a lot of money. I felt really good."
Before that last deal, he shouted "No deal!" to one of the Banker's earlier offers: $77,000, a boat and a fishing trip to a Florida lake with bass fisherman Roland Martin.
Edmond lost his chance at the highest prize - $1 million - about halfway through the game. Still, he smiled broadly about being $214,000 richer.
"I'm going to pay off my student loans, and then also I'm just going to invest my money wisely, maybe so I can be a potential millionaire, billionaire, and retire early. That's what I want to do," he said.
Edmond said he went with his "gut feeling" while playing the game, which involves eliminating 26 suitcases containing amounts from 1 cent to $1 million.
"There's no system to picking a case; there's no mathematical formula you can figure out. It's just the draw of luck," he said.
Edmond appeared to be at ease during the game before a national audience and UT Tyler students, who had gathered in a Hollywood studio and in Herrington Patriot Center on campus to watch and enthusiastically cheer him on.
From the start, Edmond, who likes to fish, appeared to enjoy being on the show and presented host Howie Mandel a surprising gift - a catfish caught in Tyler.
Playing the game is not all about winning money; it's just a fun thing to do and being on national TV is a great experience, Edmond said in an interview. He also said he was pleased with the support and backing he received from UT Tyler and its students.
"Altogether, it's an amazing experience. I'm just blessed, really blessed," Edmond said.
Edmond's odyssey to Hollywood, game show glory and local celebrity status began last summer, when he heard about Shreveport auditions for the show while living with his parents in Douglasville.
Edmond filled out an application printed from the NBC Web site, went to Shreveport and waited his. A casting director told the approximately 2,000 contestants they each had 30 seconds in a booth with a video camera to impress producers and tell them why they should be on the show.
"I told them, 'I'm different from everybody else,'" Edmond recalled, speculating that his charisma - and the perpetual smile on his face - helped.
"I got a callback the next day," Edmond said, so he returned to Shreveport with his parents, a friend and her parents for another interview and to play a mock game.
"They said it could be a week to two years before I got a call back," Edmond said, but he thought to himself that he did well and would be on the show.
"I just went crazy in Applebee's," Edmond said, when he got another call last October inviting him to come for a taping of the show in November in Hollywood.
He said the producers are "so nice ... just like Texas people."
They did not train or prepare him for the contest. Edmond said, "They want you to be yourself; they don't want you to be an actor. It's one of the best game shows in America right now because the people are original. They are not staged."
Everything ran smoothly at the taping, Edmond said. "I like to be on TV. It's fun to me. I like to be in front of people; I'm an extrovert. I like to talk to people," Edmond said.
Edmond said he was "amazed and shocked" by the support he received from UT Tyler and students. The university and NBC split the cost of sending 100 students to California by bus to be Edmond's cheering section.
Back on campus and waiting for the show to air, fellow students often walked up to congratulate him on getting to be on the show.
"I'm still a down-to-earth guy," Edmond said. "I just want to show other people ... don't limit yourself to doing anything because anything is possible. If you believe, you can do whatever you want to do."
Edmond was already well-known on campus before his exposure on national TV. He serves on the campus activities board and is a resident assistant at Ornelas Residence Hall. He was voted Mr. UT Tyler and was named homecoming king.
Edmond plans to apply to graduate school at universities on the East Coast to study for a Master of Fine Arts degree after getting his bachelor's degree from UT Tyler. His career goal is to work for a public relations or advertising company for two or three years and then start his own company.
Betty Waters covers higher education and rural Smith county. She can be reached at 903.596.6286. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org