How Ken Jennings Went From Desk Jockey To His New Role as ‘Jeopardy!’ Consulting Producer

The news that Jeopardy!‘s greatest player of all time, Ken Jennings, has joined the game show’s staff as consulting producer for the upcoming 37th season has both shocked and pleasantly surprised fans.

For Jennings, 46, simply becoming a contestant on the classic quiz show was a dream come true.

Here’s a look at how he realized his dreams and more.

Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings during the Greatest of All Time tournament on 'Jeopardy!'
Alex Trebek and Ken Jennings during the Greatest of All Time tournament on ‘Jeopardy!’ | Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images

Ken Jennings nearly didn’t audition for the quiz show

RELATED: ‘Jeopardy!’: How Might Alex Trebek Do As a Contestant on the Quiz Show?

Back in the early 2000s, when he was still working a desk job as a software engineer, Jennings and a friend planned on auditioning for the game show, as he told Vulture in May 2020.

“The year before, I was down in Los Angeles with a friend of mine on a short vacation, and we always talked about trying out for Jeopardy! since our days on a college quiz-bowl team,” he said.

“We called Sony and found out that there were no auditions that week, and it was actually a few days after we were planning to leave. We were super bummed, but finally said, ‘You know what? Let’s just come back. Why not?’”

Both he and his friend passed the test and one year later, in 2004, Jennings made his first appearance on the show, ultimately winning over $2.5 million in 74 consecutive games on the program.

He became the Greatest ‘Jeopardy!’ Player of All Time

RELATED: ‘Jeopardy!’: Ken Jennings Finally Reveals the Secret to His Historic 2004 Win

In Jan. 2020, Jennings won the game show’s Greatest Of All Time title. The tournament pitted Jennings against heavyweight players Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer to compete for the ultimate title in the game show’s history.

Speaking with Canadian entertainment website Original-Cin in April 2020, the father of two opened up about his win, particularly about how different it was to play against two fellow quiz show giants.

“We all get along really well and we are friends,” he said. “On a regular show you’ve got three people who are like deer in the headlights because they’re on TV for the first time playing for a huge amount of money.   We have played the game enough we’re not super nervous. But that’s just rare because Jeopardy! is so stressful. It’s nerve-wracking for the contestants. It’s nothing at all like it seems on your couch.” 

Ken Jennings is back on ‘Jeopardy!,’ sort of

Jennings, 46, most definitely did not fade away after his epic 2004 win. Most notably, the quiz show legend, it was recently announced, has been brought on to the program as a consulting producer. Part of his duties will include presenting entire categories of questions on Jeopardy! for its 37th season starting Sept. 14.

Prior to his new role on the series, Jennings also appeared on NBC’s 1 vs. 100 in 2006; Game Show Network’s Grand Slam in 2007; in 2008 on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?; and in 2014, he took part in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Since April 2020, Jennings has been starring in Game Show Network’s Master Minds, which just wrapped up airing 65 episodes in June 2020.

The Washington-born Jennings also recently assisted in narrating the audiobook for Alex Trebek’s 2020 memoir, The Answer Is…

Regarding his consulting role in Jeopardy!‘s new season, Jennings stated, “Though I’ve played my last round of Jeopardy! as a contestant, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to remain involved with my favorite show,” Jennings said.

“I’m still in on all the action, but I don’t have to worry about phrasing things in the form of a question anymore.”

RELATED: Ken Jennings’ ‘Jeopardy!’ Winning Streak Went So Long, He Admits He Started Making Up Contestant Interview Topics