Brayden Smith died at the age of 24 in February after experiencing surgical complications, according to his obituary from The Las Vegas Review-Journal. Weeks before his passing, Smith competed in multiple episodes and won $115,000 – which aired in January.
The young contestant’s missing presence was acknowledged by “Jeopardy” guest host Buzzy Cohen, who included Smith in the tournament’s introduction on Friday.
“You’ve now met all 15 of the players who qualified for the Tournament of Champions. Well, almost all,” Cohen said at the top of the episode.
“Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won five shows and $115,000 in January, passed away earlier this year,” Cohen elaborated while clips of the late contestant played onscreen. “Brayden’s family has established a fund in his name, and ‘Jeopardy!’ will be donating to that fund. We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family.”
Smith’s mother, Debbie, issued a statement to the “Jeopardy!” crew following the show’s touching tribute on Twitter.
“Our family is deeply touched by @Jeopardy’s ToC tribute to Brayden and its pledge to support the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund,” she wrote. “What a formidable group of Champs. Brayden would feel honored to be counted among you.”
When Smith was a contestant on “Jeopardy!” he appeared alongside late host Alex Trebek.
The episodes were recorded before Trebek’s death in November, which monumentally rocked the “Jeopardy!” world after 37 years of hosting.
Trebek had nicknamed Smith “Billy Buzzsaw” for the quick buzzer reflexes he displayed on the show.
In the episodes that aired in December, “Jeopardy!” fans thanked Smith for being a “final gift” for Trebek, who appeared to be fond of the young contestant, according to Entertainment Tonight Canada.
Smith is notably the third contestant who passed away ahead of their Tournament of Champions broadcast, fans pointed out on Twitter.
Contestant Cindy Stowell passed away from colon cancer in December 2016 before her Tournament of Champions episodes aired in 2017. Meanwhile, contestant Larry Martin passed away from colon cancer in January 2019 before he could make his Tournament of Champions appearance.