Gerald Brandon Newsome, formerly of Grethel, said he missed graduation ceremonies at Morehead State University in December because he was taping the show in Las Vegas.
Newsome, who graduated last month from MSU with a bachelor's degree in history, was chosen as one of the top 12 from more than 20,000 gamblers who applied. He qualified for the game show on the Spike TV website. He then paid his own way to Chicago, where he competed in a day-long tournament and interview session on Oct. 23.
On Dec. 2, Newsome, 22, traveled to Las Vegas, where he played alongside five other amateur players and six professional gamblers, who are all competing for a $1 million prize. He returned to Kentucky on Dec. 15.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Newsome said. “I hope it's the first in a long chain of things to come.”
Spike TV will air 10 episodes of the show, which was produced by the makers of the “American Idol,” each Tuesday at 10 p.m. One player is eliminated weekly until the winner is finally announced.
Newsome, the son of retired Stumbo Elementary teachers Gerald and Kathy Newsome, is keeping a tight lid on how he fared during the tournament.
“We aren't allowed to talk about it,” he said.
“We'll be glued to the TV, that's for sure,” Gerald Newsome said. “He said it was a long shot, but he applied for it anyway when he was finishing his senior year at Morehead. Morehead let him graduate - take his finals earlier so that he could go and do the filming. He hasn't told us a single thing about it. He said, ‘Dad, I know you and mom. You and mom might let it slip.'”
A former Betsy Layne High School student, Newsome said he's been gambling for as long as he can remember - from losing $4 pitching quarters in the bathroom at the Stumbo school, to playing poker with his fraternity brothers at college.
Newsome's father said the former academic team champion is “not new to making things happen” in his life. Newsome's national television experience comes more than a year after his sister, Andrea Saddler, was featured on ABC's “Wife Swap” show.
Newsome plans to attend law school in August.