The news of “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek’s cancer diagnosis is still sinking in for millions of Americans, including two San Diegans who were once on his show.
Trebek, host of the iconic quiz show for more than three decades, announced Wednesday he is battling stage four pancreatic cancer.
Former contestants Greg Frost of Rancho Bernardo and Jack Izzo of Scripps Ranch buzzed in. They think it’s a battle he can win.
“It’s not over until it’s over and I think this is somebody who’s shown incredible longevity and staying power and hopefully that will work here,” Frost said.
“Alex is an awesome person and I know he’s gonna stay strong no matter what happens,” Izzo said.
Izzo competed on the show’s Teen Tournament last November and won himself $10,000. He told NBC 7 he was in awe of the larger-than-life figure, and his stories of his interaction with the host painted him exactly as the man we see on TV every weeknight.
Izzo remembered the first time he met Trebek. He entered the studio dressed down from his normal formal attire and had heart-to-heart conversations with each of the teen contestants.
“You can tell that even though so many people go through the show, he really does care,” Izzo said. Even though he may put on the sarcastic or game show host appearance sometimes, he really does care about the contestants. He’s a really nice guy.”
Izzo said he was devastated when his fellow former teen contestants, whom he still keeps in contact with, alerted him of the bad news Wednesday morning.
‘It was really kind of devastating, especially having met him in person,” he said. “I was kind of shocked because he is kind of this immortal figure, right?”
Frost talked about how meeting Trebek was a dream come true, and said the way he delivered his message Wednesday was class personified.
In a video posted online, the 78-year-old said he was announcing his illness directly to fans, keeping with his long-time policy of being "open and transparent."
He said he's among 50,000 other Americans who are diagnosed each year. Normally, the "prognosis for this is not very encouraging, but I'm going to fight this, and I'm going to keep working."
“You see what a class act he is, just in the way he delivered his message,” he said. “He was witty, he was brave.”
Trebek inserted humor in his announcement in a way only he could, saying he didn’t have a choice but to beat the odds because he has three more years on his "Jeopardy!" contract.
Frost said the news was heartbreaking and called Trebek “an institution in our pop-culture.”
We’re obviously all pulling for him and we really want the best,” Frost said.