Southern Miss graduate student wins big on Wheel of Fortune

By Sheri Falk - bio | email | Twitter

 HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The odds of actually making the cut on a game show are usually slim, especially a major show like Wheel of Fortune.  A University of Southern Mississippi graduate student  not only made the cut, he walked away with a big prize.

Thursday night on Wheel of Fortune, it was eight letters that made life a whole lot better for Philadelphia native Elliot Yates, 24.

"It came to me instantaneously."

Watching Wheel of Fortune and the hope of becoming a contestant has been a life long obsession for Yates."My whole life, I've told  people that's how I learned to start reading. It's not true, but it's a nice story."

"I have always wanted to go on the show." Yates said, he was determined to spin the wheel. "I don't know what made me so determined."

His first attempt was in high school,  the Wheel Mobile was headed to New Orleans and Yates was right behind it, but he didn't make the cut.

In March 2010, the wheels of fortune landed Yates in Savannah, Georgia for a second chance at a spin.

"Half way through the 2nd hour of the audition, Heidi pulled the name out and then she mouthed it to the woman with the microphone, I looked at the people around me and I said that is my name! That is my name! They said my name and I screamed so loud."

In November, Yates and his best friend headed to Los Angeles to fulfill his dream."It was surreal, just walking on the set.  There's the wheel, the Wheel of Fortune is right there."

Yates was stunned by the set but the audience was stunned that he could solve the last puzzle with only 2 letters on the board.

"The whole studio mumbled, there is no way he is going to get this but once the A's came up, it came to me."

So did a total of $48,360 in cash and prizes, which he plans to use to pay for his education.

The next game show venture for Yates will be Jeopardy. In the meantime, he said, he will enjoy his winnings and an all expenses paid trip to Costa Rica. 

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