Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz credits Alex Trebek, the famed “Jeopardy!” host who died of pancreatic cancer Sunday, for training him to become a football coach.
As Schwartz first detailed to NBC Sports, he used to competitively watch the show with a small group of fellow speed-reading students at Georgetown University — an activity that sharpened the skills he would rely on once he found his calling.
“It’s not just getting the right answer, it’s getting the right answer quicker than everybody else,” Schwartz, 54, explained Monday. “I’ve always talked to football players about this. It’s like, ‘What’s two plus two?’ ‘Four.’ And somebody else says two plus two and they go [counts fingers], ‘Four?’ Well, both of them got the right answer but the [second] one, the ball was snapped and the running back just ran right past you.”
Quick reaction time is a necessity for defensive coordinators in particular, Schwartz added, because they have to make their playcalls on the fly based on what personnel the offense shuttles onto the field.
Trebek’s command also resonated.
“You never knew if he really knew the answer, or if he just sold it because it was written on his card,” Schwartz said. “You know, ‘Oh, no, it’s Henry VIII, not Henry VI.’ Just having a command over the game and the players. … He did it for so long and he had such consistency. And it didn’t happen by mistake. He was such a professional. He never flubbed a word, he never flubbed a syntax. So you knew that every question he had read probably 20 times. And that’s a lot of questions on the board. He prepared himself and it showed in his performance.”
Trebek, 80, hosted “Jeopardy!” for 36 years. There have been endless tributes to him on social media and elsewhere since his death on Sunday, signifying the impact he had on his viewers’ lives. That includes Schwartz, who didn’t even know he wanted to be a coach during those Georgetown days but was shaped by Trebek and “Jeopardy!” nonetheless.
“I think there’s some carryovers: Practice is important,” he said. “Command is important. Thinking quick is important. Competitiveness is important. Those are lessons that I learned from just watching a silly game show on TV.”