For $1,000: This Naval Postgraduate School associate professor is not your average military academic.
Answer: Who is Dr. Sam Buttrey?
For one, he has an uncanny resemblance to comedian Steve Martin. He also just finished a second impressive run on the iconic American quiz gameshow “Jeopardy!”
Buttrey earned a $50,000 prize for his third-place finish in this year’s Tournament of Champions, which was televised from Oct. 31 to Nov. 21 and hosted by former “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings. Amy Schneider, from Oakland, California, won the tournament’s grand prize of $250,000, while Andrew He from San Francisco took home $100,000 for his second-place finish.
“Honestly, I think I would have been pretty satisfied if I’d won just the first game, but of course I’m excited to have made it to the finals,” Buttrey said in a statement.
“This most recent tournament was a special delight because I had watched the other competitors play. So it was neat to go up against them and see how I could do.”
In addition to Buttrey, the Tournament of Champions field of 21 included five “super-champions” who accrued 10 or more gameshow wins, all contestants with four or more wins since 2020, the winner of the National College Championship tournament and two “second chance” qualifiers.
After scoring wins in the first two rounds, Buttrey advanced to the finals following a victory over contestant Matt Amodio, who owns the third-longest winning streak (38 games) in “Jeopardy!” history behind Jennings and Schneider.
Buttrey joked in a video interview with the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation about a plan to fake a number of injuries to distract his fellow competitors, but in the end, it was his excellent dance moves on the Alex Trebek stage that earned him more attention.
Buttrey qualified for this year’s Tournament of Champions thanks to his win in last year’s inaugural Professors Tournament, which aired last December and earned him a grand prize of $100,000. He started a scholarship at California State University, Monterey Bay with over half of those winnings.
The win last year also scored the associate professor from the NPS’ Operations Research department some jokes from his celebrity look-alike on social media.
“All of us at NPS are tremendously proud of Sam for winning the inaugural ‘Jeopardy!’ Professors Tournament last year and for his deep run this year into the finals of the Tournament of Champions,” retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, the NPS president, said in the release.
“Sam’s success reflects his — and all of our faculty and staff’s — deep dedication and service to our men and women in uniform studying here at NPS, preparing them as warrior-scholars to go back to the fleet and joint force to lead and make a difference in the defense of our nation.”
With the tournament over, Buttrey is now back at work, preparing for finals and graduation before the holidays. He has not yet heard directly from a certain comedian, however.
“I haven’t heard from Steve Martin, and at this point I don’t really expect to, but I hope he’d be as amused as I am by the reactions of all the people noticing a certain similarity,” Buttrey said.
“And I’m glad that I was able to give off an exuberant vibe in the middle of this fairly stressful situation. I think people reacted to seeing me having fun, and I’m happy for that.”
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media