By Tyler Aquilina
May 21, 2021 at 08:00 PM EDT
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Jeopardy honored former contestant Brayden Smith on Friday amid the annual Tournament of Champions, for which Smith had qualified before his death in February. Guest host Buzzy Cohen presented an on-air tribute and announced a donation to a fund established by Smith's family.

"You've now met all 15 of the players who qualified for the Tournament of Champions — well, almost all," Cohen said. "Brayden Smith, the incredible young man who won five shows and $115,000 in January, passed away earlier this year. Brayden's family has established a fund in his name, and Jeopardy will be donating to that fund. We want to express our best wishes and condolences to his family."

Smith died Feb. 12 at age 24 following complications from a surgery, according to his family. His appearances were among the final Jeopardy episodes hosted by Alex Trebek, who nicknamed him "Billy Buzzsaw." Smith's winning streak was hailed by fans as "a final gift" to the longtime Jeopardy emcee.

"[Trebek] did, I believe, really like Brayden," executive producer Mike Richards previously told EW. "I could tell that he very much enjoyed that young man, and that was fun to watch. I think that energized him."

Smith's death sadly marks the third consecutive Tournament of Champions in which a contestant who qualified died before they could make their return. Six-game winner Cindy Stowell died of colon cancer in December 2016, before her episodes aired, and 2018 Teachers Tournament winner Larry Martin died of pancreatic cancer in January 2019.

Smith's mother, Debbie, thanked Jeopardy for paying tribute to her son on Twitter. "Our family is deeply touched by @Jeopardy's ToC tribute to Brayden and its pledge to support the Brayden Smith Memorial Fund," she wrote. "What a formidable group of Champs. Brayden would feel honored to be counted among you."

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