March 21, 2014 at 9:34 AM ET
When contestant Emil de Leon stunned "Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak with one of the most amazing puzzle solves in the show's long history, it was a moment he had been preparing for his whole life, he revealed Friday.
"I've been watching 'Wheel of Fortune' since I was a kid,'' de Leon said on TODAY. "Actually, the first letters that I learned were 'R S T L N and E,' which as you know are the prominent letters in 'Wheel of Fortune.'"
On Wednesday night's show, de Leon was given the first two letters of a three-word, 12-letter puzzle described as a "thing."
The nursing student from Daly City, Calif., blurted out "new baby buggy" and then kept guessing before the solution was revealed to indeed be "NEW BABY BUGGY."
Sajak, who has hosted the show for 31 years, was left in stunned silence while de Leon let out a scream of joy. Sajak then jokingly patted down de Leon as if to check if he had any type of electronic assistance.
De Leon's guess brought him $45,000, and he took home a total of $63,099 from his appearance on the show. He had to keep a lid on his amazing finish for a while, since the show was taped in January but did not air until Wednesday.
"It was very hard,'' he said. "That was the longest two months of my life."
De Leon assured any conspiracy theorists, including TODAY's Natalie Morales, that there were no high jinks involved in his improbable finish.
"People that know me, they know my skills as a puzzle solver,'' he said. "I've been playing online on Twitter, on the video game, the app, and I just know that my skills prove that everything is real. This is me. My brain has been working."