Chatham County

North Carolina man spun “Wheel of Fortune.” And, Fortune shined …

Michael Rodriguez on “Wheel of Fortune.”
Michael Rodriguez on “Wheel of Fortune.” Courtesy of “Wheel of Fortune” and CBS

Michael Rodriguez was anything but Fortune’s fool.

“I just didn’t want to make a silly mistake – a mistake every one at home knows is wrong or foolish,” he said.

Last week, Rodriguez won big on the game show “Wheel of Fortune,” walking away from his appearance on the Jan. 23 episode with a combined $52,243 in money and prizes won.

“Really I just had it in my mind, don’t look foolish, and a win vacation for my wife,” he said.

In addition to a cash prize of over $13,000, Rodriguez won a 2018 Mini Cooper and a 10-day, European vacation with all-expenses-paid stays in Swiss, Austrian and German hotels.

Rodriguez lives in Pittsboro with his wife, Kristen, and their two sons, 6-year old Nicholas and 2-year-old Gabriel, and their 5-month-old daughter, Mila.

Mila was born the day before Rodriguez auditioned in Raleigh to appear on The Wheel.

“We won’t get rid of our vehicles. That’s for sure,” he said.

The owner of a Subway Restaurant on East Street, Rodriguez said he and his wife will drive their new Mini Cooper “in addition” to their much larger SUV and van already used to tote their young family around town.

But Rodriguez mentioned, “I’ve defiantly never driven a Mini Cooper before.”

He flew to Los Angeles to play the game at a studio taping.

He went into the competition highly focused. Focused to the point that “I told my wife it was like playing underwater,” he said.

The family man was in the – colloquial – zone.

The lights, stage set, the crowd and Vanna White were all drowned out by the intensity of his focus, Rodriguez said.

“It cleared away what I was worried about and the clapping, cheering, the crowd yelling at me to ‘Gamble!’ on the mystery tile,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about – how on the commercial breaks – the people straightening my tie and tightening my belt or explaining our cues and where to stand. I took all of that out and just worked the puzzles.”

Going into the final puzzle, Rodriguez said, he regained his senses and the feeling of being underwater disappeared.

But, it didn’t really matter, because, he still walked away having won – big.

Colin Warren-Hicks: 919-419-6636, @CWarrenHicks