Shane Williams rarely sticks around to turn steers in the #11, but after breaking in cattle with friend and practice partner, Matt Martin, the week before the #11 Heartland Finale he decided he’d give it a go.
“We were breaking in steers and Matt was roping really good,” Williams said. “I usually rope on Friday in the higher-numbered ropings and then hurry home to take my son to his junior rodeos. Turned out, I wasn’t having any luck that weekend. Matt was my last bullet so I’m glad it worked out. That’s actually the first time we’d ever entered together and probably the biggest win I’ve had.”
It was indeed a major win for the duo, who as a team took home $37,230 of the Heartland’s $179,200 total payout.
Williams, who resides in Weatherford, Texas, with his wife, Kit, and their 13-year-old son, Luke, rode bulls for 20 years before he started team roping.
“I would rope whenever I got hurt and couldn’t ride, but it wasn’t until I quit riding bulls that I really started team roping all the time. Now, I’ve been so busy hauling Luke that I try and go just enough to qualify for the Finale.”
This will be Williams’ fourth year roping in Vegas and while he’s placed a little here and there, he’s hoping this is his year to hit the ultimate jackpot. He has partners lined up to rope in the #15 down through the #12, and now, possibly the #11.
In 2014 he finished fourteenth in the #15 Fast Back Ropes WSTR Finale IX with Arizona’s Cody Pearson to take home $7,000.
“That was a great payday for that kind of finish in a #15,” Williams said of the inaugural event.
Williams owns and operates his own electrical business, SW3 Electrical.
“I do a lot of barns and indoor arenas, especially in the cutting horse industry, here around Weatherford. My wife doesn’t rope but has been involved with cutting horses, so I married her and got a bunch of clients,” Williams laughed.
The #11 Heartland Finale Consolation Champion header Nick Parish used to work for Williams and SW3.
“He has his own business now, but when I first started, Nick worked for me,” Williams explained. “We’ve known each other for 20 years, he’s kind of like a little brother to me.”
Parish and his consolation partner, David Taylor had been practicing with Williams and Martin for several weeks before the Heartland at Slick Robison’s place in Weatherford, and had even roped with the champion team the day they were breaking in steers.
“It was really cool,” Williams said. “It was kind of like a big family win for us.”
Williams was riding a 12-year-old gelding that he calls Dyno—a horse he had tried to purchase from his buddy, Brandon Latham, for years.
“Brandon ended up getting married and had a baby on the way. Hamp Conlan, from Lampasas, Texas, had the horse.” Williams explained. “Hamp had another guy coming to look at him and I said, ‘No way, I’ll take him.’ I tried to buy him over the phone, but Hamp said I had to try him. We met up at the Fightin 7 Ranch one night. It was cold and raining, but I ran a few and wrote the check. When you find a good one you have to be firm and take them before someone else does. I’ve won a lot on that horse.”
Matt Martin was raised on his family’s farm in Glenville, Ga., a small, one-stop town outside of Savannah.
“My grandfather, he was a cowboy, and when I was a young kid he moved out to our family farm. He got me my first rope, my first cowboy hat and was always telling cowboy stories. He would take me to the guys around here who knew how to rope and it just took off from there.”
After high school, Martin moved to Stephenville, Texas, in an effort to climb the rodeo ranks at Tarleton State University.
“It was kind of slow at first. I had a little learning curve moving from Georgia to Texas,” Martin said. “My senior year I was the Reserve Champion Team Roper for the Southwest Region and qualified for the college finals. It was a great experience for me.”
The TSU rodeo team uses the same Lone Star Arena in Stephenville where the #11 Heartland was held.
“We were laughing about it after the roping. My wife and I actually had our first date there during the Tarleton college rodeo our senior year,” Martin said. “I’ve won so much money in that arena. I’ve also roped there more than anywhere else, but it’s still kind of a home field advantage.”
Martin graduated with a degree in business management in 2006, and in 2007 he married his wife, Heather.
“I had moved to Texas to really pursue the roping deal, but after college I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living,” Martin said. “It was a great way to pay for college, but I decided I really wanted to stay home.”
After a couple years of amateur rodeos, he and Heather started their magazine publishing business, Hometown Living Magazine (hometown-living.com).
“My parents do the same thing in Georgia,” Martin said. “We publish magazines all over West Texas. It’s kind of a feel-good, community-type magazine.”
Heather is the company’s content manager—coordinating all of the article ideas.
“We are a Christian-based company so she kind of ensures all of the stories are uplifting and follow our guidelines,” said Martin who acts as Owner and Publisher. “We cover Midland, Odessa, Abilene, Lubbock, Amarillo and a few others. And then we have Lawton, Okla., as well.”
With a budding business and two young kids, Gatlyn, 4, and 8-month-old, Georgia Lee, Martin, somewhat unpredictably, took a lengthy hiatus from team roping.
“I just got started back last year,” he said. “Honestly, the World Series is really why. I thought, ‘My goodness, if you can win that kind of money!’”
Martin has always been a header, but when he got back in the game he decided to start heeling for a change of pace.
“I sold my head horse and literally just bought this heel horse. I’m making that commitment,” he said. “This was only the second jackpot I’d taken him to and I’ve only heeled at a few jackpots myself. Shane had to talk me down before the short round. He kept telling me just to go out there and make a practice run.”
Martin is stoked about the performance of his newly purchased, 6-year-old grey gelding, Woodrow.
“He came from somewhere down in Laredo. A guy had been riding him at horse shows for a client and the client wanted out of the horseshow world. A mutual friend of ours told me about him,” Martin said. “I had taken him over to Slick’s and made him get on him. He told me, ‘You need to buy this horse.’ He was a stud up until last year, but he’s super quiet. He’s pretty salty. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Now that Martin is committed to heeling, these long-time friends will just have more opportunities to compete as a team. It seems to be a formula that works.
“Shane jumps out and sticks every steer. He stuck all of them to be a six,” said Martin. “That allowed me not to panic. I don’t think I roped a single steer before the third hop, he made my job easier.”
And Martin, he’s definitely looking forward to heeling them down at his first World Series Finale.
“This win has kind of inspired me. I think I’ll go home, buckle down and get ready for the Finale.”
#11 Heartland Finale
Total Payout: $179,200
Produced by: Shelley Productions
Date: July 25, 2015
1. Shane Williams / Matt Martin / 34.58 on four / $37,230
2. Larry Thaggard / Kelly Tuley / 36.82 / $25,780
3. Clint Albers / Russell Perez / 37.17 / $20,050
4. Bruce Vinson / Randy Lewis / 38.97 / $15,750
5. Keith Hale / Jody Stamper / 39.01 / $12,890