new team

JC Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins Win Houston, Debut Partnership at No. 1
JC Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins climbed to No. 1 in the 2024 PRCA world standings after winning over $50,000 at RodeoHouston, the first major win of their new partnership.
JC Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins posing with their championship saddles after winning RodeoHouston 2024.
JC Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins with their championship saddles after winning RodeoHouston 2024. | Impulse Photography Courtesy RodeoHouston

JC Yeahquo and Buddy Hawkins kicked off their new ProRodeo partnership by winning the 2024 RodeoHouston and moving into the No. 1 position of the PRCA world standings after pocketing $54,375 a man Sunday, March 17.

For 23-year-old Yeahquo, it marks off a list of firsts as it was his first-ever trip to NRG Stadium and gives him the best start to a season in his budding career.

READ: Buddy Hawkins: Lessons Learned

“This just seems like it’s going to help, obviously, because it’s got me to just about the same amount of money won this year after eight rodeos as I had last year,” said Yeahquo, who currently makes his home in Stephenville, Texas. “[My brother and I] went to 75 last year and won $66,000, and I’ve been to eight rodeos this year and I’ve got $65,000 won.”

Hawkins, the 2021 NFR Average champion, also had a new experience, making it to the four-man round for the first time in his nearly 12 trips to Houston.

“I think most rodeo people have the expectation of winning first every time they go, so it’s a fulfillment of expectation,” Hawkins, 36, said. “That being said, you also get used to losing. People say things like, ‘There’s only 40 guys at Houston,’ or, ‘There’s only 10 guys [Sunday] and there’s only four guys in the final four,’ but you always have to come back to the fact that they took the 40 greatest guys in the toughest era of team roping.” 

Hawkins has many accolades to his name, but one thing he’s focusing on and hopes to teach Yeahquo in their new partnership is to enjoy the moment.

READ: J.C. Yeahquo’s Jerry Braziel Heavy Chain Gag Bit 

“There’s roughly 80,000 people there, and I’m really learning to be one of those people who enjoys the day,” Hawkins said. “And I think that’s something that we get away from sometimes in business. It is our business, and it is necessary that we perform at a certain level if we want to continue doing what we’re doing, but also, go ahead and look up in the stands and kind of let it soak in.” 

Yeahquo now has $65,674.40 won on the year, and Hawkins has $70,240.46 on the heel side.

Team Yeahquo and Hawkins 

Yeahquo and Hawkins were in similar positions prior to 2024, both successfully roping with family for many years: Yeahquo headed for his older brother LJ, and Hawkins heeled for his brother-in-law Andrew Ward. When the new year came, Yeahquo and Hawkins were both needing new partners.

Yeahquo knew he wanted to move out to Stephenville and trying something different. They had roped on and off at jackpots over the years, so when he heard Hawkins was switching things up, he gave him a call about starting at the jackpots and seeing where the partnership went. Something that stood out most to Hawkins about Yeahquo is that he was serious about getting together to practice and see if they were the right fit.

READ: Looking Ahead with Buddy Hawkins II

“I had more than one phone call about roping this year and several guys on my heart that my wife and I talked about and prayed about, with JC being the one that we thought was right,” Hawkins explained. “Not that he had the most accolades or qualifications, but we thought he was the right guy. And then to win the biggest, best check of the regular season rodeo wise, that’s huge.” 

Though Yeahquo is young and nothing is ever guaranteed, Hawkins sees gold buckle potential in him.

“Ultimately, when I signed up with JC, that was really from a business mindset,” Hawkins said. “The world championship was the reason I signed up with him over some of the other options. I truly felt like he was going to be a world title contender.”

How Yeahquo and Hawkins won RodeoHouston

Prior to their Super Series, Yeahquo admits he wasn’t super familiar with RodeoHouston and its setup. Just two or three years ago he first got a look at Houston when his dad showed him a video of Derrick Begay there as an example of how he needs to face his horse. With such a large arena, Hawkins compares it to a lot of the outdoor rodeos and recommended Yeahquo approach it similarly. 

RodeoHouston didn’t start ideally for the two as they were a no-time on their first steer of the Super Series. They got a piece of the pie in Round 2 with a 5.9 for $625 a man. When the third round came around, they needed to be first or second to advance out of their bracket into the Semifinals. 

Despite having a steer they didn’t love, Yeahquo and Hawkins stayed the course and won the third round of Super Series 3 with a 4.5-second run for $3,000 a man. With $3,625 in RodeoHouston winnings, they moved on to the Semifinals.

Yeahquo and Hawkins drew the steer in Semifinals 2 that they won the third round on. As  the last team out, they knew what they needed to be and slid into the top four with a 6.7 for $750 a man and locked in their spot in Sunday’s Championship Finals.

They were again  the last team out in the 10-man round Sunday, March 17. Knowing what they had to be just may have won the rodeo for them.

“I thought that was where we really won the rodeo, where all we needed to do was catch there, make a nice 6.0-second run, but my guy hit the horns so hard, I think if you can pull the video, you’ll see an audio spike,” Hawkins said with a laugh. “I was really proud of him.”

They were second in the finals with a 6.2-second run to advance to the final four. They drew their slowest cow of the week in the Championship Shootout but still were going for it. At third out, Yeahquo and Hawkins roped one in 4.8 seconds for the RodeoHouston title and $50,000 a man.

Horses in Houston 

Yeahquo may not have started the Houston battle on his sorrel, “El Chapo,” but that’s who got the call to finish it. Yeahquo first rode his blue roan but decided to jump on El Chapo after the first two rounds of their Super Series. 

“The final two steers we ran, I didn’t think he was going to be fast enough,” Yeahquo said. “But then I was talking, and I was like, every time I’ve gotten to a bigger arena with faster steers, no matter how fast the steer is, I’m always within range of the steer because he just tries harder in a more open pen. When I got on him in the third round, I was like, ‘This is the one I’m going to get on and stay on.’”

Hawkins rode his famous “X.” For two months after the 2023 NFR, Hawkins gave the 18-year-old gelding a break and let his wife ride and rehab him because he knew his and Yeahquo’s run together wasn’t ready for X. When the time was right, though, it felt great to get back on X.

READ: Underrated No More: Hawkins’ X Stops the Clock Again and Again and Again and…

“That horse is kind of like putting on an old pair of blue jeans,” Hawkins said. “I know everything about that animal. I can’t think of the last time he surprised me. I’m very pleased that after four years of doing what Andrew (Ward) and I did, he’s been capable of adjusting the run.”

Planning the 2024 ProRodeo season 

Though they each have over $60,000 won on the year, Yeahquo and Hawkins both recognize it’s only March and the ProRodeo season is a marathon, not a sprint.

“There’s a lot of season ahead of us,” Hawkins admitted. “I have been learning that in maturity, you don’t let successes and failures dictate your life, but I do think you should leverage success and failure to your advantage.”

READ: Waiting Game: Yeahquo Brothers Take the Win at San Angelo

With a nice cushion on the year, they plan to schedule in more circuit rodeos and opportunities to season horses. For Yeahquo, being in the being out in front of the field is a nice change.

“I’ve never been in the driver’s seat in anything, other than when I’m rodeoing,” Yeahquo said with a laugh. “I think I’m not going to let it change my mindset of rodeoing or roping or anything. I’m just going to keep trying to get as much money out of every steer that I can.”

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