Kendra Santos: You won the 2007 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo title with Colt Braden when you were a fifth-year pro. Would you consider that your first big, breakout win?
Jake Long: Yes. I hadn’t won a whole lot in pro rodeo before that as far as a national-scene victory goes. It was kind of my first taste of success on the rodeo circuit.
KS: You didn’t make your first NFR until 2010, which was your eighth year out there. What were the most important things you needed to learn to get to that highest, world-class level?
JL: The first year that I really left home trying to make the Finals was 2007. It took learning that there are certain steers you have to just catch in certain situations. I started roping with Brady in 2010, and we buddied with (Brady’s big brother) Travis and Mike Jones. That was the first time I’d rodeoed with people who expected to make the Finals. To be able to follow a team like that around all year and see the belief those guys had was good for me and Brady both.
KS: I remember how emotional it was in 2014, when you helped Coleman realize his NFR dream for the first time. How long have you guys been best friends?
JL: Our whole lives. We’ve got pictures and videos of hanging out when I was 3 and he was 2. To rope for a living and realize that dream with your best friend—to go from roping the Fast Lane to getting to do it on the big stage—is something I’ll never forget.
KS: Tell us something about Coleman Proctor that nobody knows but you.
JL: Coleman’s an open book. He’s the life of the party and doesn’t shy away from much. He’s not a real secretive guy, so it’s pretty much all out there.
KS: Your only NFR gap in the last seven years was in 2013, when you were roping with Travis and finished 16th in the world. Talk about what it’s like emotionally and financially to end up in the heartbreak hole.
JL: It’s devastating emotionally. You work all year to rope at the National Finals, and that’s our big reward. To miss your ultimate goal of being there is a big hit financially also. Fortunately, we did some good at the jackpots that year. But when you put your heart into that year’s goal and miss it, it’s not fun.
KS: Do you think 16th is harder to handle than, say, 36th?
JL: No. I’d rather be 16th, because at least you were in the hunt. Ending up 36th after you’ve been at it all year would be a lot tougher financial blow. I’d rather be in the middle of the dogfight until they tell me I can’t go.
KS: What were the most important things you did to bounce back from that disappointment?
JL: The biggest thing was to take a good, hard look at everything I was doing. It forced me to be honest with myself about the areas where I was lacking and to try harder to get better.
KS: You’ve spoken of your partnership with Luke as a dream opportunity. Why is that, and do you still feel that way?
JL: Yes. Anytime you can team up with someone who’s had the amount of success Luke’s had in the arena, it’s a blessing. We live near each other, so we get to practice every day. And we get along great.
KS: You and Luke won two rounds and placed in four others before finishing sixth in last year’s NFR average with 37.5 on seven. Which run was the most thrilling of the week for you?
JL: The fourth round (they placed third) was probably the coolest round, because I pulled off a shot I’m not sure I could pull off again.
KS: You also had three no-times in the seventh, ninth and 10th rounds. Which round was your lowest low?
JL: I’d only had one no-time out there that was my fault in my other five trips. To miss three of the last four steers was a pretty big hit for me emotionally. The 10th round was the worst, because that was the final straw where we knew we weren’t going to win the gold buckle.
KS: You won first and second with Coleman and Aaron Tsinigine at this year’s Hork Dog roping in Vegas in April for a $15,520 day. How often do you find yourself in a zone like that?
JL: That’s a dream day when you can enter a big roping and come out on top. A zone like that doesn’t happen a whole lot. For me to get 10 really quality spins in one day was huge.
KS: You once said that Clay O’Brien Cooper is the guy you look up to most. Is that still the case? And if so, why?
JL: Yes, that’s still the case and it’s for the exact same reasons it always has been. When I was growing up, he was the seven-time world champ. To get out here and meet him, and find out he’s a great person, makes me admire him even more. I strive to be that guy to the younger kids now. SWR