Looking back on my rookie year in 2014—four years later—I guess I wouldn’t tell myself anything besides that it took more than one year to learn how to win. I was fortunate enough to rope with one of the winningest guys of all time—my dad—for a couple years, and I am glad I didn’t take that opportunity for granted.
I bought my card in 2014 only because I wanted to go to the Cheyenne Frontier Days. That rodeo is in my circuit, and I wanted to go rope with my dad. The Resistol Rookie of the Year would have been special, but putting it into perspective, I won second behind Junior Nogueira the first year he made the NFR with Jake Barnes. But that year my dad and I did good at Cheyenne—my real goal. That was something that meant so much to my whole family, something we’ll always remember.
I guess looking back on it all I would try to influence my Resistol Rookie self to handle the bad times differently than I did that year. I’m really thankful for my dad and my grandpa, because with the way I acted because I wanted to win so badly, I needed their influence and their advice to make it through that.
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I wish I would help myself with that—the mental aspect. I’ve said it before, there’s a lot of guys that can rope but there’s more to it because there is only 15 guys that can make the NFR. It’s a mentally challenging game. Don’t go until you’re ready. Just because you’ve may be, ability-wise, ready to go, you have to have a good head on you. You have to have balanced emotions, you have to be able to handle yourself in public. There’s a lot that goes into it.
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I wouldn’t take back anything but I would talk to my rookie self about mental stability. I wanted to rodeo so bad. There were two things that saved me. One is I didn’t have a choice because of my dad, and he had a lot to do with the second thing: He made me go to school. College rodeo, and going to college, was the other thing that saved me. I don’t regret anything I did as far as college and college rodeoing. I loved every minute of it. I can’t say that I would have went ahead and rodeoed because I didn’t. There are times that I wanted to but at the same time I absolutely loved the college lifestyle.
With no guidance I honestly couldn’t tell you. I wouldn’t have jumped into it at 18. But I had things I wanted to do, and I’m glad. One of my goals was to win the College National Finals, and it took five years, but it took four years of college rodeo to do it.
I honestly wasn’t capable, even ability wise, my freshman year of college to do it. There was a lot of growing. I struggled a lot for three years of college rodeoing. The fourth year, me and Kellen (Johnson) dominated. I had a whole different aspect on life and rodeoing.
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Did I learn a lot in college? Yes, but I learned a lot about life and people. The college rodeos taught me how to win. At those rodeos, the times aren’t always fast but they are still tough to win. It’s a growing stage. You junior high rodeo, high school rodeo, college rodeo—some don’t—and then you professional rodeo. That’s the way I would do it, and I’m glad it’s been my journey.
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