Carson Johnson, 20, won his first College National Finals Rodeo team roping title with his older brother Kellan Johnson. Carson grew up in Casper, Wyoming, and attends Casper College, training under head coach and father Jhett Johnson.
Kelly Lynch: Tell me a little bit about yourself, where you go to school, where you’re from things like that.
Carson Johnson: I go to Casper College in my hometown and when I’m not roping or rodeoing I like to play basketball.
KL: How did you first get into roping?
CJ: I just got into roping through my dad and growing up on a ranch. But with my dad being a rodeo cowboy, he’d take Kellan and I with him all the time in the summer and stuff, so I pretty much grew up around it.
KL: Were you ever considering any other schools to rope at other than Casper, or was it kind of a go to, with your dad being one of the rodeo coaches there?
CJ: It was either not go to college, or go to Casper pretty much.
KL: Was your main goal to rodeo there, or were you focused on getting a degree?
CJ: My main goal was definitely to rodeo.
KL: What are you majoring in?
CJ: Really, I don’t have a major right now.
KL: Talk to me a little bit about how it is roping with your brother?
CJ: Oh, it's good. It’s a blast because when you win it feels so much better because you’ve seen how much hard work he’s put in and he’s seen how much hard work you’ve put into it. When you can win together it makes winning so much better.
KL: Do you guys ever butt heads at all about anything?
CJ: More of stuff outside the arena.
KL: Gotcha, that’s probably a good place to keep it then. So, let’s talk a little bit about the College Finals. Was this your first year that you qualified for the National College Finals?
CJ: Yeah. We were qualified last year, and they canceled it. So, this was my first year competing there.
KL: Gotcha, and wasn’t there a deal that if you qualified last year you automatically got to compete this year, or how did that whole situation work?
CJ: They gave us a year back of eligibility. So like I could still go for three more year if I’d like.
KL: Holy cow, that’s a pretty good deal.
CJ: Right. Kellan he’s going back and he was suppose to be done, but since they gave him a year of eligibility back he’s coming back to school.
KL: So, I’m assuming you guys are going to rope together through all the college rodeos and try to qualify again together?
CJ: Yes, yes ma’am.
KL: How did you prepare once you found out that you qualified for the CNFR?
CJ: We kind of just treated it as another rodeo and more of a four head jackpot instead of like the big CNFR—not try to over do it. We just tried to keep our horses good and keep our catching percentages up. That’s really what we worked on.
KL: Does that help ease some of the pressure if you think about it just like a jackpot?
CJ: Yeah, I think so. You run one steer a day, but if you look back at it, it’s really just a four head jackpot, against 60 other guys.
KL: And how were the steers? Were there any that you guys got that were tricky, or were they all pretty consistent?
CJ: Our first steer and our third steer were kind of tricky, but our last steer was really good. The steers as a whole were pretty good. But, we drew pretty good. We drew the right steers when we needed them for sure.
KL: So how was the arena set up? Did you like it, or did you find anything challenging?
CJ: The barrier was really challenging. It was set even in that little building so the header had to se them a long ways, and the heeler had to score a little bit so they didn’t go left right off the bat. It would make it challenging if the steer stepped left on its own and the heeler had to score. You had to hustle over and heel him anyway before he got to the wall.
KL: So is that a pretty small arena?
CJ: Yes, it is a pretty small arena for sure.
KL: When you’re going into the short round with a time of 20.7 seconds on three head, how much pressure does that put on you to make sure you catch on that fourth and final steer?
CJ: It’s more of muscle memory. You just go into it like another steer. This is the reason I practice. Going into the short round, this reason, like this opportunity right now is why I spent so much time in the practice pen. I kind of treated it like more of an opportunity than to do something more than worry about it you know?
KL: You kind of said that its muscle memory. Was it one of those deals that you weren’t even thinking about the fact you had to catch to win the whole thing, or was it just so fast you didn’t have time to think about what was happening?
CJ: No, Kellan and I were for sure aware of the situation we were in. We knew we had to make just a pretty good run to win it, and that’s what we practiced everyday. We just kind of went back to the basics and tried to just make our run.
KL: Being from Casper, did that help ease some of your nerves when you were competing since you didn’t have to travel far, or did you still feel the intensity of roping at the College Finals?
CJ: Oh, I definitely still felt it because the people there. It was the people I’ve grown up around—old teachers, coaches, kids I went to high school with, like everybody there, a lot of them I knew. It was definitely cool to win something in front of them. It was just cool to win your hometown.
KL: Walk me through your last run. What you were feeling, how it went, just all aspects of that last run.
CJ: I was just excited all day. I couldn’t sleep the night before. We had a really good steer. He stuck left, so my plan was to just to score him a little more and then Kellan was going to try to head him before he got to the wall. So, when we came into it I made sure I was not going to miss him. I just put down a trap.
KL: What are your roping goals for the future? Do you want to Pro Rodeo?
CJ: I have a lot of roping goals. I want to make the Finals. That’s one of my goals and win a gold buckle is one of my goals. I’m gonna Pro Rodeo for as long as I can, but to be a NFR qualifier and win a gold buckle, those are my two main goals for sure.
KL: Are you hitting some of the Pro Rodeos this summer?
CJ: Yes, we’re rodeoing all summer, Kellan and I.
KL: Is there anything else you’d like to add about the College Finals and the experience?
CJ: It was just a cool experience just to rope there because I grew up watching it. And like I said, to do it in front of your hometown, to win something on that high of a pedestal was very cool for me and my brother. I guess it was funny because the last three or four years before I was old enough to compete at it, I was actually sorting steers back there. I’ve watched it, I’ve been down there around it a lot, so it was definitely better to compete at it than that.