Coleman Proctor’s been riding around the rodeo trail with a regret in recent years.
It wasn’t roping-related, but rather academic. After earning a two-year associate’s degree from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, then attending Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva for two years, Proctor had pulled up before his bachelor’s degree finish line in 2008. He went back to close the deal, and at long last was awarded his college diploma during the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge.
“I had one year left, and was 21 hours shy of getting my degree in ag business when I quit school,” said Coleman, who’s 37 now and just roped with Logan Medlin at his seventh NFR. “The first year I took off rodeoing with Jake Long was 2007, and in 2008 I started roping with Rich Skelton. Jake and I hadn’t planned on trying to make the NFR, but when we got hot and only missed it by about $5,000, it turned into a big whirlwind. When I had the chance to rope with Rich in 2008, I put rodeo on the forefront and left school.”
Coleman traded the college campus for rodeo’s school of hard knocks. Six rodeo seasons passed before he made his first Finals in 2014.
“Turns out just because you just barely miss it one year doesn’t mean you’re going to make it the following year,” he grinned.
It also turned out that not finishing what he’d started scholastically was wearing on him.
“I never thought I’d regret not finishing school,” Coleman said. “It’s not like I’ll ever need a college degree to get a job. But everybody else in my college crew that I hung out with got their degree. It ate on me more than I ever thought it would.”
Coleman Proctor Completes Degree Online
He’d taken a lot of online classes in 2007 before leaving college. The rub that did not sync up with his rodeo career was the requirement of being physically on campus to finish. That’s when serendipity—and a silver lining to COVID shutting us down in so many ways—stepped in.
“I couldn’t uproot my life (in Pryor, Oklahoma and on the rodeo road) to go back to school,” Coleman said. “But when COVID hit, all those rules changed and it became possible to finish online.
“I was doing a pre-game show for the Cowboy Channel at the 2021 NFR and ran into Dr. David Pecha, who’s the executive vice president (at Northwestern Oklahoma State University) in Alva. He kept telling me how proud he was of all of us Northwestern alums—guys like Stockton Graves (who’s the rodeo coach there now), Bridger Anderson, Jacob Edler, Kyle Irwin, Jake Long and me. I had to tell him I was an attendee, not an alumnus. He gave me his business card, and that started it all. When I got home from the 2021 NFR, I enrolled back in school.”
Imagine having Coleman Proctor in your online Zoom class.
“When you start those classes, you have to introduce yourself to the rest of the class on screen,” he said. “I introduced myself as ‘a non-traditional senior.’ Those poor kids didn’t know what to think. One day, I was calling in from an airport, the next day I was calling in from slack at a rodeo with horses nickering in the background.
“I took one of my finals at Pizza Ranch while getting new tires on the Toter. I started taking the test in a quiet little back room at the restaurant. About 15 minutes in, that quiet room fills up with a church youth group. There we were talking rather loudly about human trafficking, because it was a human trafficking class, and in walks all those kids and accompanying adults wondering what it the world’s going on with this guy talking about human trafficking.”
Juggling School with Rodeo
It wasn’t always easy juggling school with his rigorous rodeo schedule and young family. Being Stephanie’s husband and Daddy to Stella and Caymbree are Coleman’s top priorities. But this time, his determination pulled him through. Proctor took the last final of his college career during the NFR.
“I took that last final in social psychology in my hotel room in Vegas,” he said. “I aced it, and got my last A. I was a 4.0 student my whole senior year. I was never a 4.0 student in my life, but it was different this time.
“College was legitimately fun going back as an adult. It’s different when you’re paying for it, and you’re not on a rodeo scholarship. It was tough at times. I took three classes last summer, and caught myself doing homework at Calgary. But in the grind of summer, it was cool for my mind to have something else to focus on.”
Coleman Proctor Receives College Diploma at 2022 NFR
Proctor stayed the course, and Pecha returned to Vegas a year after that fateful NFR meeting in 2021. Pecha, Steph and the girls surprised Coleman on stage at the Purina Pre-Game Show—a stage he shared before each perf with five-time World Champion Steer Wrestler Luke Branquinho—the evening of Round 7. Coleman earned that diploma for a bachelor’s degree in general studies, with an emphasis in ag business. Checkmark on another life goal.
“I’ll probably never use it, but I’m not a quitter and had regretted not getting it done,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated with politics, and you never know when it might be time for someone from the Western industry to step up. It’s not impossible that I’ll go to law school one day. That’s a possible next challenge that might be part of my rodeo retirement.”
Proctor and Medlin celebrated Coleman’s college graduation with the Round 8 win the next night. They split Round 5 with Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill, and all told had a hefty $96,663 NFR and $207,355 2022 season, finishing sixth in the world on both sides.
“It’s a lot of fun being a college grad,” Coleman said. “I was always scared to take a year off, because I was afraid I’d take a year off forever. Going back and finishing what I started feels good. My niece (Payden Arnold) graduates this year, too, from Southwestern Christian University. She’s a three-time collegiate champion cheerleader. She’s a flier, and does all the wild stuff. She says us college grads need to take a graduation trip.”