Jake Edwards is a professional team roper from Fort Ann, New York. Now 23, the Empire State native is making his move on the professional rodeo trail. He’s been mixing it up with the best in the business the last few years, and this year has his sights set on big things heeling behind Pennsylvania’s Zach Kilgus.
Q: Where exactly is Fort Ann, New York, and what’s it like there?
A: Fort Ann is in Northeastern New York, about two and a half hours from the Quebec border. It’s a really rural part of the state, and there are a lot of dairy farms. We live out in the country—a long way from the city. There were 25 kids in my graduating Class of 2017 from Fort Ann Central.
Q: New York has not historically been known as cowboy country. Tell us about your family’s rodeo roots.
A: My whole family has rodeoed, and I’ve been a part of it since I was a little kid. My grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and half-brother have all rodeoed.
Q: You’re surely not commuting from New York all the time. Where are you rodeoing out of now?
A: I moved to Texas when I was 21, and Zach and I both live in Stephenville now. Zach has an arena at his house, and we rope most days, if not twice a day. I live in an apartment with my girlfriend, Margret.
Q: How old were you when you started roping, and who taught you to rope?
A: I’ve always had a rope in my hand, and started roping off of a horse at about 7 or 8. My mom’s side of the family was all calf ropers who team roped a little bit, so I learned how to handle a rope being around my grandpa and uncles. I’m the only full-time team roper in the family. I’m a visual learner, so I’ve picked things up here and there, and made my own style out of it.
Q: Are there others who have since influenced you in ways that have made a big difference?
A: I grew up roping around a guy named Shawn Quinn, who’s probably the best heeler to come out of New York. He has an indoor arena, and I got to go there two or three days a week when I was young. I was really fortunate to get to be around him and watch him rope so much. All the team ropers back home have been very supportive of me, and had me set my goals on the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). They’ve always told me they can’t wait to go to the NFR and watch me rope someday. So that’s always been in my head.
Q: Did you come up through the usual rodeo ranks of junior high, high school and junior rodeos?
A: No, I didn’t. When I was young, I roped in an amateur rodeo association in New York called the APRA—American Professional Rodeo Association—and I started going to APRA rodeos when I was 11. I only high school rodeoed my sophomore year. That was about it for me on youth rodeo, except for going to the IFYR (International Finals Youth Rodeo) one time, which was a great experience. The rodeo season in New York is only about 10 weeks long in June, July and August, but since I was 13 or 14 I could make enough money roping in New York to keep going.
Q: Did you go to college and college rodeo?
A: I went to Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, New York, and got an associate’s degree in business management. I didn’t college rodeo. I stayed around home when I was 18, circuit rodeoed in the First Frontier Circuit, and went to APRA and IPRA (International Professional Rodeo Association) rodeos. When I was 20, I spent the winter in Florida and switched to the Southeastern Circuit. I’m in the Texas Circuit now.
Q: How old were you when you set your sights on becoming a professional rodeo cowboy?
A: I’d say I was 13 or 14. When I was 14, I won the year end in the APRA, and that was my first big win as a team roper. It doesn’t seem like much now, but back then it meant a lot to me.
Q: What roping accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
A: When I won the 2020 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo with Canadian Clay Ullery. That was the first time I’d ever won or even placed at a really big professional rodeo with the best guys in the world. To get to win one of the biggest rodeos in the world dang sure means a lot.
Q: Which team roper do you look up to most today?
A: It’d be hard to pick one person. Moving to Texas and getting to be around all those guys has really changed my outlook. Once you get to know them, they’re all pretty great guys. I ask a lot of questions, and they usually have the answers for me.
Q: What makes you most proud about your partnership with Zach, and what makes you guys tick together in the arena?
A: I’ve known Zach my whole life. We roped together when I was 20 in Florida and Ohio. I roped with Billy Bob Brown and Clay Ullery after that, then started roping with Zach again last fall. We’ve rekindled our partnership, and we’re chasing our dream together. Zach has one of the best horses in the PRCA, and Mufasa’s one of the fastest horses I’ve ever seen. Zach doesn’t reach much, he turns 90% of the steers, and I throw fast 90% of the time. When our run clicks, we can go two or three strides farther, and keep up with the headers that reach.
READ MORE: What’s Your Number? With Zach Kilgus
Q: What else do you like to do besides rope?
A: I golfed in high school on our school’s golf team. So when I have a little extra time and money when we’re rodeoing, I like to go golf.
Q: What’s your ultimate roping goal, and how fast do you think you can get there?
A: The goal this year is to make the Finals. The end goal is to be a world champion someday.