breakout win

Luke Brown’s Breakout Pendleton Round-Up Win in 2008
Brown might now have $2.8 million in ProRodeo earnings and 14 NFR qualifications to his name, but in 2008, he was just a kid from South Carolina who’d never even been to the Northwest.

Luke Brown was on the National Finals Rodeo bubble for the first time when he pulled into Pendleton, Oregon in September 2008

It was the first year the South Carolina header had gutted it out the whole way to the Northwest run, and the then 34-year-old wasn’t loving the pressure. 

“I had got into Puyallup the week before,” Brown remembered. “Monty Joe (Petska) didn’t get in, so I drew a partner, and I drew Michael Jones. I missed the first one, and I thought my life was over, and my NFR dreams were done. But then we won the second round, so that gave me some more hope and made Pendleton even more important the next week.” 

Brown and then-partner Monty Joe Petska rolled into the Fraziers’ place outside Pendleton with a young Colter Todd and Cesar de la Cruz and Sherry Cervi and Cory Petska to camp for a few days. Needing to win something, they went out into the Fraziers’ pasture and set up a makeshift Pendleton arena out of panels and electric-wire fence. 

“I had Slim Shady, and he was the only horse I wanted to rope on there,” Brown explained. “He was the only one I wanted to ride on the grass anyway, because he was just goofy enough that I thought he wouldn’t fall down.

“Anyway, practicing there, I missed the first six, and I only got to run seven. I’ll tell you, I felt so bad for Monty Joe. I finally turned the seventh one, and he heeled him.” 

At the rodeo, they broke the ice and were sixth on their first steer on the grass with a 6.4-second run. They caught the second, and they made it back to the short round in the fifth spot. 

“Sixth high call was a second longer and high call was a second and a half faster,” Brown told Spin To Win Rodeo (this magazine’s predecessor) at the time. “I didn’t think there was anything we could do. I would have been happy to have just placed fifth. When he came down that lane he wasn’t running near as hard. Then he took off and right when I got to him he checked off and stepped to me and give it up while I’m at a dead run.”

The round fell apart, and suddenly the kid from South Carolina had won one of the West’s most storied rodeos and qualified for his first NFR. 

“It was a bucket-list win,” Brown said. “People don’t really realize how hard it is to make the NFR. I mean, it is, it was then, and it is now. Even then, I figured I’d never make it again. Every one of them has been a blessing.”  

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