Marty Yates is headed to his ninth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the tie-down roping. His Aunt JJ Hampton is now three-for-three in National Finals Breakaway Roping qualifications. You may have noticed Marty winning a couple of cool all-around crowns here lately at the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon, and his Cowboy Capital of the World Pro Rodeo homeowner in Stephenville, Texas, with a little help from team roping checks. What you may not know is that team roping roots run deep in this family that’s best known for roping calves.
“When I was growing up, I team roped more than I roped calves,” said Yates, 28, who heeled for 2015 World Champion Header Aaron Tsinigine at Pendleton, and for Canadian NFR header Kolton Schmidt in Stephenville—both on a fill-in basis for the original partners they’d entered with. “I didn’t start roping calves a lot until high school. That’s when I realized that’s where my heart was. But all my family roped steers when I was growing up. That’s what we did in the evenings after school.”
Always a heeler?
“No, actually growing up I mainly headed. I headed for TWade (as in NFR header Tyler Wade, who used to heel a lot) my first two years at the high school rodeos, and headed for Sawyer Barham my junior and senior years. Sawyer and I roped at the (National) High School (Rodeo Association) Finals together my junior year in 2012).”
Cowboy connections are everywhere, and as fate and/or coincidence would have it, Schmidt and Barham won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association team roping title together in 2015.
Yates worked every event—pole bending, barrel racing, goat tying, you name it—coming up the rodeo ranks.
“But I mainly team roped and calf roped,” said Marty, who’s currently ranked ninth in the world tie-down roping standings and sixth in the all-around.
Yates filled in for Landen Glenn behind Tsinigine (who was just outside of the Top 15 at the time) at Pendleton, and for Cole Davison on Team Schmidt in Stephenville. Spinny and Marty were actually high team back at Pendleton.
“It’s always a blast going to Pendleton in every event,” said Yates, who caught a ride on Paden Bray’s heel horse there, and rode one of Wesley Thorp’s in Stephenville. “The history there, and the fun of coming down that lane and onto the grass is pretty cool. Especially getting to heel for a world champ.”
When the Pendleton short round didn’t go his way—Tsinigine missed their short-round steer, and Yates missed his short-round calf—Marty actually loaded up and headed south to Texas. Trey Yates and Chris Glover were yet to go in the steer roping, both had a shot at the all-around, and Marty figured he was out. Then his phone rang. It was past Pendleton champ Brad Goodrich.
“We were in La Grande when Brad called, and I had to turn around and drive an hour back to Pendleton,” Yates said. “It was dang sure worth the trip, because they give a lot of cool stuff.”
Then his hometown committee in Stephenville presented Marty the all-around saddle there. Yates entered the team roping a lot more last year with Jaxson Tucker, but was a rather rare addition to team roping rosters this year. Will Marty be returning to a rodeo near you in the team roping on a more regular basis moving forward?
“Highly doubtful,” he said. “I’m just a fill-in guy. Who knows for sure what’s in the cards for me in the future, but it’s hard enough just managing all the entering and trading in one event. It would be fun to be part of the (world) all-around race, but it’s pretty hard to stand up against a guy who wins first in two events every night in the roughstock (World All-Around Champ Stetson Wright).”
“Little Marty’s” late dad, who’s known inside the family as “Big Marty,” died in a car accident when Marty’s mom, Angie, was pregnant with him. Little Marty grew up in the family arena, and shares his Aunt JJ Hampton’s go-for-broke style.
“We’re both blasters,” Marty said. “That’s the way we were raised—to go all or nothing every time. That’s what she preached in the practice pen all my life, and that’s how JJ lives it. She works on her craft every run, even at home. And she’s always asked me for everything I have every time, too.
“JJ’s been in my corner all my life. She helped me get my start, took me to amateur rodeos—all of it. To get to see her show her skills at the pro rodeos now, and show everybody what she’s made of at 51 and roping against 18-year-olds is awesome.”
JJ is an 18-time Women’s Professional Rodeo Association world champ, and four of them dated 1996-99 are in the team roping (plus six all-around, four tie-down and four breakaway roping). Pretty cool fun fact about JJ is that 20 years passed between her 17th world championship for the all-around in 2000 and her 18th gold buckle in the breakaway in 2020.
“The four team roping titles are in the heading,” JJ said. “My brother was the heeler. But yes, our family has always done a lot of team roping. We always team roped together all the time in the practice pen.”
Marty also was very close to JJ and Angie’s late brother, Row. Guess who else was?
“Row and I were best friends growing up, and we team roped together everywhere,” said Cowboy King Trevor Brazile. “My junior rodeo partners were (Mighty Duck actor and now Cowboy Channel staple) Ty McClary, (NFR tie-down roper) Jerome Schneeberger and Row Hampton. Any junior-rodeo picture I have that’s 12 and under is with Row.”
Trevor and Row were the Texas High School Rodeo Association state champs in high school, and held the 5.1-second team roping record at the state finals in Abilene for years.
“We all used to heel for JJ, too,” Trevor noted.
Marty’s recent all-around success surprises no one less than his Aunt JJ.
“Marty’s a winner, and he knows how to rope,” she said. “If you have both of those things, of course, you’re going to succeed. Things have always come pretty easily for Marty, and he’s mentally tough. So him winning in any event he enters should come as no surprise to anyone.
“We’ve always roped to win in our family. That’s what we’re good at. That’s our style. If you get your butt kicked, you fire back at them. We don’t back down. We’ve never played it safe, and roping to win is all we know. We aren’t scared. That’s just how we grew up roping. Marty and I are night and day in our personalities. I’m outgoing, and you have to get to know him. But at the end of the day, we’re both fierce competitors.”
JJ will enter her third of three National Finals Breakaway Ropings held to date in the 12th position. The 2022 NFBR runs November 29-30 at the South Point and ends on the eve of December 1 opening night at NFR ’22 across town at the Thomas & Mack Center. Whether Hampton’s swinging for the rafters and go-round wins at the NFBR or cheering Marty through every run, she’ll be all-in in Vegas.
“For me to get to rope in Vegas, then go cheer for Marty is about as good as it gets for me,” Hampton said. “It’s hard to put into words what that means to me, especially now that I’m 51 and roping against all the kids. Roping is what I live for, and I’m going to rope until I die. To have this opportunity in front of me is very special to me, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”