Coleman Proctor

Coleman Proctor after a 4.24-second run at The American.

How long would it take for you to put over $400,000 in your pocket? For Coleman Proctor of Pryor, Oklahoma, and his team roping partner Ryan Motes, it was 4.24 seconds in the shootout round of The American in Arlington, Texas.

For Proctor, however, the path to that payday has required a lifetime of effort.

“I grew up in Miami, Oklahoma, and both my parents roped so I was just kind of born into it,” Proctor said, adding he roped all the time as a kid but officially turned his first steer at the age of 9.

“I’ve had a lot of great influences around me my whole life,” Proctor added. “I’ve had great role models and great people around me all the time.”

Proctor has had a decent rodeo career, having qualified for the National Finals Rodeo four times and had several big wins along the way. Like any other, his career has had its ups and downs though.

“Last year, I didn’t make the National Finals so that, of course, was a big blow because we depended on that for our yearly income,” Proctor said. “Luckily, I had a great year jackpotting and stuff so I survived it all pretty good.

 “I’ve always been a positive person and very goal driven,” he said. “Once I put my mind to something, I go at it with 110 percent and I try to find the good in every bad situation.”

Not only did the team miss the finals but they’ve also had some bad breaks at bigger rodeos like Fort Worth and San Antonio this winter.

“We were getting bad calls all winter and I told Ryan, ‘Hey, this just means a big win’s looming.’ We kept our heads up and we stayed positive.

“I always try to tell my youngsters and students to never gripe about the bad breaks in rodeo because the good ones are coming your way,” he said. “And I definitely had a great one come my way this weekend.”

Not being in the top 10 in the world standings turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed Proctor and Motes to go through the qualifying system for The American — and gave them a potentially once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a share of $1 million in prize money.

“I plan on making the National Finals from here on out and being in the top 10,” Proctor said. “I plan on never being in that position again.”

Those seeded at The American are not eligible for the $1 million, he explained. If he meets his goal of remaining staying in the top 10, this will be the only time he was eligible for that payout.

Once reaching The American qualifiers, Proctor said he and Motes implemented some strategy as they advanced to the final round.

“You run the first steer, and they drop the field to eight so you needed to be aggressive to make the cut,” Proctor explained, adding they had to play some position.

“I kind of had a lucky loop on the first one and caught a good break,” he continued. In the second round, they positioned themselves to go as the second-to-last team in the final round.

“The final steer — it was all about going fast,” Proctor said.

“I’ve done this game for a long time, and I’ve thrown at a lot of steers and I can say I don’t really get nervous and I usually use that to focus and this and that,” Proctor said, “but I was having a hard time controlling it over there.

“I broke the barrier to win The American the first time I ever went for $100,000 and that was hard to fathom. Then I was back in the box for potentially $600,000. It’s crazy to tell somebody it was just business as usual. No, it was not. I was freaking,” he said with a laugh.

The nervousness apparently didn’t dull Proctor and Motes’ edge as they each won $100,000 for winning the team roping and split $1 million between themselves and bull rider Joao Ricardo Vieira.

“It changed my life and probably my career,” Proctor said. “You always believe you can win something like that and to actually go do it is pretty incredible.

“It validates dedicating your life to doing something,” he explained. “I’ve roped my entire life, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

“I’ve been rodeoing now professionally for 12 years. In 12 years at a job somewhere, I’d have a 401k and all these things but in rodeoing, there’s no kind of retirement plan, no 401k, none of this stuff. To actually win something that huge and to be able to make that big of an impact on my finances, it validates rodeoing for a living for the past 12 years.”

Proctor said missing the finals not only gave him the opportunity to bring home that huge paycheck but also allowed him to evaluate himself as a header.

In team roping partnership, chemistry is a must-have key to success, Proctor said.

“It’s like having another wife,” he said. “It’s a business partner that you have to rely on. Chemistry is a huge thing.”

Each person has to be able to understand where the other person is and communicate through the run including sending and understanding signals by the way the header is picking the steer’s head up, Proctor said.

“We’ve definitely put the hours in because it just takes making runs in the arena and starting to figure out this is what I’m trying to do every time and this is what he’s wanting to do and looking for,” he explained.

Moving forward, Proctor said the win at The American will help springboard them in the standings but it’s back to work in the practice arena.

“You celebrate a good victory and the memories are amazing,” he said. “I keep watching our run over and over trying to figure out what we could have done a little better but it’s back to business. I want to win a gold buckle, and I want to be the No. 1 header at the end of the season.

“It’s just getting back to getting focused and getting ready. It’s ‘on to the next one’ as Dale Brisby would say.

“That’s what’s great about rodeo — last night you’re a hero and tonight you’re entering somewhere else.”