Coleman Proctor had more fun this year than he’s ever had in his 15-year ProRodeo career.
He and his heeling partner, Ryan Motes, ignited their seasons in one of the biggest ways possible, battling through The American qualifiers to advance to championship day. There, on that Sunday in early March, the tandem won the championship and the $100,000 that is awarded to winners in each event.
But because they were qualifiers, they were eligible for a share of the $1 million side pot. They split it with bull rider Joao Ricardo Vieira, meaning each man pocketed $433,000 that day.
“Winning The American was huge,” said Proctor, who utilized $50,000 of that money to count toward the world standings in accordance with PRCA rules. “After we won The American, we decided to keep our ears pinned back and go hard. We went to California, and I bought some new horses.
“As it got later in the season and my wife and I were expecting our little girl, Ryan and I had a talk before the summer started, and I told him I wanted to skip the Northwest (run of rodeos beginning in August) and be home for Steph and the family after the baby came.”
That baby, Caymbree, was born July 29, and Proctor was there for her birth. Then he hit the rodeo trail for a couple of weeks to close out events closer to home in August before settling in to care for his family. All the while, he had his eyes set on his fifth qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“The American was a game-changer on our regular season standings,” said Proctor, 34, who lives in Pryor with his wife, Stephanie, and their two daughters, including 2-year-old Stella. “We had a chance to break the regular-season earnings record, then we realized we were going to be in the top five, so that allowed me to go this summer then sit home for four to five weeks and be a dad.
“Winning The American set us up financially, and it made a big change in a lot of places, but it really changed the year for me and made it to where I didn’t have to be gone as much, so that was a lot of fun.”
He had all the amusement and still pocketed $104,318, sitting third in the heading world standings. He trails the leader, Clay Smith, by $46,000, but Proctor can make up that ground in a hurry. The NFR features a $10 million purse, with go-round winners earning $26,231 each of the 10 December nights.
He and Motes teamed late last summer and made a serious push to earn an NFR bid in 2018. Both men fell just short, finishing 18th in their respective standings; only the top 15 contestants in each event at the end of the regular season qualify for the season-ending championship. Proctor returned to the Nevada desert and serves as a host of the pregame show on the Cowboy Channel; it was the first time he’d been to the NFR when he wasn’t competing.
“It was a real eye-opening experience for me, and the biggest thing I came away with last year was that it was almost relaxing,” he said. “I got to see the guys who struggled through the week, see them fight that battle. I’ve been that person before, waking up with sleepless nights, cold sweats. Your whole year comes down to that, and it can be a lot of pressure.
“What I gained was that you can enjoy these 10 days. It should be fun. It’s what we’ve dreamed of since we were kids. It gave me a new perspective heading out there this year.”
That might just be the attitude necessary when he arrives in Sin City. He’s had success at the NFR in the past, and he’s partnering with a man who’s done well. In fact, the last time Motes played on ProRodeo’s biggest stage in 2015, he earned $133,000 and finished the year No. 2 in the world standings.
“Ryan is one of the greatest guys,” said Proctor, who credits a big deal of his success to his sponsors, Southern Welding, SpeedRoping.com, Riverbend Arena, Lonestar Ropes, Justin Boots, Wrangler, Coats Saddlery, CSI Saddlepads, Brazos Valley Equine Hospital, DF Quarterhorses, Purina, Hot Heels, Classic Truck Sales and American Hat Co.
“He’s a super person in and out of the arena. After winning The American, he was probably one of my biggest advisers, because he’s pretty savvy on all that. He’s also super savvy at the finals. He’s had a lot of success there. I’m looking forward to roping with him in Vegas. I know we’re a team that ropes fast, and you have to do that in that building.”
Through his four previous appearances, Proctor has gained considerable experience with the goings-on in the Nevada desert over those magical 10 days. He knows the appearances, stresses and caring for horses can be draining. He relies on a schedule to get him through the hectic time.
“It’s almost easier once you get out there,” he said, noting that between packing and planning for Vegas, he also is producing fun roping this weekend, capped off with an NFR simulated roping set up like the Thomas & Mack Center, all at Riverbend Arena in Inola, Oklahoma.
“The preparation at the finals is getting your autograph times set, lining up this and that. Steph does a great job and is such a huge part of this, but that part is all in her wheelhouse. I really enjoy the time with the sponsors, meeting the public and getting to the autograph sessions.”
His personality is the perfect fit for fans that want to get close to the top cowboys in the game. That’s why he’s so popular among those tens of thousands of fans who flock to Vegas every day during that 10-day stretch.
But his main job is to compete that night and give himself and Motes a chance to win the biggest check each round.
“Speed Williams gave me the best advice: Make time every day to rest,” Proctor said. “I try to be done by lunch every day, then I’ll spend time with Steph and the girls and lie down a little bit. I might not take a nap, but I’ll take some time to unplug.
“Vegas can be exhausting, then you’re there for two weeks, meeting 100 different people every day. It’s great, but you can overrun your batteries a little bit.”
He’ll have a trio of girls to help him recharge every morning and every night. One of the greatest parts of his NFR is being able to spend it with his family.
“My greatest accomplishment is those two little girls,” he said. “I was so scared of being a dad for so long, but if somebody had told me it was so awesome, I would have started 10 years ago.
“There’s nothing to cure you from breaking a barrier or missing one you shouldn’t, but when Stella runs up and grabs me around the neck and says, ‘Daddy,’ it sure makes the recovery a lot easier.”
She’s only 2, and memories of this NFR will likely be the images and videos gathered. But for 10 nights in Sin City, some 17,000 people will pack into the Thomas & Mack Center cheering on her father as he battles for rodeo gold.
“What makes the NFR so special is the energy in that building,” Proctor said. “You can’t match that anywhere. The energy is what makes everything so worth it.”