Tarleton State University Rodeo Team’s has 11 top-flight student-athletes competing in this year’s College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming that starts Sunday. Among them is senior and champion cowboy, Billy Bob Brown, Texas native from Carbon out by Eastland. As they say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” and that’s certainly the case with Brown. His family is about as rodeo as it gets.

“My dad, Kris, rode and was an all-around cowboy; he did everything. He roped, rode broncs, rode bulls, then he started putting on USTRC ropings. My mom. D’aun, was a world champion in women’s professional rodeo. And my sister, Kristal, was in rodeo through high school and some of college.”

Asked when he got involved in rodeo, Brown laughs and says, “Some say I was born with a rope in my hand; I always had a rope everywhere I went no matter where it was. I won my first buckle when I was two. It was just always something I loved and I have a hard time putting a rope down. I don’t think that’ll ever die off. It’s my lifestyle and now my job. Best job in the world if you can make it work.”

Brown came to Tarleton for the obvious reason: The high-level rodeo team and atmosphere at the university.

“My dad went to college and was in rodeo at Tarleton. The rodeo program obviously is just the best around. I feel like it’s a real advantage to go here. I strive to get better every day and to know you could go to Tarleton and do that was comforting. Plus it’s close to home and we’re a real big, tight family so that was a big factor. It’s a great school in general, not just the rodeo part. I have tight-knit relationships with teachers and it’s more a family than just a school.”

Brown says he has a few hours left before graduating, so he’ll return to compete for Tarleton again next year.

“I want to do that out of respect for the school and Coach Eakin and what he’s done for me. I don’t want to grow up too fast; I got my pro rodeo card this year and I’m going hard and I’ll be going hard next year, but they’ve done a lot for me at Tarleton. ‘Stay in school as long as you can,’ I’ve heard, because sometimes the real world gets pretty hard. So I’m taking that to heart and coming back next year.”

Brown obviously has a deep personal relationship with Coach Mark Eakin that extends beyond the rodeo arena.

“He’s been a huge impact on me, not only in the arena but out of it too," he said. "He’s done a lot for me and I would do anything for him. We’ve developed that kind of relationship with each other. He knows I’m going to give him the best that I have to offer that day. He’s a man of his word and that’s a big thing. He’ll try to help you in any way he can whether it has to do with school or not. It’s just how he is. We’ve had some good times together; we just have fun. It’s a good deal all the way around.”

When asked about other people who are important to him and have helped him along the way, Brown says, “Without my family I wouldn’t be where I am today, that’s for sure. Dad pushed me to be the best person I could be, both in and out of the arena. My folks taught me to always try and treat other people right. The whole family is just super, super supportive. When times are tough that makes it so much easier.

“I sure have to thank my sponsors, too. Cactus Rope, Resistol Hats, Panhandle Slim and Rock ‘n Roll clothing - they help me get up and down the road. I also owe a big thanks to Bob Bruner who’s a great sponsor and family friend. I just can’t thank him enough. It’s tough out here you know. Nobody can do it alone. It takes people like him and my family and friends and other sponsors to help me do it.”

Brown also includes Logan Medlin from Eastern New Mexico in that group of important folks in his life. Medlin is Brown’s long-time team roping partner who now lives in Stephenville.