Making the buzzer is the first requirement of becoming a champion rodeo rough stock contestant.
Jesse Pope scored on all but one of 42 bareback bronc rides this year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Importantly as well many of the world’s top bucking horses were among his draws earning the cowboy big rodeo checks.
His career best ride came this year at Des Moines, Iowa, where Pope marked 91.5 points on Three Hills Rodeo’s Weenie worth $2,897.
Put it together Jesse Pope, Waverly, Kansas, native, has qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
“Ever since I was little, I dreamed about calling home to tell Mom and Dad that I made the NFR. I got to do that, and it was everything I dreamed it would be,” Pope admitted.
Now on the Missouri Valley College Vikings Rodeo Team, Pope lists Marshall, Missouri, as his address.
Thursday afternoon, Pope flew to Fort Worth, Texas, where he visited before attending the Friday wedding of champion bull rider Sage Kimzey.
“I haven’t stopped smiling since I locked in my slot to the NFR. I am very grateful,” Pope appreciated. “I’m grateful to my family and friends for their support as I chase my dream.
“Grateful to my sponsors for helping me get up and down the rodeo road. Grateful to all the rodeo committees who took the risks to make rodeos happen after the coronavirus shut everything down.”
When the PRCA world standings were posted September 30, Pope had won $49,611.85, since the season started October 1, 2019. That put him 11th in the world, with the Top 15 money-winning bareback bronc riders qualifying for the NFR.
After being in Las Vegas for a number of years, the 2020 NFR has moved to Arlington, Texas, December 3-12.
“Traveling across the country to rodeos is a major ordeal and my sponsors relieve some of the pressures,” Pope acknowledged.
His corporate sponsors include Rock & Roll Denim, Panhandle Western Wear and Resistol. “I visited a couple of them today,” he said Thursday. “I really like their clothing. They’re such great people, outstanding supporters of rodeo.
“I’m proud to have Emporia Livestock, Veach Leather and T Bar T Cattle also as sponsors,” Pope appreciated.
As if the 21-year-old, 170-pound, 5-foot-10-inch cowboy isn’t busy enough on the pro rodeo trail, he’s a fulltime college student.
“I’m a senior in public relations at Missouri Valley,” Pope explained. “To be able to be a fulltime college student and a professional rodeo cowboy requires good communications with my instructors.”
“Having a rodeo team scholarship has also been an asset to my rodeo career,” Pope noted.
Competing in National Intercollege Rodeo Association events, Pope adds to his impressive rodeo career. “I’ve qualified for the National College Rodeo Finals every year,” he said.
Coronavirus issues did cancel the 2020 college finals. “However, they’ve extended my eligibility so I’ll continue to rodeo as a fifth year college student,” Pope noted.
“Ken Mason is a phenomenal bareback bronc riding coach,” Pope declared. “Coach Mason has an inherent talent for improving bareback bronc riders.”
Tim O’Connell, Zwingle, Iowa, who’s leading the yearend PRCA bareback riding standings, has been coached by Mason “Tim is a Missouri Valley College graduate and a good friend who I frequently travel with,” Pope said.
Bret and Jennifer Pope of Garnett, the bareback rider’s parents, receive considerable appreciation from their son.
“Mom and Dad were always encouraging me while I was growing up. They went out of their way to make sure I was at the rodeos,” Pope said. “Dad never competed in rodeo but he and Mom are my biggest supporters.”
Little brothers are following in Jesse Pope’s boot steps. “Ty is a freshman on the Missouri Valley Rodeo Team. Judd is a Waverly freshman competing in high school rodeos,” Pope said.
Rodeo titles are nothing new for the NFR qualifier. He was the Kansas High School Rodeo All-Around Champion in 2016.
“I’ve concentrated on bareback bronc riding in college and professional rodeos,” Pope said.
Only planning to mount two bareback bucking horses at college rodeos before the NFR, Pope is dedicated in his workouts.
“I really can’t take the risk getting on bucking horses for the next few weeks,” he said. “I have a stringent daily regimen on the bucking machine, spurring board and stretching exercises.”
While Pope has mounted ten bucking horses ten days in a row before, the NFR will be different. “These will be the best bareback broncs and the best cowboys in rodeo,” he qualified.
“With the high payout in every round and the average, anybody in the Top 15 could end up being a world champion. I’m getting my mind and body in shape to that can be me,” Pope analyzed.