Clint Cannon's bareback riding victory last weekend at the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo capped a remarkable run that so far has him sitting first in the rookie race and No. 20 in the Jack Daniel's World Standings.
"That was my first big, big rodeo win," said Cannon, 24, of Waller, Texas, which is located about 20 miles outside of Houston. "I've been in a ton of short rounds at the Tour rodeos, placing in nearly all of them. I've just been waiting for that breakthrough."
The 175-pound Cannon considered big for a bareback rider tied for third in the first round, won the final round and tied Cleve Schmidt of Belle Fourche, S.D., for the aggregate title. The Texan pocketed $5,463 to boost his annual earnings to $38,483.
His victory in Ellensburg the seventh stop on the 10-city ProRodeo Tour comes only two years after jumping on the back of a bareback horse for the first time. Before that, Cannon got his kicks playing college football.
Highly recruited out of Waller High School, the then 230-pound Cannon took his football prowess to NCAA Division I Stephen F. Austin University.
There, the imposing Cannon spent two seasons crushing defenders from the fullback position. After his coach was fired, he followed his running back coach to Division II Texas A&M Commerce, where he administered even more damage on the opposition.
"All I did was block," Cannon said. "I got the ball very seldom, but when I did I loved it."
Unfortunately, Cannon injured his knee his senior season. His football career was over. But a burning desire to compete propelled Cannon to ask his father if he'd teach him how to "rodeo."
His father, Jay, competed in rodeo for more than 20 years and is a PRCA Gold Card member.
"He said, 'I'll teach you, but you'll have to drop down weight big time,'" Cannon said. "So I dropped down weight and started going to a couple of college rodeos. I started out getting on bulls and then getting on some bareback horses and just fell in love with it. Two years later I'm here clicking my feet at the pro level."
Cannon competed at Prairie View A&M in Texas for two seasons, qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo twice. He also finished his degree there in Agricultural Human Resources.
Much of the same training regimen he used as a football player, Cannon now utilizes as a bareback rider.
"I'm dedicated to this rodeo," he said. "I eat and sleep and drink this stuff. If I'm not rodeoing, I'm running or working out, doing pushups and sit-ups, hitting the weight room, watching videotapes, eating right. I'm a big fitness guy. I want to get as good as I can.
"Everything I learned in football, I've taken to rodeo. All the things my agility and strength coaches used to make us do, I use to make my feet as quick as possible and I guess it helps out because I'm doing good here."
Cannon said he's somewhat surprised by his success. But confidence in himself and help from fellow bareback rider Scott Drennan of Buffalo, Texas, have elevated his game in a short time.
"I knew I could make the rides and if I made the rides I would win," he said. "So I was confident. I was just worried about going to big rodeos and winning. At the beginning of the year, I was traveling with my dad. Then Scotty and I got to know each other through elk hunting and got in together over the summer. Over the Fourth of July I won almost $15,000 and since then I've been winning and Scotty's been helping me out."
Cannon is ranked ninth in the ProRodeo Tour Standings. The top 12 competitors in each event qualify for the $500,000 Pace Picante ProRodeo Challenge in Omaha, Neb., Sept. 25-27.
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