- Neal Reid
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Jake Barnes and Allen Bach are widely regarded as two of the best team ropers in the history of the sport. On Dec. 1 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, they were honored for being class acts, great men and dedicated role models to others.
Barnes (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Bach (Weatherford, Texas) received the inaugural Legends of ProRodeo awards for the examples they set outside the arena. The event was sanctioned by the PRCA and hosted by international sports ministry Athletes in Action (AIA).
Barnes, a seven-time world champion, received the Legend of ProRodeo award for "outstanding leadership in the arena, in the home and in the community," while Bach, a three-time world champion, was presented the Foster Friess Mentoring Award for "dedicated leadership in serving youth as a treasured mentor and positive role model." Longtime Wrangler National Finals Rodeo announcers Bob Tallman and Boyd Polhamus served as the event's emcees.
The special awards ceremony was a touching, emotional affair with both recipients delivering heartfelt and compelling speeches.
"I'm proud of this award, and this is so incredible to receive it," Barnes said. "Allen Bach is the cause of all this, and he's been such a huge blessing in my life. I've dedicated my whole life to this sport, and I knew that God had a purpose for me and that was to be a champion. I've just tried to be the person my mother, father and Heavenly Father would want me to be."
Barnes, who lost part of his right thumb in an accident during the fifth round of last year's Wrangler NFR, said his beliefs are what helped him deal with the potentially devastating injury.
"My faith is what's gotten me through all this," said Barnes, who returned to competition early this year. "When I was walking down to the Justin SportsMedicine room last year, a thousand things were going through my mind, and I was wondering if I'd ever rope again. I've been able to come back, and it's just been an incredible ride."
Bach, who has mentored 2005 World Champion Team Ropers Clay Tryan and Patrick Smith, is the founder of Forever Cowboys, an organization dedicated to mentoring young cowboys and cowgirls to demonstrate the cowboy standards of integrity, honesty and excellence. He was equally emotional and thankful during his acceptance speech.
"I've been so blessed," Bach said. "I never dreamed I'd be at something like this, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for honoring Jake and myself. Mentoring is helping people stay plugged in. We all get unplugged at times, but if we have people who help us to get plugged back in, we can all help each other.
"Heart is the most important thing to me, and it's the heart and love you impart in others that matters."
Barnes and Bach received custom-made bronzes at the celebratory breakfast, which also included a silent auction to benefit the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. More than $4,000 was raised through the auction for the Hall.
More than 300 members of the rodeo community and others attended the inaugural event, including former Denver Broncos star quarterback John Elway and actor Kevin Sorbo, who played Hercules on the popular television show. PRCA Commissioner Troy Ellerman began the festivities by praising AIA and the Legends of ProRodeo event, one that will be a mainstay at the Wrangler NFR for years.
"We're so blessed to have this event, and it's going to be a long-term deal," Ellerman said.
Cowboy legends Charles Sampson and Clint Corey were interviewed by Tallman during the ceremony, as were Elsie and Clyde Frost, parents of the late Lane Frost. The Frosts now conduct a far-reaching ministry that has distributed more than 180,000 bibles featuring Lane's picture, and the couple received a standing ovation at the event.
PRCA tie-down roper Stran Smith, an eight-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, was a special guest speaker at the ceremony.
"This is the reason that we rodeo, and this (award) is something that's been long overdue," said Smith, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. "Their faith and beliefs are what makes these men tick, and that's the common denominator."
AIA Legends awards and breakfast ceremonies have been held at the Super Bowl for 19 years, the NCAA Men's Final Four for 10 years and the NBA All-Star game for two years. AIA was founded in 1966 as a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, a worldwide Christian evangelism and discipleship organization.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg