RANDLETT, Utah – As a child, Joe Frost did what most kids do: He let his imagination take him anywhere it wanted to go.
Even then, his imagination carried Frost along the rodeo trail. It’s what he knew. It’s how he lived.
“We didn’t play football or baseball,” he said. “When we played, we pretended we were at the NFR. We based everything off rodeoing, winning go-rounds. We didn’t know anything else and didn’t want to do anything else.”
Childhood is about wonder and fascination. It’s about playing in the dirt and dreaming big dreams.
Joe Frost is living his dreams in rodeo. The 2014 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association bull riding champion will now carry his amazing season over to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s marquee event that takes place Dec. 4-13 in Las Vegas.
“It’s something that’s been a goal and a plan for as long as I can remember,” said Frost, 22, of Randlett. “It’s everybody’s dream to ride at the national finals and to win a world title. You can’t win a world title without making it to the national finals.
“When you’re in youth rodeos and high school rodeos and college rodeos, you’re riding with that goal in mind. The films that everybody watches are from the NFR. That is the ultimate goal and the ultimate place to ride at.”
Frost earned his way to the game’s grand championship by winning $69,558 through the rigors of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season. He is 11th in the world standings heading into Las Vegas, where he will battle for his share of the $6.375 million purse. Go-round winners will collect $19,000 each round for 10 nights.
But there’s so much more to Frost, who also competes in tie-down roping and steer wrestling when his schedule allows. In fact, the Utah cowboy earned the 2014 Linderman Award for excelling in both roughstock and timed events.
“I enter about 12 to 15 rodeos roping calves and steer wrestling and go to about 80 to 90 in bull riding,” he said. “I’m not consistently roping calves and steer wrestling, and it’s making it hard to be as competitive as I should be.
“In steer wrestling and calf roping, there are so many variables with your horse, drawing the animals you can win on and everything that goes with it. You can virtually not get on a practice bull all year long and still be sharp in bull riding just by competing.”
In addition to competing in ProRodeo, Frost is in the middle of his senior season at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in the small community of Goodwell, Okla. In 2013, he was one of the key members of the Panhandle State team that won the men’s college title. This past June, he rode all four bulls at the College National Finals Rodeo to claim the bull riding title.
He is the only contestant in this year’s NFR field of 119 contestants who has a chance to win the college title and the world title in the same year. The last time that was done was in 2007, when Panhandle State rodeo team alumnus Taos Muncy did so in saddle bronc riding, becoming just the third cowboy in PRCA history to have won both crowns in the same calendar year.
“When I first came to look at school, they have an office, and it’s Taos Muncy’s,” said Frost, who has sponsorship arrangements with Rodeo Mart and Wrangler. “(Coach) Craig Latham told me, ‘If you win the college title and the world title in the same year, we’ll build you an office.’ ”
That certainly was appealing to a young man looking toward his future, but there were several other reasons why he chose to move from the Utah mountains to the Plains of the Oklahoma Panhandle. He was offered an opportunity to grow as a cowboy and as a young man; both are vital for the Frost family: dad, Shane; mom, Lisa; brothers Josh, 19, and Jate, 13; and sister, Jacelyn, 10.
“College rodeo as allowed me to get an education,” he said. “Craig and Robert (Etbauer) have been really good with me to go to ProRodeos. It’s a huge priority for me to win the region team title. As much as I’d love to win the college bull riding title again, it would be more important for me to help win the team title again.”
While the team approach is amazing for college, Frost has individual goals for his inaugural visit to the NFR. He knows it’s going to take a lot of talent and a little luck for it all to come together, but that’s the way the bull riding bull bounces.
“My goal is to win the average and leave as the world champion,” Frost said. “My main goal is to ride 10 bulls one at a time. If I can keep my focus on my bull riding, then I need to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented. I’m going to keep it simple and keep it about riding bulls, then everything else will take care of itself.”
That’s a brilliant outlook for such a young cowboy, but he was raised that way. Shane Frost rode bulls, then raised a family on their Utah ranch. He and Lisa’s four children have been involved in riding horses and ranching all their lives. Shane built an arena just feet from the front door of the house, and the kids have had every opportunity to ride, rope and wrestle.
“Our family life was based off ranching, and every night we were out there practicing,” Joe Frost said. “My family is really close. It’s important when we can be together.
“As far as my bull riding career, I’ve never been to a bull riding school. Being around my dad, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, he can relate it back to bull riding and rodeo. You need to have a good attitude.”
That has gone a long ways in making Joe Frost who he is. That’s why he’s going to the NFR in 2014. That’s why he’s 22 years old and already a champion.