LAS VEGAS – Coleman Proctor isn’t one to let a little bit of a struggle get him down.
The Oklahoma team roping header proved it Tuesday night during the sixth round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. After four straight rounds of frustrating runs during the richest rodeo of the year, Proctor and his heeling partner, Billie Jack Saebens, cashed in with a 4.3-second run, good enough for a three-way tie for second place and worth $15,795.
“It has been a little slow, but neither Billie nor I are ones to be impatient,” said Proctor, a three-time NFR qualifier from Pryor, Okla. “It feels like we’ve been on the wrong end of bad breaks. The NFR is a grind, so you don’t let it affect you.”
The tandem finished sixth in the opening round, then was saddled with a no-time on the second night. They suffered penalties in Rounds 3-5 that took them out of the money, so to reach the pay window as the NFR begins its second half is the perfect place to start a new momentum rolling in their favor.
Both Proctor and Saebens, of Nowata, Okla., still have a chance to earn more than $100,000 over the course of the final four go-rounds if things go their way. That’s where having a strong mental game helps each of them as they close out the 2016 season.
“I just need to keep scoring and catching,” Proctor said. “We’re finally getting in the groove. After a round, nothing changes. There’s $26,000 up for grabs every night, so you just try to make the best run you can. We’ve missed one, and we’re still seventh in the average.”
The average is a bonus that is paid at the conclusion of the NFR to the top eight teams in the 10-round aggregate. If they remain in seventh place, they will add $11,423 each. The average winners will earn more than $67,000, so it’s a powerful carrot to dangle in front of the competitors.
“Survival in this game is all about patience,” he said. “It’s hard, because it’s 10 nights and there’s so much money on the line. The main thing is to keep your focus and keep grinding it out every night.”
While this marks Proctor’s third straight trip to the City of Lights for ProRodeo’s championship, it is Saebens’ first appearance. The two have shared many miles and many rounds over the course of the season, and they understand the ins and outs of team roping. They also understand the roller coaster of emotions cowboys can experience, whether it’s at a rodeo in a small Midwest town or in the Nevada desert.
“Billie is a very experienced (NFR) rookie,” Proctor said. “He demands and expects the best of himself every round. I know he was a little bummed when he caught a leg a couple of times, but he has a go-win attitude.”
So does Proctor. Each cowboy has earned $30,026 in Las Vegas over six days, and Proctor has pushed his season earnings to $92,048. He also has moved up two spots to 13th in the world standings.
But he keeps everything in perspective. While he is battling for gold in Las Vegas, he understands there are bigger things in life. His friend and former college roommate when they were at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Kevin Foraker, became a father Tuesday. He and his wife, Katie, named their son Koleman, a tip of the hat to Proctor.
“I was doing my best to win the round tonight and give that boy a buckle,” he said. “It didn’t happen the way I wanted to, but I hope to do that yet.”
That humble approach to the game comes from years of trials and tribulations on the rodeo trail. It takes an exceptional amount of work to make it happen, and Proctor has had plenty of help from Greg, Tim and James at Riverbend Arena in Inola, Okla.
“Billie and I are having a great time no matter what happens,” Proctor said. “We’re prepared, and we’ve worked hard to get here. We’re just going to stick to our game plan and try to win as much money as you can.
“You can make so much money here, and that’s what you want to do so you don’t have to build as much fence when you get back to Oklahoma.”
The gate to the NFR cash cow has been opened, and Proctor is ready to walk on in.