LAS VEGAS – Throughout his first regular season in ProRodeo, Cole Franks looked like anything but a bareback riding rookie.
He rode well, and did it often, and he pulled off some big wins along the way. He won the bareback riding and all-around national titles at the College National Finals Rodeo in June, helping his Clarendon (Texas) College to the men’s team title. He finished the 2021 regular season 12th in the world standings and the bareback riding Rookie of the Year.
“I was very nervous when I realized I was gunner (first out), and I knew it was either going to be really good or not good at all,” said Franks, who rode Hi Lo Pro Rodeo’s Midnight Kid for 87 points to finish in a tie for third place in the first round of this year’s NFR. “Everybody knows I’m a little slow in the chute, and I was really thinking about that.
“Then I realized I was gunner at San Angelo (Texas): First performance, first guy out in the long round, so I was like, ‘Maybe that’s where I need to be.’ I changed my mindset to start off and got some of the money.”
Just like he did when he won the first round in west Texas, Franks found his way to the pay window. He pocketed $13,716 and moved up one spot to 11th in the world standings. But winning is nothing new to Franks, whose father, Bret, was a three-time qualifier in saddle bronc riding and his son’s coach through his first two years of college. Cole Franks is now a junior at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri.
While his father was an NFR veteran, the younger Franks looked like one in his first ride inside the famous Priefert gates wrapped around the arena that hosts ProRodeo’s grand championship.
Only the top 15 contestants in each event at the end of the regular season advance to the NFR, which is a pressure-packed situation no matter how many times a cowboy has been in Las Vegas. Add into the fact that Franks is still in college, and it’s a small wonder he’s in position to make some big-time money over 10 days in the Nevada desert.
“It was surreal when I got here the other day,” Franks said. “There are so many emotions that I don’t even know what I was feeling. It was like a big boom. I don’t even know what emotion it was. It was just incredible.”
It was also incredible that he was matched with a horse that fit his style pretty well in Midnight Kid.
“I’ve seen that horse a few times, and from the very first time I saw him, I knew I wanted to put my riggin’ on that thing,” he said. “There’s no better place than to do it than here.”
He may be new to the City of Lights, but he looks pretty comfortable already. He’s pushed his season earnings to $101,110.
“Yeah, I like it here,” Franks said.