LAS VEGAS – The winter and early spring were a bit dry for bareback rider Cole Franks.
As a PRCA rookie, he was trying to make a name for himself but wasn’t having much luck. He had entered the rodeo in his birth home in Guymon, Oklahoma, but he didn’t get to ride because he didn’t have enough money won to be included in that ProRodeo Hall of Fame event that takes place the first weekend in May.
It seems strange to look back upon now, because he’s been named the 2021 Rookie of the Year and this week is playing on the sport’s biggest stage, the National Finals Rodeo. May was seven months ago, but it may as well be a lifetime in Franks’ season.
“I don’t know if something clicked or if something changed,” said Franks, 20, of Clarendon, Texas, who placed for the seventh time in night nights in Las Vegas. “I was so broke, I was going for broke. At San Angelo, I had $20 to my name after I paid my fees. That’s all I had. I knew I had to win money there, or I’d be stuck at home working all summer.”
Instead, he won the first round, placed in the championship round and finished fourth overall. He pocketed nearly $8,300, and his financial troubles were over. From there, he went on to win bareback riding at the College National Finals Rodeo, claiming national crowns in it and the all-around.
He built on that, then jumped in the rig with Tim O’Connell, a three-time world champion, and Jess Pope, the 2020 NFR average titlist.
“Everything really built up after that,” Franks said. “The college finals is when it burst and exploded a little more. I think that was another big step on the year.
“Tim and Jess are a huge help. They are both really strong-minded and pretty positive. That helps boost you up. It’s hard being down when you are around them.”
He rode Cervi Championship Rodeo’s On Your Own for 86.5 points to finish in a tie for third place in Friday’s ninth round. He earned $13,716. Just as importantly, he held on to third place in the average race. If he remains there when the NFR concludes Saturday, he will pocket a bonus of $44,414.
Already, he’s earned $105,614 in Las Vegas cash and moved up to eighth in the world standings with $183,008. Friday’s ride marked the second time he’d been on the Cervi horse; he was 82 points on On Your Own in Cave Creek, Arizona, in 2020. Many things have changed since that ride.
“I was pretty confident I could place on him,” he said. “I had a little better ride today, a little more stuff going on. I felt like I rode him a lot better than I did when I had him last time.”