LAS VEGAS – Jenny Johnson had a simple request for her team roping husband: Win the Tough Enough to Wear Pink night go-round at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Jhett Johnson did that on Monday night’s fifth round with his partner, Turtle Powell, stopping the clock in 3.8 seconds and sending a statement on the evening designated to raise awareness and funds in the fight against cancer. You see, Jhett Johnson is a cancer survivor, and he’s rightfully proud of that accomplishment.
“To win on pink night, it’s special for a lot of people, and especially hits home to me,” said Johnson of Casper, Wyo., who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1995.
He underwent surgeries in 1995 and 1996 and has been listed cancer free. Not only that, but since his bout with the disease in his mid-20s, Johnson has fathered three sons, Kellan, Carson and Kress, and qualified for the NFR five times.
“I had testicular cancer, which is not the funnest to talk about, but I sure don’t mind,” said Johnson, who promotes the state of Wyoming while traveling the rodeo trail. “If somebody seen me on TV or got a chance to talk to me and maybe they were going through it and realized, ‘Hey, it’s not a death sentence.’
“Do what the doctors told you to do. My attitude the whole time was that I was going to beat it. I never looked back thinking it might get me. I just didn’t want it to. I know there are millions of people not near that fortunate, and they keep an attitude.”
He has no qualms about using his own experiences to help others, and rodeo is his pulpit.
“If me talking about it can help one person get their chin up and think, ‘This guy did it, I can do it,’ then I’m good with that.”
The other thing he’s good with is the roll he and Powell have had at this year’s championship. The tandem has placed in all five go-rounds so far, including two round wins – they split the third round with Georgia ropers Kaleb Driggers and Brad Culpepper. They have won a team roping best $61,587 each in just five days, and they’re second in the average race with a cumulative total of 29.4 seconds on five runs. Their only hiccup came in Sunday’s fourth round, when they finished in 13.0 seconds after a late start and a five-second penalty that resulted from Johnson securing a single leg instead of two.
“Tonight we had a good steer,” Johnson said. “If anything, last night cleared our head. You get to feeling, I guess, too good. It brings you back real fast. Anything can happen here, and still can. We’ve got to tend to business every night for five more nights.”
It’s working pretty well so far.