LAS VEGAS – Cole Franks entered his first National Finals Rodeo as a rookie. If things continue to go as well as they have, he’ll leave Las Vegas as one of bareback riding’s top players.
He rode J Bar J’s Yum Bugs for 85.5 points to finish in a three-way tie for third place during Tuesday’s sixth round of the National Finals Rodeo. He pocketed $11,466 and pushed his Sin City earnings to $70,562.
“It’s awesome,” Franks said after his ride. “It helps with the average. It helps with everything really. It is awesome to be able to come in here the first time and be able to hang with all the big dogs.”
It was a good day for the 20-year-old cowboy from Clarendon, Texas, now a junior at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri. He was also recognized twice Tuesday as the Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year, first at a luncheon, then during a break in the action at the Thomas & Mack Center.
He sits third in the aggregate race with having a six-ride cumulative score of 516 points, and he’s moved up three spots to ninth in the world standings with $147,955.
“I’m just taking it one horse at a time,” he said. “You worry about what you’re getting on that night. Don’t worry about what is coming up. Don’t worry about what happened last night or anything else. Just focus on what you have to do that night. If it doesn’t work it, so bit it; you’ve still got the next day.
“One thing (world champions) Mark Gomes and Jeff Collins have always told me was to use the KISS method: Keep It Simple Stupid; just try to keep it as simple as you can, just one at a time.”
That last horse worked out well. He’d seen fellow bareback rider Garrett Shadbolt try to ride the bronc during the first round, but it didn’t fair very well.
“I knew he would be a little wild at the start, so I wanted to hold my feet through it,” he said, talking about the spur stroke from the animal’s neck to the rigging in rhythm with the horse. “Garrett let them fly, and that’s what messed him up. There’s a lot of stuff going on with that horse, so you just have to hold your feet through it and wait for him to line out a little bit. It feels really good after that.”
Through six nights of ProRodeo’s finale, he has placed five times. His rookie status has evaporated in a flurry of spur strokes on the best horses the sport had to offer through the 2021 season. He has four more nights to continue to cash in.
“This is going very fast,” Franks said. “I was just hanging around, feeling groggy just ready to do, and the next thing you know is it’s over. It just seems like the other day we were starting it out, so it goes by very fast.”