Johnny Emmons knows he’s filling some pretty big boots.
Emmons takes over for Mike Brown this season as head coach of the Weatherford College rodeo team. He served as Brown’s assistant for the past seven years.
“I’ve been wanting it for seven years, and now I’ve got it and I’m scared,” said Emmons with a smile. “Mike brought it from a club sport to where it is today.”
Of course, Emmons helped the progression. In each of his seven seasons as an assistant, the Coyotes were represented at the National College Finals Rodeo.
“He’s ready,” said Brown. “He’s learning a lot. Johnny’s got enough experience to keep us going strong.”
Brown, 60, retired from coaching to devote full-time to teaching agriculture.
“I left [the program] better than I found it,” said Brown. “All these miles will wear a guy out. It was a good time for me to go. We were going to hire a new ag teacher, and I just told them to give more to me. It worked out pretty well, because I also knew Johnny was ready to take over.
“I get to just go home and watch my granddaughters play softball and basketball.”
Emmons, 45, can relate to Brown’s reasoning. He came to Weatherford College after competing in professional rodeo as a roper for two decades — and with considerable success.
“My father passed away and my oldest daughter was starting high school that year,” said Emmons. “I wanted to stay home, but I needed to rope for a living. Then Mike called and I had a chance to get a real job.”
Emmons, who grew up in Mansfield, started roping at age 10 and first competed at age 12.
“I knew right away I wanted to be in rodeo,” he said.
Emmons reached the National Finals Rodeo five times in his career, four of those times in a six-year span (1998, 2001-03). He was at the top of his game, posting his highest finish ever (seventh) in 2003 before stepping away. And while he’s helped many young people succeed in rodeo at Weatherford College, he says he’s done some growing himself.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with young people in roping school, and I’ve grown a lot over the seven years,” he said. “Mike and his wife are good people and just knowing them has done so much for me.”
Among his highlights so far at WC, Emmons helped coach his daughter Kayla, who competed for the Coyotes for a couple of years and graduated from Tarleton State in 2011. His other daughter, Krista, is a junior at Grandview High School, and he hopes she follows her sister to WC.
“When I’m not coaching or working, I’m at their rodeos,” he said.
Emmons still occasionally rodeos himself, but there just isn’t a lot of time — and he’s okay with that.
“I still enjoy roping. It’s fun,” he said. “But I don’t want to be on the road that much anymore. College rodeo keeps me on the road a lot as it is.”
He’s excited about the coming season, which begins this weekend in Portales, N.M. at the Eastern New Mexico Rodeo. It’s the first of five in the fall, followed by more in the spring.
“I think our women’s team is going to be strong again,” he said. “And I think our guys’ team is certainly going to improve.”
The Lady Coyotes came close to giving the school its first team entry at the CNFR last year. For most of the season they were second in the regional standings, but slipped to third in the final tally.
“It was a pretty heartbreaking finish to the regular season,” said Emmons. “But it was still a great season.”
Savannah Todd returns as a third-year sophomore for the women. She was third all-around in the region last season. Among the guys returning are Landon Williams in calf and team roping and J.C. Williams in team roping.
Emmons also has high praise for his freshmen recruits, for the men and women. Among them are Paul Melvin, whose father was a multi-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier in steer wrestling.
“It’s going to be a battle every week, especially the women,” Emmons said. “We’ve got eight easily who could always go.”