Williams prepares for second appearence in College National Finals Rodeo
Casper College sophomore Neil Williams solidified his spot at the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) and is preparing for his second appearance at the event. The CNFR will run June 9-15 in Casper.
Rodeoing since his freshman year of high school, Williams is a seasoned veteran in his qualifying event – bull riding. During high school, he also rode saddle bronc and bareback bronc but chose to focus on bull riding and bareback during college.
“I am hoping to get back into saddle bronc as soon as possible,” Williams adds, already looking towards next season.
Last year, Williams qualified with the Thunderbird team to ride in his first CNFR. This year, he is the only T-Bird to competing at the Finals.
“I was shocked I am the only one,” says Williams. “There were a lot of really good guys that were on the bubble during the last qualifier that didn’t make it.”
“We have had an excellent year,” says Tom Parker, rodeo coach for the Casper College Thunderbirds. “We had some ups and downs, but we just were not quite there. However, I am excited about the team we have coming back next year and the kids we have coming in.”
Preparing for the ride
Williams is proud that he made it to the finals on his own merit. He is also preparing for the CNFR by “doing what I did all season – working out and hitting rodeos so I can keep in practice.”
Going into the CNFR, Williams plans to employ the techniques that have helped him place in the top spots during the season.
“In bull riding, you try not to think about what you are doing before you ride, so everyone makes jokes in the chute,” William states. “This is so we don’t over think our ride and freeze up.”
Williams also explains that bull riding is less about reading the animal and more about reacting.
“When I think I know what the animal is going to do next, it is probably going to do the exact opposite,” Williams says.
Hard work pays off
Williams has been going strong all season with a first place finish in bull riding at Central Wyoming College. He also won the all-around title with a second place bull riding finish and third place in bareback riding at Sheridan College.
“Neil has done an outstanding job this year,” says Parker. “He worked his events and was in contention for both events right up until the last rodeo. He had a good year for both events and was in contention for the all-around. He has done an amazing job.”
Williams will be competing in rodeos up until the CNFR begins and is feeling confident heading into the finals.
“I feel really good about the CNFR,” he says. “I have been doing really good at the rodeos, so that is a confidence boost, and I have had a lot of support from the community.”
“The team has been very supportive of Neil going to the finals,” says Parker. “We work as a team, not as an individuals. We are going to be there rooting him on and helping him any way we can.”
He also says his family has been a huge support. His father, who also rode bulls in high school, has encouraged him every season.
Plans after college
Williams, a drafting and design major at Casper College, plans on staying in the rodeo circuit after graduation.
“I plan on doing pro rodeo as long as possible and try and hold off on getting a real job,” Williams chuckles.
With only sophomore standing, Williams has ample time to compete in more CNFRs, gaining the experience he needs for professional rodeo.
His passion for the sport also drives him to perform at his best in local rodeos and at the CNFR.
“Rodeo is a lot of fun, and I can’t think of many other sports that can pay for a college education,” Williams says. “I also like the accomplishment. The greatest sense of accomplishment I can have is riding an animal. I wrestled in high school and won at that but it did not give that sense of accomplishment as conquering an animal that is out to get you does.”
Kelsey Tramp is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.