FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Coming out of college Jacob Burks, originally from Glen Rose, Ark., and now a resident of Lancaster, had dreams of making a living as a cowboy in the professional rodeo circuit.
Now 38 years old, that dream has long since passed, but it hasn’t stopped him from saddling up his horse and getting his boots a little dusty every once in a while.
Burks, who annually competes in roughly 30 rodeos throughout the country, will be competing in his biggest event ever this Sunday, and you can watch him on T.V.
The long-time steer wrestler is among six “qualifiers” from throughout the country to compete in RFD TV’s “The American” this Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The event will be broadcast on RFD TV, which for Direct TV subscribers is channel 345, and for those of you on Dish, channel 231. The preshow begins at 1 p.m. with live broadcast of the event beginning at 2 p.m.
“The American” is promoted as the richest one-day rodeo event in Western sports history, and pits the top six “qualifiers” in each event up against the top 10 professionals in the world.
Each event will pay $100,000 for first place and $25,000 for second. There will also be a $1 million side pot for “qualifiers” who win his or her event.
Competitors in “The American” earned spots in one of two ways.
First off, the top 10 contestants in the world, in each event, received automatic invitations to Sunday’s event, while hopeful contestants, like Burks, had to go through qualifying competitions to make the cut.
The road to “The American” began for Burks on Aug. 16, of last year when he competed alongside his brother-in-law, Jon Ragatz, in Lexington, Tenn.
The two finished among the top 10 steer wrestlers, which qualified them for the semifinal round held in Fort Worth, Texas last Friday and Sunday.
In just the steer wrestling event alone, there were 126 competitors in the semifinals, all hoping to finish in the top six and earn a qualifier spot at “The American.”
On Friday, Burks took his steer down in a time of 5.37, which he was certain would be too slow to advance to Sunday’s second go-around.
While sitting around a camp fire at a friend’s house later that evening, Burks got the call on his cell phone that his was among the 10 times of the day and that he advanced to Sunday’s event.
On Sunday, Burks took his steer down in a time of 4.48, which was the second-best time of the day. Burks not only earned $13,392 for his efforts, but he also finished among the top six steer wrestlers at the semifinals, earning him a spot at “The American.”
“To be completely honest with you, I was on cloud nine,” Burks said of the accomplishment.
Since qualifying for “The American,” Burks has been back in Grant County this past week, where he works at First Capitol Ag in Platteville, and is an assistant varsity coach for the Lancaster girls basketball team.
He’ll be leaving for Arlington, Texas later this week and can’t wait to compete on Sunday.
“My honest gut reaction is that I expect I will have some jitters being in that stadium, but not nearly as much as I would have had in years past,” Burks said. “I think it’s because now I have so much more than just rodeo in my life.”
“Unlike some of those other guys, this isn’t how I make a living. Win or lose I can come back to what I’ve got going on in my life,” Burks added.
If Burks manages to win the steer wrestling competition, he will claim his stake to the $1 million prize, which will be awarded to, or shared amongst, any of the “qualifiers” who should happen to win their event.
There are 36 total qualifiers competing in seven events.
“Quite honestly, I’ll probably be more caught up in the aura and the atmosphere that night than I will about the prize money,” Burks said.