Bubba Miller knows all about bigger rodeos and what it takes to make them successful.
And Miller, who has been the rodeo coach at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, since 2008, believes the Junior NFR presented by YETI is on its way to becoming one of those rodeos. The Junior NFR had its inaugural run last year with more than 300 kids competing in six events. This year’s version features almost 600 cowboys and cowgirls from across the United States, as well as kids from Canada, Australia and Mexico, competing in eight events.
“I’ve already talked to a bunch of people who see this thing getting even bigger next year,” said Miller, whose women’s team won the national championship at the College National Finals Rodeo in June. “We’re going to see high school and junior high kids who have already competed on a big stage. So when they get to Casper for the college finals they’re already going to primed and ready for that level.
“So many junior high and high school rodeos before now have just been big playdates, where it took all day to run events,” Miller added. “These kids now are getting in front of hundreds or thousands of people so they are definitely going to be ready for the big stage of college rodeo.”
Miller’s 14-year-old son Bradley won the first go-round of junior bareback bronc riding with a 79-point ride. Last year’s bareback bronc riding champ has been around big rodeos before. And he is excited to be part of the Junior NFR’s future.
“I think this is going to get bigger and better,” Bradlee Miller said. “The kids are better and the stock is a lot better and a lot stronger.
“We’re all pushing each other to be better so that one day we can be professional bareback riders.
Hopefully one day you’ll see some of us at the Thomas & Mack.”
Obviously, Bubba Miller is spending this week watching his son compete at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena. After that he’ll be watching his daughter competing in the junior barrel racing beginning Tuesday. But that’s not the only reason the rodeo coach and father is in Las Vegas.
“I’m here recruiting,” Bubba Miller said. “There are kids here who are 17 years old, some of them are seniors in high school. In fact, I’ve got two kids here that I expect to be on my rodeo team next year. So I’m recruiting as well as watching my kids. I’m watching my own son, but I’m trying to win a national championship at the collegiate level as well.”
In addition to being a father and coach, Bubba Miller is also a stock contractor. His Branded for Christ rodeo livestock is part of the Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association. And from that perspective Miller believes the Junior NFR has its best days ahead.
“With us being stock contractors and part of the Junior NFR qualifiers, I expect this thing to be huge,” he said. “In the younger age groups these miniature bulls have got those short legs, but these kids get the feel of the size of the bulls. If you look at the kids in the 14-17 age group they’re getting on real bulls. There are some bulls that my college kids practice on that are here today.
“The Junior NFR is the real deal.”