KC Jones: World-Class Cowboy & Industry Titan
THE ODDS OF KC JONES BECOMING A WORLD-CLASS COWBOY AND INDUSTRY TITAN HAD TO BE SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SLIM AND NONE. RAISED ON A FARM IN THE TINY TOWN OF LAS ANIMAS, COLORADO, BY TWO SCHOOL TEACHERS OF MODEST MEANS, YOUNG KC WAS TOO SMALL TO BE A BIG-TIME BULLDOGGER. BUT HE ALWAYS THOUGHT BIG AND OUTSIDE THE BOX ABOUT EVERYTHING FROM HIS OWN COMPETITIVE-COWBOY AMBITIONS TO HOW THE BAR COULD BE RAISED FOR ALL OF RODEO. ARMED WITH A BUSINESS MARKETING DEGREE, A WORK ETHIC THAT WOULD NOT QUIT AND AN INNOVATIVE, HIGH-TECH VISION THAT’S AS FIERCE AS THE STEER WRESTLING SKILLS THAT EARNED HIM NINE WRANGLER NATIONAL FINALS RODEO BACK NUMBERS, THE SR VICE PRESIDENT OF TETON RIDGE GAMING IS A PROVEN GAME CHANGER. NEVER BET AGAINST KC JONES.
We want to take cowboys to mainstream America and let people who live on concrete know what the cowboy is all about,” said Jones, 51. “Teton Ridge wants to elevate and expand the Western market, and that’s what I’ve always been about, promoting cowboys and the Western way of life.”
KC was raised on a farm in small-town America by middle-class parents who spent their working lives preparing young people to succeed in the world. Mom Ruby taught business and Dad Charles was the woodshop teacher at Las Animas High School. Knowing how hard it’s always been to make a living rodeoing, KC’s folks made him a deal: No turning pro without a college degree in hand.
Away their smart, young cowboy son went. He returned home with a business marketing degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, but still fixated with the full-blown bulldogging bug.
Small But Mighty
At 5’ 11” and 185 pounds, Jones didn’t physically stack up against the other top-flight steer wrestlers by the numbers. He was never the biggest, but he would not be outworked. He spent more time in the gym and more time in the practice pen, never taking no for an answer. Bottom line: KC had to find a way to win, and backing down from a challenge was not in his DNA. Jones has qualified for Rodeo’s Super Bowl in Vegas nine times, and has won some of the world’s biggest rodeos, from the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days to the California Rodeo in Salinas and Oregon’s Pendleton Round-Up.
The $2 million cowboy is also known for helping his cowboy friends over on the hazing side, including several assists at the NFR. In 2015, Jones won $400,000 at The American. He and wife Gayle now make their home on the Jones Ranch in Decatur, Texas, in “The house that #150 built” a reference to the steer he won the money on, who then lived out his days in a primo pasture on the Jones place.
OUTSIDE THE ARENA
If Jones has ever been criticized by his cowboy peers, it’s been for all the time and energy he’s devoted to the Western industry outside of the arena. To some, it looked like a distraction. To a guy with big ideas on how to explode the Western-industry business, it felt more like his duty. A day in the life of any NFR cowboy is grueling enough, but best of luck trying to keep pace with Jones in Vegas. He started cleaning stalls before daylight at Thomas & Mack, exercised his horses, then fed in time to hustle over to Cowboy Christmas and open the Pro Fantasy Rodeo booth by 9 a.m., which also includes keeping the Rodeo Vegas merch stocked. Both he and Gayle worked the booth, with Jones in and out while honoring sponsor obligations, attending autograph sessions, and managing Team Rodeo Vegas at The Mirage. From there, it was back to the Thomas & Mack to saddle up and run one or haze for a buddy, then hustle back to The Mirage to finish up the NFR Viewing Party and kick off the Official NFR After Party, which runs nightly until midnight. While in Vegas, Jones is lucky to hit the hay by 1 a.m., then it’s up before the sun to go at it again the next day, 10 full days at that pace!
Jones keeps insane hours at all times. His “war room” office at home features five live screens, so he can stay in step with his many irons in the fire. He calls it his “battle station,” and from those four walls comes a never-ending stream of ideas aimed at improving rodeo and the entire Western industry.
Jones fell in love with the cowboy lifestyle as a kid, and in his words, “Lived, breathed and slept the Western way of life.” But while he slept, the wheels never stopped turning on how he could make every aspect of the Western world bigger and better. Old status quo ideas were never going to cut it with this cowboy. Pro Fantasy Rodeo and Rodeo Vegas were born of those big dreams in 2003. Now in their 19th year, Jones pioneered the largest fan game and NFR entertainment extravaganza in professional rodeo history, and developed the Fan Magazine to make it fun and easy for fans to follow their favorite sport during the most pressure-packed 10 days of the year. “The NFR is the best two hours of anybody’s life,” KC said. “The energy and excitement of the best stock and best contestants makes it one of the premier sporting events in the world to watch. It’s given me chills watching it outside the arena, and I know what it’s like to be a cowboy down there in that dirt competing.”
Teaming up with Teton Ridge has made it possible to take Jones’s ideas off the shelf and implement them to present new experiences for fans and grow the Western Industry. He’s excited to introduce to fans and rodeo committees the new suite of Fan Games from Teton Ridge called Inside Rodeo. Games include Rodeo Guess, Rodeo Trivia, Rodeo Race, and Over/Under, all of which will be available to promote rodeo and engage fans in the action throughout each rodeo. Jones is also very excited about the new Fan Experience of Teton Ridge+, “It’s going to be a game changer. Teton Ridge+ is what this industry has needed to enable fans to stay abreast of the actions of rodeo athletes,” Jones explains. Athlete Profiles, Fantasy Corner, Gaming Hub, Instant Results, Statistics, Community Portal, and Athlete Schedules are just a few highlights that will be on Teton Ridge+.
To summarize, Jones said, “It’s thrilling, and I want more people to be able to experience it. This, in turn, will grow the sport. I’m proud to join a team of super successful people from humble beginnings who share my passion for the Western industry and the countless possibilities that lie ahead for us. I’ve been described as a guy who tackled farm animals for a living and is now tackling the technology needed to move this industry forward. It’s very gratifying to serve on a team with a war chest of talent focusing on the future of the Western industry. That, in a nutshell, is what Team Teton Ridge is! We’re here to grow and promote the Western lifestyle, and I’m all in.”
Article Written By Kendra Santos
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