Easy-going and full of humility, Slatyr Hunnicutt is exactly the type of guy you hope he would be. The junior is in his second year at Texas A&M University-Commerce and a founding member of the university’s reinstated rodeo team. Hailing from Bonham, Texas, Hunnicutt says he grew up around rodeo. He went to them as a child, and he really got interested in doing it himself about five years ago.
“When I was growing up, my dad rodeoed,” said Hunnicutt. “My brother is a pick-up man for the rodeos, and he really got me started. Going with him and my friends, it made me want to get involved.”
Now, Hunnicutt is a full-fledged saddle bronc rider with a trip to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) under his belt. He is ranked 4th in the national standings for saddle bronc riding after the CNFR in June, where over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from over 100 universities compete each year. In the 2014 CNFR, Hunnicutt rode against 39 other bronc riders. The final round of the rodeo was broadcast on ESPNU on August 15, and it is currently being played in re-runs on the same channel. He also came in a close second in the year-end standings for the NIRA Southern Region, and he is the 2014 United Professional Rodeo Association (UPRA) Saddle Bronc Champion.
Hunnicutt transferred to A&M-Commerce at the suggestion of his rodeo coach at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. Coach C.J. Mohl advised some of the NTCC team to come to Commerce to finish their degrees and try to start up a team. Hunnicutt said they would be allowed to rodeo individually at first and then once a team was formed they could compete together.
“A few of us were already thinking of coming out here,” said Hunnicutt. “I brought three or four guys with me, and we really just built the team from there. Dr. Romero is our advisor, and he and Dr. Blount really helped us get everything we needed together to make this thing happen.”
A year later, A&M-Commerce’s rodeo team went from a few individuals to a club, and it is now a fully recognized university athletic team with funding and a new, full-time coach. The original program disbanded in the mid 1980’s, but the university administration had been discussing bringing it back for several years. Last fall, that plan came to life as ten National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) card holding students came together to kick start a new era of Lion Rodeo. Dr. Grady Blount, Department Chair for Applied Arts and Sciences, was the visionary for rekindling the team, and Dr. Edward Romero, the university’s Chief Diversity Officer, served as the advisor and coach last year. The new full-time coach is Dameon White.
“We’re all really excited about competing again, and I think, from what I’ve heard, everyone on campus is really excited to see what we’re going to do, too,” said Hunnicutt. “I think they’ve done a great job bringing us all together, and I’m just excited to keep this thing going.”
When he’s not in the rodeo arena, Hunnicutt is busy hitting the books. Majoring in Agricultural Science Technology, he also plans to get his teaching certification. He enjoys hunting, fishing and watching sports, but says football is his favorite. The 22 year old finished his final year of collegiate rodeo eligibility this spring, and now he plans to continue pursuing his dreams of rodeo and teaching as he finishes out his time at A&M-Commerce.