Meet the Member Eli Woodyard
story by Jet Toberer Second-generation team roper, Eli Woodyard, of small town Max Meadows, Virginia, has been roping since he was 8 years old, and […]
story by Kyle Eustice
At just 15 years old, Grayson County High School sophomore Levi Johnson already has his life path carved out. The Independent, Virginia native discovered his passion for rodeo at the ripe age of 4 and wholeheartedly decided to pursue it.
“My dad used to bull ride when he was younger,” explained Levi. “I would watch him when I was little and went from there.”
Levi lives with his parents, David and Jody Johnson, along with younger brother Luke, 12, and sister Lincoln, 2. His mother is a pharmacy tech and his father runs a cattle farm, which is five or six miles away from their home. As the eldest sibling, it’s a job he takes seriously.
“I want to set good examples for them,” said Levi. “I want them to do their best and always do what they love.”
So far, he’s off to a prodigious start in terms of following his heart. He joined the Virginia Rodeo Association at age 4, and began riding calves and sheep. At 5, he graduated to the North Carolina Rodeo Association, where he said the “competition was better.”
Eventually, Levi gravitated towards bull riding, even though his mother still gets nervous every time he gets ready to ride. “I really love it,” said Levi. “It come very easy and natural for me.”
Now a member of the JRSRA, SRA, NCGBRA, and NCYRA, among others, Levi juggles school, baseball and his rodeo commitments like a pro. He joined the JRSRA at 5 to continue honing his skills. The first time he got on a bull, he was just 8 years old.
“It was no different than a horse or sheep,” said Levi. “I liked it better. On a bigger bull, they buck harder and it’s easier than a steer.”
In his modest rodeo career, he’s already finished in the top five in the Junior World Finals, which are held in Abilene, Texas every year.
“It was a pretty big accomplishment,” said Levi. “I was all excited and happy. I don’t really get a rush like that. I’m usually calm and steady. It’s just what I love to do.”
Surprisingly, Levi doesn’t practice a lot in during peak rodeo season, but he admits whenever someone wants to get on some new bulls, he will be the first to volunteer. In the future, Levi wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and study Agricultural Business.
“I want to do something with beef cattle after I get out of high school,” said Levi. “So far, I’ve looked at North Carolina State. They have a great Agricultural Business program.”
Eventually, like many young bull riders, he dreams about one day joining the Professional Bull Riders association as soon as he graduates high school. For now, he’s focused on becoming the best bull rider, student and baseball player he can be.
“I’m on the varsity baseball team this year,” said Levi. “I play football and baseball for the most part. I’m a catcher this year. It’s really fun.”
Levi is anticipating his August trip to the Junior World Finals in Abilene with the NCYRA, and he admittedly doesn’t have a lot of free time. When he’s not in school, he’s heading to a rodeo on the weekends and is always on the go, part of is what is needed to be a successful rodeo contestant.
“It takes a lot of determination and confidence,” said Levi. “You have to try and put in a lot of effort. You have to have good sportsmanship, too. We don’t like people that throw fits and break stuff. It’s actually kind of funny to watch though [laughs].”
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