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Meet the Member Jesse Cook
story by Michele Toberer
Coming back to his roots has been at the forefront of Jesse Cook’s life the past couple of years. Growing up in Prattville, Alabama with a family deep in rodeo traditions, Jesse was riding horses by himself at two years old, roping off a horse when he was 5, and chute dogging his first steer at just 7 years old. “My dad is Ricky Cook and he was a big ACA and IPRA cowboy. He calf roped and team roped but is mainly known for his bulldogging. My mom, Jessie Cook, rodeoed also, so rodeo was always a big part of my life.” After taking some time off from rodeo, Jesse is grateful to be on the road back, and his future is looking bright.
While he was a student at Autauga Academy, he competed in junior high and high school rodeo for the state of Alabama. He placed 6th in ribbon roping, 15th in chute dogging and 10th in all-around as an eight-grade competitor. Competing in high school for AHSRA he was a national finals qualifier his junior and senior year and finished his senior year as the AHSRA Reserve Champion Steer Wrestler despite having his knee out of commission at the finals, causing him to lose places in the standings. Jesse also competed at the IFYR in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and in 2008, his junior year, he ended up 7th place in steer wrestling. Jesse suffered several injuries during his young steer wrestling career, resulting in three knee surgeries between the ages of 18 and 23.
“I started team roping with Randall Pringle and Zack Hester a couple years ago, and it felt good to get back to rodeo. They really helped me get back to it and get my mind back where it needed to be and got me on a better track.” Jesse bought his Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association card last year, and met his girlfriend, Jessica Grace, who he credits for really helping him get his life together and back doing what he loves to do. While at the rodeos as a header, Jesse started gravitating towards the bulldoggers, “It just runs in my genes, I get more excited about steer wrestling than team roping.” Jesse appreciates bulldoggers like Zack Varner and Gus Maraman, who brought him under their wing, letting him ride their horses all season, and encouraging him to get back to his passion. Jesse qualified for the SPRA season finals last season, finishing in 5th place as a header and 15th place in steer wrestling. “I had a bad finals in steer wrestling but I made it there; it was the first finals I had tried to make since high school, and I’m 28 now, so I was just grateful I qualified.”
This season is a new chapter in Jesse’s life. He moved to Jasper, Alabama last year, where he helps Jessica trade horses, and he also works cattle, does ranch work, and cuts hay with Jessica’s family. He has started heeling this year on a 7-year-old buckskin gelding he purchased in October. “He’s a Dual Spark son, and I call him Bucky. He had only run 20 steers when I bought him, but we’re doing really good. I’m heeling for several different headers this season and so far, I’m sitting first in the SPRA standings. Jesse is also sitting in fifth place in steer wrestling and is determined to keep working towards his goal of winning it all this season. “I might rope calves at the end of the season if I’m looking like I have a good chance at winning the all-around title. I want to prove that I can come back and compete at a high level like I used to.”
“I appreciate my family. My mom sends me inspirational quotes to keep me up and motivated, and I call my dad before every run to get his advice. He breaks down what I should be thinking about and reinforces the fundamentals. It helps me slow things down and focus, and it’s been like a good luck charm. And my granddaddy, Billy Cook has backed me since day one through everything, and he cooks the best beefaroni ever.”