story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
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Meet the Member JT Ellison
story by Michele Toberer
Expectations of greatness are nothing new for Calera, Alabama SPRA cowboy JT Ellison, as he steps in to the next chapter of his life. After winning the 2018 Champion Alabama High School Rodeo Association All-Around Cowboy title, Reserve Champion Steer Wrestler and Tie-down Roper and Champion Boys Cutting titles to finish his senior year, he is now on his path to the future with a rodeo scholarship at the University of West Alabama. JT plans to graduate with a degree in veterinary sciences, so that he can follow in his mom, Dr. Rhonda Ellison’s footsteps. Kenny Ellison, JT’s dad, set a rodeo example for his son, and grew up competing on both ends of the arena, first with roughstock events and later focusing on team roping. Kenny is a retired aircraft mechanic who once worked on Army planes. Rhonda began team roping and breakaway roping once she was married to Kenny, and besides being a veterinarian and serving as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves, she makes time to enter SPRA rodeos and is currently one of the top 12 breakaway ropers, and just outside the top 15 in team roping, heading for JT. Kenny and Rhonda competed in the Professional Armed Forces Rodeo Association and were the 2011 and 2012 World Champion PAFRA Team Ropers. “Nothing beats roping with your parents, some nights it can be tricky, if I miss I might hear about it awhile, if they miss it can be awkward, but we do it for fun and I enjoy roping with both my mom and dad.”
JT remembers roping and riding as early as 6-years-old but was 9 or 10 before becoming more dedicated to the sport. He focused on team roping until starting calf roping at 14, and steer wrestling when he was 16-years-old. JT has competed in multiple associations over the years, as well as qualifying for the Junior NFR, making the trip to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete in steer wrestling. He enjoyed his rookie year with the Southeast Professional Rodeo Association, “I qualified for the 2017 SPRA finals, and it was a lot of fun, I ended up 4th in the bulldogging average and 5th in the average in calf roping.”
Steer wrestling, calf roping, and team roping with Cody Stubbs on the college rodeo team will no doubt keep the college freshman busy, but he looks forward to continuing his run for the 2018 SPRA finals this year. “I really enjoy the SPRA rodeos, I like the aspect of everyone being able to compete in the rodeo. It’s very family oriented; you see people of all different ages trying to win, and everyone has a good shot if they make good runs.”
JT has several horses that he’s trained for their events and has brought them to college with him. Bolt is an 8-year-old sorrel bulldogging horse, that used to be a flagging horse, and his hazing partner is Jim, a chestnut, 14-year-old ex-head horse that didn’t like to rate. For calf roping JT now turns to a 14-year-old sorrel, Jack, since he has decided to leave his main calf horse, and first-horse-ever, Smoke, so that the dappled grey 22-year-old can enjoy the greener pastures at home. JT enjoys heeling on the 12-year-old roan, Willie, “He is funny because he’s afraid of cows if they face him, but he’s fine roping the back end!”
JT appreciates the instruction his dad has given him in his rodeo events, as well as Milton Reeder who has been like a second dad to him and hazes for him at rodeos.
Although he likes to fish when he has time, extra time is not generally available, “Rodeo is worth the time and effort to me, spending all week practicing so that I can make 5 or 6 runs on the weekend, it’s something I love to do.” After vet school, JT dreams of kicking up the arena dirt in iconic rodeos such as Cheyenne, Pendleton and Salinas, and often watches those rodeos as well as the National Finals Rodeo to improve his own skills.
JT appreciates his sponsors, RopeSmart and Champion Ropes, as well as his parents, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”