ProFile: J.C. Malone
Written by: Kendra Santos< Back to Articles
All-night drives, truck-stop coffee, fast food, and a laundry list of expenses that never seem to end. There are thousands of easier occupations than the life of a professional rodeo cowboy, and it’s pretty tough at times to make it pencil, even for a world-class-caliber contestant. One big check can be a game-changer that loosens the financial noose from around your neck. Just ask J.C. Malone.
The 33-year-old, family-man tie-down roper from Plain City, Utah, works multiple day jobs to make ends meet and complement his cowboy career, in order to cover his mortgage. So the opportunity to compete at the million-dollar, July 19-21 and 23-24 Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo was a big deal. And the $27,800 that hit his roping hand while the silver medal was being placed around his neck at rodeo’s end in Salt Lake City was huge.
“This one rodeo was worth as much as my best month ever,” said Malone, who finished 18th in the world in 2015 before ending the 2016 season in the 16th-place heartbreak hole. “Twenty-five grand’s a lot of money, and when you get a check like that at one rodeo, it really makes a difference in your year. It’s a lot more typical to work your butt off for three months to win that much.
“Between trucks, trailers, horses, fuel, food, and entry fees, there is so much overhead in our sport. This is a very hard way to make a living. So this kind of money coming into our sport is a breath of fresh air. Money like this pays stuff off, and lets you invest in something for your future, and your family.”
After two consecutive close calls, Malone broke through last season, and achieved his lifelong goal of qualifying for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2017. After having a “decent” 2018 winter, he says his spring and summer seasons were “pretty slow. Salt Lake saved my year.”
Malone and his wife, Mandy, have two young kids. Treyson is 7, and his little sister, Macie, is 4. The Malones recently built a house, that’s also home to Mandy’s nail salon. Add “Mr. Mom” to J.C.’s list of day jobs when he’s not off rodeoing. He’s also a horseshoer at home and on the rodeo road, and works alongside his dad, Bryan, on their J.B. Trailer Conversions business.
Malone took advantage of the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s Virtual Rodeo Qualifier system to punch his ticket to the Days of ’47. He nominated three Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos, in Hayward and Redding, California, and St. Paul, Oregon, and earned the points it took to get him into Salt Lake by placing in a round at St. Paul.
“We all have our favorite rodeos—rodeos we love, where we feel like we have an advantage,” Malone said. “Those are the ones I’m going to nominate, where I like my chances of winning something.”
The top two times from each of the preliminary performances advanced to the Gold Medal Round in Salt Lake, and Malone moved on by being 7 flat on his first calf, and tying at the top with Kyle Parrish of Stephenville, Texas. Malone then rose to the Gold-Medal-Round occasion, and turned in the first 6-second run of his career. Gold Medalist Cory Solomon, who cashed checks totaling $52,400 for first, was 6.6, and Malone was hot on his heels at a sizzling 6.7.
Contestants are currently busy using the Virtual Rodeo Qualifier system to try and secure a spot at the $500,000 WCRA Semifinals, coming November 15-18 to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. In addition to the Days of ’47, the WCRA will host three “majors” in 2019, each of which will feature a $1 million guaranteed payoff.
“This money makes a difference in my life, and that’s for second,” said Malone, who got it done with the help of close friend Cody Hill’s 18-year-old gray mare, Lucy. “I can’t say that about very many rodeos in my career. We’re going to finish a barn at home, and take the kids to Disneyland this fall. This kind of money makes it possible to call this sport a career instead of a hobby, and money is what makes any sport truly professional.
“Salt Lake was such a first-class event. I wish every rodeo was just like it. I love rodeo more than anything, and would love to see more chances of this caliber for cowboys. The competition is so tough, and we all know they aren’t going to give it away. But the opportunity is there, and that’s something we’re all very thankful for as cowboys.”