Evan Darbonne competes in every boys timed event in the Louisiana Junior High Rodeo Association. The Moss Bluff, La. cowboy, who is 14, is a […]
Roper Review: Cody Johnson
Written by: Teri Edwards< Back to Articles
Very few cowboys are able to achieve their rodeo dreams and build a business at the same time. To be successful at either requires significant time and dedication. But that’s exactly what Cody Johnson has done over the last few years.
At 49, Cody qualified for the PRCA First Frontier Circuit Finals last year, and owns Twisted J, in Stephenville, Texas, with his wife, Luann. Cody and Luann have three children: Bayli, 25, Tori, 23, and Clay, 16.
Cody grew up on the family ranch in Lingleville, Texas, and as a youngster tried riding bulls and rough stock. He also spent time as a jockey and assistant trainer in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Though he had always roped on the ranch, Cody had never team roped and in his early 20’s a friend got him started. He had been playing at it for a couple of years when he met Luann, a successful barrel racer.
“The first few years we were married, we went pretty hard,” says Cody. “But when you’re raising kids priorities change, so there was about twelve years or so that I really couldn’t afford to pick up a rope.
“After my dad passed away, we moved back to the ranch. I built an arena because the kids were going to high school rodeos and I started roping in the practice pen. One night when I came in the house Luann said, ‘It’s time for you to put up or shut up. You never go anywhere and I’m tired of hearing how good you are.’”
Not long after, in January 2012, a nervous Cody entered a Brother-in-Law roping in Glen Rose, Texas.
“I had been out of it for so long, I was as nervous as a kid on his first day of school. I entered 20 times on a barrel horse reject. He wasn’t great but he was all I had. I didn’t win anything, but felt like I roped pretty good.”
A few weeks later, a confident Cody and some friends loaded up in the bus they used for high school rodeos and made the trip to Jacksonville, Florida for the NTRL finals.
“I felt like I was roping good, and was having the time of my life and really enjoying the camaraderie,” says Cody. “Once I got there I didn’t rope well at all. I entered with Speed Williams and he was teasing me a little. It really had an impact on me and I realized I needed to refocus and commit if I was going to get better. I would have to pay my dues again.”
That year Cody worked at his roping and at a World Series roping in Hugo, OK, secured one of the last available qualifications for the World Series Finals in Las Vegas. During those finals Johnson placed a couple of times and won a little money, but was still dreaming about rodeo.
Cody knew the importance of surrounding yourself with talent and how it makes you try harder. So, he began been spending time with professional ropers like Dakota Kirchenschlager and Cesar de la Cruz.
“After learning from those guys and working to emulate their mental and physical training, I told my wife I wanted to get my PRCA card and make a run at the First Frontier Circuit finals. Her reply was, ‘I would rather you go and fail, than to not go at all.’ So, with her blessing, I loaded up and headed north for four months and made the circuit finals last year at the age of 49. I am living proof that dreams do come true if you work hard enough.”
Unfortunately an old shoulder injury required surgery early this year and Johnson will be out for the remainder of 2018. He plans on coming back bigger and better in 2019.
“I love the western lifestyle and heritage and like to think I make an impact. I believe America still loves the American cowboy and if it weren’t for the fans rodeo cowboys would not have a job. Rodeo is not always easy and almost impossible without sponsors. I have some great sponsors and believe in being loyal and holding up my end of that relationship.”
When Johnson started traveling in 2012 he met producers, John Johnson and Troy Shelly, and credits these relationships, among others, in the roping and rodeo industry for the growth Twisted J has enjoyed. Twisted J started as a small boutique and has evolved into a merchandise company that now occupies a 22,000 square foot building in Stephenville, Texas.
“Initially we got started by acquiring licensing agreements for some major western companies. We now do screen printing and embroidery in house for some of the largest companies in the industry. At Twisted J we focus on quality and customer service and that philosophy has served us well.”
Several years ago, Twisted J was invited to set up a gifting suite at the Golden Globes in Hollywood, California. Cody and Luann gladly participated and saw this as a prime branding opportunity. Not long after, they received a similar invitation for the Oscars with a request for ‘the cowboy from Texas.’
The following year Stephen Tyler, front man for Aerosmith, released a country album. He also wanted to align with a western company that would help support his charity for neglected and abused women, Janies Fund. The Johnsons gladly accepted the challenge and have enjoyed a friendship with Tyler as a result.
A trip to Nashville sparked the idea for their latest successful venture.
“We were considering opening a location in Nashville. That didn’t work out, but what we saw there were boutiques with small stages where local artists would perform. We bounced a lot of ideas around and eventually built a stage and bar in our building. Now, with Twisted J Live, we have a state of the art music venue where acts from all over the country perform.”
“If it weren’t for my travels in rodeo and roping, our business wouldn’t be what it is today. Without the relationships and clients like Resistol and Stephen Tyler, Twisted J as it is, would not exist.”
“I enjoy what I do and realize I am incredibly blessed. But I also know this journey would not be possible without the support of my family, friends, and sponsors.”
How much do you practice?
When I’m healthy and able, every day.
Do you make your own horses?
Who have been your rodeo or roping heroes?
Speed Williams, Cesar, Dakota, Russell Cardoza. I admire anyone who has made it to that level because it is not easy.
Who do you respect most in the world?
My mother, Linda.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My wife, Luann. She has always believed in me and encouraged me.
If you had a day off what would you like to do?
Spend it with my family.
What’s the last thing you read?
Wall Street Journal.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Fun, loyal, generous.
What makes you happy?
What makes you angry?
Takers – people who take and don’t give back.
What is your worst quality – your best?
My best quality is being ethical. My worst quality is I can be hard headed.