Roper Review: Luke Brown
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
Earning $2 million as a professional cowboy is a milestone that PRCA team roper, Luke Brown, recently surpassed. Coming from east of the Mississippi, Luke still hasn’t fully accepted that he is in such an elite group, with only 30 cowboys to achieve those career earnings, out of thousands competing in the history of the sport. “Realizing I had passed the $2-million mark was pretty unbelievable but recognizing that I was one of such a small group of cowboys that had done it was mind-blowing; some of the greatest cowboys that have ever lived have had careers in the PRCA.”
The Rock Hill, South Carolina native remembers well the day he passed the $1 million threshold in earnings, “My wife Lacy made a cake that said ‘Millionaire’ on it, and even though I had spent most of what I had earned, it was cool knowing I’d accomplished that.” Luke feels that this second million was slightly easier to achieve because of the increase in great paying rodeos. He earned $71,134 during the 2018 WNFR alone, and with more rodeos offering great payouts, it’s propelling cowboys to increased earnings at a faster rate.
Growing up, Luke Swann Brown III was the oldest of the three Brown brothers born to Luke Jr. and Debbie Brown. His parents owned a construction company, and Luke, Jay and Cody spent their childhood roping and competing in junior and high school rodeos. While competing in the South Carolina High School Rodeo Association, Luke won 6 state titles, claiming 2 titles in the all-around, team roping and tie-down roping before graduating from Northwestern High School in 1992. Luke went on to Howard College in Big Springs, Texas to college rodeo for two seasons while studying for an agriculture degree. He returned to Rock Hill and went to work, while rodeoing in the SRA, IPRA, and attending many PRCA rodeos.
A pivotal year for Luke was 2007, as he made the decision to move to Stephenville, Texas, live in his horse trailer, and make roping a full-time career. “I knew I was either going to have to go all in or get a better job and just make roping a hobby.” Luke credits much of the change in his path to professional ropers Allen Bach and Chad Masters. “Spending time with Allen, roping with him, and getting to be around some professionals that roped for a living, opened my eyes a lot. I watched their game plan as they practiced, noticed their priorities, and copied some of that to make a plan for my own roping. I lived with Chad Masters and he helped to change my roping style. I started catching better, riding better, and worked hard at the fundamentals; I had more of a blueprint for how I wanted to rope. Then, I got lucky and got a great horse, started getting better partners, and I never looked back.”
Kevin Daniels loaned Luke a blaze-faced sorrel gelding named Slim Shady to practice on and help sell. Luke had recently lost two of his good horses, so riding Slim Shady was a blessing that he needed. “He was goofy about certain things, but he could run, and I roped so good on him. We started clicking, then went to winning, and I rode him until two years ago when I retired him; he’s 25 now.” Luke roped on Slim Shady that first season, competing on him at his first WNFR in 2008, while Kevin still owned him. “After the USTRC finals that year, I placed third with Jade Corkill and had enough money to buy Slim, so I paid Kevin for him as soon as I came home. Kevin had never said a word about it, he just told me to pay for him when I could, and I did.” Since retiring Slim Shady, the past two seasons Luke has ridden a palomino gelding that Brandon Webb gave to him and his daughter, Libby, 5. “He’s done great for me, but 2018 was his last WNFR, and now he’s my daughter’s to ride. She’s starting to enjoy riding, and it’s fun to see her on him.” Luke and his wife Lacy were married in 2011; she grew up in Texas in a family of cutting horse trainers. “Lacy and I enjoy roping together, and she takes care of all the hard stuff for our family so I can just focus on roping.” Luke is now mainly riding another palomino gelding he calls Fast Time, and still thinking about what horse he will ride for the 2019 WNFR.
For 11 years, there has not been a December that Luke hasn’t rolled in to Las Vegas to compete at the WNFR. He has qualified as one of the top 15 headers in the world every season since making that decision to go all-in. “Every single finals is exciting, but I’ll never forget the first time, it was an unforgettable moment. I’d never been there or watched it live or anything, so it was pretty unbelievable when I first drove in. I still half-way don’t believe that this guy from South Carolina is where he is now.” For the last three years, Luke’s heeler has been Jake Long, and they’ve been a dominant pairing in the PRCA. This season, Luke will be roping with Paul Eaves, and he’s looking forward to a successful partnership with him. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to me doing the best I can do. I feel lucky to be a header because I have a lot of control over the money I make. These heelers are phenomenal, they have to deal with whatever you give them, but if you give them something to look at, they’re going to catch.”
Most of Luke’s days include practicing and riding horses. “I don’t go to bed at night without a practice plan for the next day. I try to keep a consistent schedule so that my horses are ridden how they need, and so I work on areas I need for myself each day. I’m pretty hard-headed about staying disciplined and have found that if I stay to the basics and don’t get over or under-confident things go better. Some of the best advice I’ve heard is from Trevor Brazile; he said, ‘the shorter memory span you have the better off you’ll be. Do the best you can on that steer, then go to the next one and do the best you can.’ You keep doing the best you can on the steer you’re roping at the time, and at the end of the year the results will be there.”
Luke appreciates his sponsors: Classic Ropes, Martin Saddles, 3S Services, All Nations Oilfield, Purina, Priefert, Wrangler, Smarty, Rodeo Rigs, Roberson Hill Ranch Cattle, Durango Boots, and Bill Fick Ford.