Drew Pearson, rodeo coach at Treasure Valley Community College (The Enterprise/Max Egener)
ONTARIO – Most people would call it quits after seriously breaking a leg in a first outing as a rodeo bullfighter.
But Drew Pearson, rodeo coach for Treasure Valley Community College, decided to make a career out of rodeo instead. Pearson has spent 25 years as a rodeo bullfighter — one of the guys in the arena distracting and rounding up bulls after they have pitched their riders.
He has been the TVCC rodeo coach for two years, and has already helped the team achieve major success. He said his experience in the industry gives him the ability to share a passion for rodeo with his students.
This year, the TVCC men’s team placed second in the Northwest region, allowing them to compete at the College National Finals Rodeo in Wyoming. It was the first time in more than two decades the entire men’s team competed in nationals. The women’s team placed fourth in the region.
At the finals, the Chukars competed against major universities where rodeo is big, such as Texas A&M.
Pearson’s ability to lead his community college team to that competition recently earned him the 2018 Northwest Region Coach of the Year award.
“It’s one of those years where I don’t know if you can top it,” Pearson said. “Everything just clicked.”
Raised in New Plymouth, Pearson has also been the Idaho Cowboys Association president for the last four years and he’s been on the board for 11 years. The association has named Pearson Bullfighter of the Year 15 times. Pearson said one of the keys to his team’s success is a supportive, close-knit culture.
“I know as a kid you’re gonna make mistakes,” Pearson said. “But at my spiel when we start in the fall, I give them my phone number and I tell them my line’s open all the time. Whatever you need, my door’s open.”
Pearson said his wife Kyla often jokes that he looks after his students like they’re his own kids. He agrees.
When Pearson is watching his students compete, he’s jumping around cheering them on and rooting for them more like a parent than a coach. When they get back to training, Pearson says he’s all business again.
Pearson’s own children – Hailey, Hayden, Paisley, and Pacey – love rodeo as much as their dad. They come to every Chukar team practice. Pacey, 6, wants to be a bull and bronc rider when he grows up.
“I told my wife that if that’s what he wants to do, then I want him to be the best at it,” Pearson said.
Pearson knows as well as anyone that the sport can be dangerous and that riding bulls takes a toll on the body. Pearson ensures his students engage in traditional academic studies, even though they may maintain dreams of becoming rodeo world champions.
“You want to teach them as many life skills as you can and you want to help them have something to fall back on,” Pearson said. “Rodeo is not a longevity career. Unless you’re a team roper or something like that, your span is 10, 15 years tops.”
Pearson thinks rodeo teaches life skills, including resilience.
“It teaches you a lot about getting knocked down, getting back up and getting back in there,” Pearson said.
Pearson wants to see the TVCC team continue to expand. He carries an average of 45 students each year. He’s committed to finding and recruiting the most talented students from both ranching families and non-ranching families from across the country.
“My goal is just bigger and better,” Pearson said. “I want to win some national titles here at Treasure Valley.”
Max Egener: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.