NLBRA Jr. Rookies of the Year

by Rodeo News
Hadley Miller, Jr. Boy Rookie of the year and Morgan Whitsett, Jr. Girl Rookie of the Year at the 2014 Montana Silversmiths buckle presentation in Las Vegas, NV
Hadley Miller, Jr. Boy Rookie of the year and Morgan Whitsett, Jr. Girl Rookie of the Year at the 2014 Montana Silversmiths buckle presentation in Las Vegas, NV

Hadley Miller, Jr. Boy Rookie of the year and Morgan Whitsett, Jr. Girl Rookie of the Year at the 2014 Montana Silversmiths buckle presentation in Las Vegas, NV – Photo by Molly Morrow Photography


Hadley Miller, the 14-year-old recipient of the 2014 NLBRA Junior Boy Rookie of the Year award, is every bit sincere about rodeoing as his title suggests. At first, he didn’t believe it when a friend told him he’d won the award, but when his parent’s  confirmed that he’d won Rookie of the Year, Hadley was delighted. He and his parents, Robbin and Billy, travelled from their home in Boyd, Texas, to Las Vegas, Nev., for Hadley to ride mini bulls at the WNFR, and receive his award buckle from Montana Silversmiths. “I sat with Morgan Whitsett (2014 NLBRA Junior Girl Rookie of the Year) during the award ceremony, and the music and lights were blaring. I went out on stage, and it was pretty overwhelming,” Hadley recalls of his extraordinary experience. “A special buckle calls for a special belt, but I haven’t found just the right one yet.”
While in Las Vegas, Hadley watched a round of the WNFR and helped with Little Britches ticket sales for a saddle they were raffling off. He rode mini bulls three days straight, winning the first round and placing third in the average. He came home even more inspired about rodeo than before. “My motivation to rodeo is being good at the sport and doing my best in each event. Rodeo teaches you a lot of responsibility, patience, and how to work with a big animal and teach it to do what you want it to.”
Hadley competes in the NLBRA in tie-down roping, team roping as a header, dally ribbon roping, and bull riding – his favorite of the four events. He even won the Tuff Hedeman Champion Challenge at Fort Worth in 2010 and 2011. Hadley’s dad used to ride bareback horses, which first drew Hadley to his own roughstock event, having also watched his dad rope. A love for playdays when he was younger turned into a serious passion for rodeo, causing Hadley to give up school sports and even 4-H to pursue it more intensely. He has done this with the help of his trusty mare, Daffy, an 18-year-old Quarter Horse that Hadley’s dad trained from a two year old. “She’s really carried me through Little Britches, and I’ve won several saddles and buckles on her,” says Hadley. “Pretty much every rodeo, she’s there in the trailer! My friend Bucky Shepherd is using Daffy for poles this year, which Daffy hasn’t done for two years, and they’ve already got her running 22’s.”
Beyond rodeo, Hadley is an eighth grader at Boyd Middle School. He particularly enjoys his career training class where he’s learning about colleges, college budgets, and scholarships, among other things. Hadley does plan to college rodeo and pursue a degree in Ag. Business, but his main goal is to go pro. “I’d like to be the first man to make it on both sides of the arena – roughstock and roping – at the WNFR, as well as winning the all-around.”


Morgan Whitsett from Healdton, Okla., was honored to be awarded the 2014 NLBRA Junior Girl Rookie of the Year. In December, the 13 year old flew to Las Vegas, Nev., with her parents, Chris and Kilby, and grandparents, Gary and Linda Giles, to receive her sparkling Montana Silversmiths buckle. It now sits in a place of honor on the Whitsetts’ coffee table. “The awards ceremony was really fun, and overwhelming!” says Morgan. “There were so many people, and it was a huge honor to be backstage with the best people in the rodeo business. To go on the same stage that they’re fixing to walk on was amazing!”
Morgan and her family attended a performance of the WNFR one evening and also saw the sights of Las Vegas, from visiting hotels like Mandalay Bay and Circus Circus to shopping at Cowboy Christmas. “One of my favorite things I did was getting the autographs of some of the professional athletes,” says Morgan. She met several of her rodeo idols, including Sherry Cervi and Kassidy Dennison, and even had a brief conversation with Trula Churchill before her autograph session. “My dad and I were waiting to go into the Las Vegas Convention Center, and Trula Churchill’s dad came and sat beside us and talked with us!” Morgan also recalls excitedly. She equally enjoyed catching up with friends she hadn’t seen since the fall.
The Whitsetts first heard about the NLBRA from Oklahoma-North Texas Little Britches President Toby Martin. “He invited us to come to a Little Britches rodeo,” Morgan remembers. “We went to our first one and loved it, and after having so many people telling us about Little Britches, we decided it was time to pack up and go to their rodeos!” Morgan competes in all of the junior girls events except team roping, and in 2014, won the all-around, barrel racing, pole bending, ribbon running, and trail course championships in the Oklahoma-North Texas franchise, in addition to reserve goat tying champion. She went into 2015 sitting in the top 15 in the all-around standings. “I was right where I wanted to be by the new year, and hopefully by July I’ll be in the top five!”
Morgan has been getting her horses, Nikki and Shady, ready to rodeo again this month. “They’ve been too fresh for thinking!” Morgan says with a laugh. She is also starting several colts, and is interested in being an equine chiropractor when she is older. For now, she continues to be a straight A student at Healdton Middle School and play basketball with the Healdton Bulldogs.
The Oklahoma cowgirl concludes, “My experiences in Las Vegas make me want to keep going, and has been an inspiration to keep striving for what I want. Hard work pays off – you’re not always losing if you’re always working hard. Winning Rookie of the Year was definitely a big reward!

                © Rodeo Life Media Corporation | All Rights Reserved • Laramie, Wyoming • 307.761.9053

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