Roper Review – Justin McMillion & Bill Evans

by Siri Stevens

Justin Mcmillion and William Evans were the winners of the #10 American Cowboy, winning $70,000 in AT&T stadium on March 3. “It was unbelievable,” said Justin, a 29 year old farmer from Ohio. “Getting to rope where the professionals are and backing into the box in that stadium was mind blowing. It was a lot of time and traveling to get there, but it was worth it.” Justin made the 15 hour drive to Texas after qualifying through a series of ropings put on in the SouthEast. “It was held in conjunction with the World Series and you had to win a #10 American Qualifier, then they had 8 qualifed teams from the East go to a match roping in Jacksonville, and the top four went to Decatur to run three steers – the top six teams from there roped in the short go at Dallas.

“Around our area, everyone was scared to enter because nobody really knew what we were roping for. The whole deal cost $200, and we got paid $600 for winning the roping, then we got $2,500 to show up in Texas,” he said. The money is going to replacement farm equipment, a third child due in June, and maybe a new head horse. After his win at The American, he remembers they took his horse and he didn’t see him for an hour. “Not knowing where my animal was drove me nuts. And the only thing I wanted to do is go see my wife and celebrate with her and the friends I had down there.”

Justin farms 400 acres in Covington, Ohio, raising corn, beans, and hay. He is married Brianna and they have two children and one on the way. Hunter is 10, Cheyenne is 5, and Weston Paul is due in June. Farming works into his roping schedule just fine as most of his roping is done in the winter months and he travels to Johnny Johnson’s ropings in the southeast to rope. “My wife and I leave on Wednesdays, so our parents watch them for us.” Brianna works as a nurse, and works her schedule around his roping. “I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for her helping me with the horses,” said the #5 header and #5 heeler. Justin grew up around team roping, but never took an interest in it until he met my wife, who is a barrel racer. “She starts all my horses from three year olds. A couple horses I’ve used to get there, she did all the work on them so I could go do what I did on them.” He also takes good care of his horses while traveling, using Soft Ride and Back on Track leg wraps.

Since Jacksonville, Florida, Justin has been on a roll. “Hard work pays off – you put your mind to it. I set my goal in January to qualify for the American. And if I qualified, I was going to win it … and it happened,” he said. “I have an indoor barn at the house and we rope three times a week no matter the weather. We were out there at 10 degrees one day roping and riding the horses.”

He doesn’t get to practice with Bill Evans too often, who split the win with Justin in Dallas. “He lives two and a half hours from me, but we rope together down south whenever we can.”

“I met Justin through ropings and we’ve been roping together for a long time,” said the 49-year-old father of two who drives 1.5 hours one way twice a week to practice. “My wife is in the truck every time to support me. She takes care of the horses, makes sure she has the paperwork for the horses and she’s my biggest supporter.” Kriston hardly rides, but she takes care of the horses making sure everything is set to go when they travel. They have two daughters, Jess (24) and Jen (22) and they both have children of their own.

Bill is in the construction business, building and remodeling, the owner of Elite Building Group for 33 years. “I’ve had my own company since I was out of high school,” he said. “Kriston takes care of all the office stuff, employee paperwork, and the farm when I’m not around “They took some of their winnings from the American and buy a food truck that they will be picking up soon. “We’re going to focus on the big factories where they can’t take off for lunch.” They have decided to ease out of the construction business and try something different. “She’s going to start with it and we’re going to see where it goes.”

Bill started roping in 1999. “I watched and thought I could do that. I won my first truck at a Booger Barter in Tunica, Mississppi when I was fresh into it and I was hooked.” This is the biggest win he’s had since then. “If we won $100,000 tomorrow it wouldn’t beat this. It was the biggest stage a roper could ask for – pretty cool stuff.”

They are not slowing down, and plan to try to qualify for the World Series Finale next year next weekend. “I’ve gone three years in a row – had to miss last year because of work, but I’m going to try again.”

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