SHAWNEE — Before Justin McDaniel became a world champion in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Porum bronc rider was a two-time champ at the International Finals Youth Rodeo.
“That was the biggest stage for me at the time,” said McDaniel, 27, who participated in the rodeo as a 16- and 17-year-old. “I looked forward to going to Shawnee since I was in grade school. One of my biggest goals was to win that thing.
“I treated it like the NFR (National Finals Rodeo). That was like winning the world title to me. It meant everything in the world to me.”
Competing against the best high school cowboys from across the country, McDaniel was the IFYR bareback champion in both 2003 and 2004. He also was the IFYR all-around champion in 2004.
McDaniel said the high school rodeo prepared him for bigger things ahead. He went on to become a five-time qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo, winning the average twice at the finals and the world bareback championship in 2008.
He now travels with and rodeos against many of those same cowboys that he competed against in Shawnee a decade ago. The IFYR is a place where rodeo fans can see stars of the future.
“The best high school kids in the world go through there,” McDaniel said. “They are just a year or two away from competing professionally. I remember seeing a picture awhile back, seeing guys who were all there with me and they all turned out to be great cowboys.”
On Wednesday, McDaniel will become the eighth person inducted into the IFYR’s Hall of Fame.
McDaniel will not attend the ceremony, however, because he is chasing another gold buckle on the PRCA circuit. McDaniel received a late invitation to ride in the Calgary Stampede this week for an opportunity to win $100,000.
He finished second in his first go-round Tuesday at the 10-day rodeo, which bills itself as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” McDaniel didn’t make the NFR last year, so he initially didn’t get invited this year to Calgary.
“A guy got hurt and they let me in,” McDaniel said Tuesday in a phone interview from Canada. “I got the call like three days ago. You can’t say no to that.”
Also in the IFYR Hall of Fame are pro rodeo cowboys Mike Outhier of Utopia, Texas, and Tupelo’s celebrity brothers, Jet and Cord McCoy, who gained fame on CBS’ “The Amazing Race.”
Other members include barrel racer Jackie Dube Jatzlau of Giddings, Texas, and longtime IFYR rodeo announcer Mark McGee of Valliant, who was killed in a traffic accident in 2009.
The remaining two members are Ken Etchieson of Tecumseh, the former general manager of the Heart of Oklahoma Expo who founded the IFYR, and Suzanne Gilbert of Tecumseh, a 22-year volunteer at the rodeo.
Past IFYR champions become eligible for the rodeo’s Hall of Fame 10 years after finishing their high school career. They also must still be participating in rodeo.
Even though McDaniel can’t attend the induction ceremony, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Heart of the Oklahoma Exposition Center, he does have family in this week’s IFYR, which runs through Friday.
His 17-year-old sister, Laramie Girty, is competing in barrel racing and pole bending, but McDaniel said he can’t help her in those events. He only knows bucking horses.
“She is pretty handy herself,” he said.