December 5-14, 2024


When All Else Fails – Fast

Jun 23, 2023

When All Else Fails – Fast

Will Lummus is sharing rodeo lessons to students at Northwest Mississippi Community College.

By Susan Kanode

            I first met Will Lummus in 2014 when he was competing at the College National Finals Rodeo for the University of Tennessee – Martin (UTNM). His coach, John Luthi had high hopes for the steer wrestler and tie-down roper as well as the rest of the team. 

            Having someone believe in you can certainly help you believe in yourself and that was the case for Lummus and the rest of their team in Casper, Wyoming. They left as the men’s champion team. It was a hotly contested battle between the Skyhawks and rodeo powerhouse, Tarleton State University at Stephenville, Texas. 

            Tarleton finished as the reserve champions with 730 points. UTNM had 755. Lummus had earned 120 of those finishing fourth in the tie-down roping, 10th in the steer wrestling and 6th in the all-around race. 

            For Will, that college rodeo experience taught him many lessons that he has forgotten. Now as a rodeo coach for Northwest Mississippi Community College he is digging deep and remembering his college experiences that helped mold him into the fierce competitor that he is today. 

Will Lummus during Round 8 of the 2022 Wrangler Nationals Finals Rodeo. | PRCA Photo by Phil Doyle

            At 6’2”, and 250, Lummus was made for steer wrestling. He grew up in Mississippi watching his father, Luke, compete in the bull riding. His uncle Bob was also a big influence in his life as a steer wrestler who qualified for the NFR four times. Rodeo was part of their lives from the get-go. 

Will spent many evenings practicing with Bob. That was the beginning of his journey to mental toughness. 

            “We’d be practicing and Bob would put up 10 or 15 dollars as a bet,” Will said. “That was an unbelievable incentive. It wasn’t necessarily that the money was very much, it was the desire to win it.”

            After joining the PRCA in 2012, he finished his college career, got his bachelor’s degree in health and human performance from UTNM. Then he went to Wallace State Community College and got his certification in physical therapy. He understands how the body works and how to keep it healthy rodeoing. And when he started, he thought his mental game was pretty good. 

            Then, he got in the truck with K.C. Jones from Decatur, Texas. His journey to excellence was beginning and it was the start of his five consecutive NFR qualifications, one overall title in Las Vegas for having the fastest total time on 10 runs, and two reserve championships. In fact, he finished in the top five in the world for all but one of those years from 2018 to 2022. In 2019, he was 11th in the world. As of June 23rd, he is fourth in the world standings and looking good for his sixth trip to Vegas. 

Will celebrating a great run during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. | Photo by Tom Donoghue

            “The most challenging thing across the board that we face is winning versus losing and learning how to get out of a slump or just move on,” Will said. “The quicker you learn to forget about a run and move on and go to the next run the better. Otherwise, you’re going to be stuck in the same spot.”

            He knows from experience. His first full year of competition was in 2017 when he finished 20th. The next year, he was making great progress, consistently winning, and moving up in the standings until August hit. They were at the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick, Washington and he was talking to K.C. about it. K.C. made an unorthodox suggestion that Will had never thought about. 

            “Why don’t you do a 36 hour fast?” K.C. asked. Will agreed and it was game on. 

            “I love food,” Will said. “After I agreed, K.C. wanted to go eat Mexican food. He took me with him. He sat there and ate chips and salsa right in front of me. That was hard. He put me through the ringer, putting me on edge and making me want to eat. But he was pushing me to be better. It was mind over matter and when I got in control of my mind I started winning again.” 

            During those 36 hours, Will learned a lot about himself. He stayed hydrated with plenty of water and unsweet tea (which is a big deal) and found that it was a good way to clear his mind and body. 

            “Now I do that a couple of times a year,” he added. “Every time you stop at a gas station, you want to get some food. Your body tells you it is hungry, and you want to eat. Fasting makes me feel like I am in control of my mind.” 

            Now that Will is coaching, he has also gone back to the strategies he learned in college at UTNM with coach John Luthi. Luthi held weekly team meetings and gave all of his athletes a handout that was motivational, inspirational or both. He retired from coaching in 2022 after more than 40 years of leading successful college rodeo programs. 

Will Lummus in the box helping Cannon Smith from the University of Tennessee – Martin during the recent College National Finals Rodeo. | Photo by Jackie Jensen

            “When I got the coaching job, I called him and asked him if he still had those handouts,” Will said. “He mailed them to me and now I’ve been handing them out to my students. That has been awesome for me because I’ve been reteaching myself what I learned in college.”

            Will was part of the Ozark region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association as an athlete. He is coaching in the same region making it a full-circle moment for him. 

            It’s been amazing and cool,” he added. “I go to the same rodeos that I competed at. I’m seeing the kids have the same struggles I had. It’s pretty interesting to see the progression from where I was then to where I am now. Most of that success has come from a mental capacity of being able to win.”

            Will’s wife, Jenna, has been through all of it with him. She has some barrel racing prospects and they are approaching life in and out of the arena as a team. 

            “We have a bunch of horses and have made the NFR. We just moved into a new house and really have been blessed,” Will said. “It’s really just hard work and hard work pays off. Being a coach has been fun and rewarding and I’m really excited about the future.”

            He just signed 15 new kids to the program and has students returning for the 2023-2024 season, including bull rider Colby Burgess who qualified for the 2023 College National Finals Rodeo. He plans to keep the program to around 20 students, a number that will give him opportunity to work with them individually. 

Colby Burgess qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in the bull riding for coach Will Lummus representing Northwest Mississippi Community College. | Photo by Jackie Jensen

            The mental game is multi-faceted in rodeo. From believing in yourself to putting competition behind you and looking forward to the next one. Will Lummus is working to master and share all of it. And a lot of his success started in college. 

            “I gave a handout each week at our team meetings,” John Luthi said. “It was really about how to be the best you can be. School, personal and rodeo goals were turned into me before my students could practice or do anything. If you work on goals, the goals work on you.” 

            Will Lummus is a testament to all of that.