Hunter Adams shown here in an August 2018 Bessemer, North Carolina rodeo. Travelling around the southeast to earn points, prize money, and a coveted gold buckle is how Adams spends many weekends. Photo: by Bailey Payton
10th-ranked Adams named region director for Jr.NFR
Dawson County’s own Hunter Adams has been named region director for the Jr. National Finals Rodeo (Jr.NFR).
The announcement came in late August via Facebook.
Calling it “an incredible opportunity”, Adams said he was “humbled to have been chosen” and found himself at a loss for words to express how much the designation means to him. Those who know Adams can attest that he’s rarely speechless when it comes to the sport of bull riding. He’s the first to admit it, too.
“I could talk about it all day,” Adams said in a recent interview. “Ever since I could walk and talk I’ve wanted to be a bull rider. I don’t like thinking about life without bull riding. It’s all I want to do. Later on, I’ll raise a bunch of cattle and a bunch of bulls and grow old.”
His willingness to speak on the sport will come in handy as his director duties will include meeting with event sponsors, photo opportunities, and signing autographs. Additionally, Adams will be helping in the arena when he’s not competing in Jr. NFR events.
These tasks are second nature to the Dawson County High School graduate who has recently become a promoter of sorts for the sport with appearances at Dawsonville City Hall to chat with Mayor Mike Eason, being introduced at Show’n’Shine during Jasper’s 2018 JeepFest and hosting a meet & greet at the September 14 Food Truck Friday in downtown Dawsonville. When not working full-time and making appearances, Adams continues to be a fixture at the chutes assisting his fellow riders at rodeos.
“In bull riding, I’m often asked to help in the chute area,” he said. “It would be easy to make a poor choice, knowing a competitor would get hurt or worse, and eliminated. Instead, I choose to do what I can to keep him safe and help him have the best ride he can.”
Setting a good example for future riders of the sport is key for Adams who is keenly aware of the much younger bull riders.
“Little kids are there and I want them to see me helping others, being kind, and most of all, being a respectful competitor as I shake hands with everyone, whether I win or not,” he said. “They say actions speak louder than words, and I hope my actions inspire others in competition and life in general.”
In order to be considered for the position of region director, a bull rider had to finish in the top four in his age group and then submit an essay stating why he would be the best representative for the Jr.NFR. Adams’ essay included characteristics of leadership, mentoring, making a positive impact in my community, and, of course, a love of the sport of bull riding.
Adams has volunteered with Special Olympics, a fact that was mentioned in his essay. He wrote, “The motto of the Special Olympic athletes struck a chord: Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt,” he wrote. “This can apply to bull riding just as much as any other sport.”
“Like any other athlete, I practice and look for ways strengthen my skills” the tall, dark-haired cowboy said. “My commitment is so strong that I have changed from riding right-handed to left because I was injured and didn’t want to quit. I want my bull riding to speak for me. I am one of the top 10 youth bull riders nationally because of my passion for the sport. My hard work and sacrifice, tremendous support system, and “bullheaded-ness” have made me the rider I am today. Just like athletes in other sports, I have had to make tough choices and plenty of sacrifices. Every single one was worth it because of my passion for the sport.”
Adams has sustained his fair share of injuries—some near fatal—but he is relentless in his determination to continue competing. He is currently ranked 10th in the nation after last year’s Jr. NFR. In a light-hearted moment after the competition, Adams met with Cirildo and Lillie Leal, event organizers and suggested they extend the age limit so he could compete one more time in the junior level.
“Hunter Adams represents everything Leal’s Junior Bull Riding Championship believes the future of bull riding is—professional athletes with passion and purpose who are dedicated to the sport of bull riding,” said Cirildo Leal. “Hunter has an undeniable ability to inspire others and is committed to serving others inside and outside of the arena. We are blessed to share our life with many talented young athletes from across the county.”
Adams will head out to Las Vegas in December to compete for a final time at the junior level.
“Top 10 isn’t good enough,” he said. “I want top five, top three.”
He will bring his entourage which consists of his parents, Lynn and Donnie Adams, and his girlfriend, Bailey Payton, a rodeo competitor in her own right, who takes the videos that will be reviewed after each ride. Sidekick Bo, a year and a half-old Border Collie/Australian Shepherd will have to stay home. Older brother Jordan, along with wife Erin, will have dog-sitting responsibilities.
“Watching him go through this experience has been pretty awesome,” the elder brother said recently. “It makes me proud to be his big brother and it makes me happy to watch him live out his dream.”
Donnie Adams keeps it light, according to his youngest son.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been riding home from a rodeo with mom and dad and dad says, well, we just drove two hours for about 2.5 seconds,” Hunter said, chuckling.
Adams will continue riding as long as he is able. The pro circuit is next on the horizon.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” he stated. “There’s no drug that can give you that much adrenaline or high. It’s life or death. We all know it. It’s scary. At the end of the day, it is what it is.”
And, he added with a glint in his eye and a big smile, “There’s always the buckle.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help with expenses for Vegas and anyone interested will find details at https://www.gofundme.com/on-the-road-to-vegas Alternatively, donations can be sent to PO Box 1343, Dawsonville, GA 30534.
Adams, like other dedicated athletes, makes practice a top priority, often travelling as far as Calhoun, GA for the opportunity to strengthen his riding skills. Photo: by Bailey Payton