OTTAWA LAKE, Mich - The kids at school just call him Cowboy, a moniker that barely scratches the surface of the multi-sport talent that is Cody McCartney.
While most high school athletes participate in one or more of the traditional roundball sports, the Whiteford senior has found the combination of synthetic cowhide and real cowhide works best for him.
The 6-foot-1 McCartney led the basketball team in rebounding this past season and is also an accomplished calf roper.
"My dad [Jim], he's also been involved with it, and that's how I got involved with it," McCartney said. "I was real big into ball sports until I was about 12 or 13 and kind of got serious about the rodeo."
McCartney became the youngest person to qualify for the International Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City last January and has received as many as six scholarship offers for rodeo from colleges that include Southwestern Oklahoma, Southeastern Oklahoma, and Southern Arkansas.
He was also a starting forward for the Bobcats on the hardwood and helped the team advance to the Class C regional finals earlier this month.
During the winter when the two sports conflict, McCartney's life gets especially hectic.
"After school we'd have basketball practice for two hours, and then I'd come home and rope for three or four hours every day," McCartney said. "It took a lot of time and effort."
Jim McCartney, a veteran calf roper in his own right, first introduced his son to calf roping when he was a young boy.
McCartney's mother, Betty, is a tax accountant, so during tax season, Cody would spend the majority of his time after school with his father riding horses. Naturally, calf roping became their common bond.
"I'm happy as heck," Jim McCartney said. "I've used the sport and my passion for it to raise a son. It's good. I get to spend an awful lot of time with him and travel a lot with him and compete against him. It's sure been fun."
McCartney now practices his craft every day at his family farm, Rainmaker Stables, in Ottawa Lake. He competes during school breaks and has competed around the country.
"For a high school kid, you can make pretty good money," said McCartney, who won the very first competition he entered when he was 11 years old.
"This past year, I've made close to $25,000 or $30,000 doing it. It's not bad."
An even bigger payday could be awaiting McCartney in the future.
Professional calf ropers can earn up to $300,000 a year, and rodeo is one of the only NCAA-sanctioned sports that allows student-athletes to earn prize money during college.
McCartney said he plans to make his school commitment in the coming weeks and see where the sport takes him.
"I'd like to do it for a living, but it's pretty tough," McCartney said. "There are 200-300 guys that do it for a living, and unlike many pro sports, you're not really on a salary. So what you win is what you make. If you're struggling or having trouble winning any money, you're not getting any salary or anything."
Even though rodeo isn't a school-sponsored sport at Whiteford, McCartney doesn't live in anonymity.
"A lot of the kids at school, they know I do it," McCartney said. "They all nicknamed me 'Cowboy,' and that's what they all call me. In a small town like Whiteford, everybody knows everything pretty much."
If he continues having success in rodeo, the name Cody McCartney may become a household name outside of Whiteford as well.
"I don't know if I'm going to be, but I've just worked hard," McCartney said. "I've done pretty well at it. I've gone to quite a few big youth competitions and done pretty well there.
"When you do well at big events, it kind of gives you confidence that you'll be able to do all right at it."
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org -83.74742