Quinn McQueary Trades Football For Rope
By JOE KUSEK
June 16, 2022
After Quinn McQueary put the football down for the final time, he needed another outlet to scratch his strong competitive itch.
So McQueary decided to return to his rodeo roots.
Both his parents, Dale and Chris, are accomplished ropers with his mother also serving as a past coach for the Montana State rodeo program.
His aunt, Mary Salmond, is the winningest cowgirl in Northern Women’s Rodeo Association history and her husband Mark is also a successful roper. Cousins Celie and Mollie Salmond have won their share of championship buckles and saddles.
“Rodeo runs pretty strong in our family,” McQueary noted.
And McQueary himself is a former junior champion breakaway roper in the Northern Rodeo Association.
How hard would it be to transition to tie-down roping and join the Montana Health Co-op Tour?
“I had a little bit of cockiness,” he said.
“We grew up roping from day one,” McQueary added of himself and brother Quade. “Mom and dad had us roping before we had a basketball or football in our hands. When I got into high school, I veered away from rodeo. I was still around roping, at brandings and things like that.
“We got involved in other stuff during our summers … games, camp, summer practices. We had so many other things, I put down my rope. My parents even stepped away from what they loved to support us.”
He was a four-time all-state quarterback at Manhattan High School and the MVP of the East-West Shrine game.
After starting his college career at MSU, he would become an all-conference quarterback at Montana Tech.
A prolific passer, his name can be found in 19 different categories in the Oredigger record books. He ranks first for touchdown passes in a single game (5) and completion percentage for game and career.
He was drafted by the Arizona Hotshots of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football and also spent time with the San Diego Strikeforce of the Indoor Football League.
“I got tired of bouncing around,” said McQueary. “When I was done, I was, ‘I’ve got to find something to do.’ To get those competitive juices flowing again.”
Which led him to tie-down roping.
And a humbling rodeo education.
“It hit me right in the mouth,” McQueary said with a good laugh. “I watched it enough. I basically thought I knew what I was doing. But I had never roped like that before. I had never stepped off.
“You don’t naturally pick it up. Tie-down roping is a lot of timing and technique.”
He took a quarterback approach to his new sport. McQueary spent a lot of time in the practice pen and watched countless roping videos, “Any chance I get, I put something on,” he said and he absorbed advice from his roping peers.
“That’s the great thing about rodeo, a lot of guys will give you pointers,” he said listing off his father, Brett Fleming and Rich Carpenter, along with Mike and Casey Collins as some of his influences. “I got help from a lot of people.”
To increase his horsepower, McQueary purchased a blue roan roping horse from Chad and Arne Johnson of Cut Bank, two of the top tie-down ropers in Montana during their careers.
“I like him,” McQueary said of the nine-year-old horse he calls Blue. This is their second year on the road together. “He’s really laid back, not high strung. He’s very consistent.”
McQueary also worked through the mental difference between rodeo and football.
“In football, if you make a bad pass, you go on to the next play,” he said. “If you have a bad (tie-down) run, you’ve got a seven-hour drive to think about it until your next rodeo. You white knuckle it the whole time.”
McQueary roped well enough in 2021 on the Montana Health Co-op Tour to qualify for the NRA Finals in Kalispell. He finished eighth in the tightly-bunched final standings.
He jump-started his 2022 with a win in the season opener at Conrad.
“That was really exciting,” said McQueary. “It was exciting to have a chunk of change in your pocket. I want to make a run at an NRA saddle.
“I love the competitive part of it. There are a lot of memories with rodeo.”
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour made its annual trek in northeast Montana last weekend with rodeos in Culbertson and Poplar.
The son-father pairing of Ben and Bill Ayre of Glendive won the team roping at Culbertson. Ben Ayre is a former all-around champion (2020) and two-time tie-down roping champion (2014-15) while his father Bill won a team roping title with Phil Luman in 1994.
Circle’s Blayne Hubing was the high money winner, winning the tie-down roping and placing second in team roping with Jon Hubing.
Other Culbertson winners were: Colton Farrow, bareback; Clint Donaldson, saddle bronc; Julie Brown, barrel racing; Meza Ham, breakaway roping; Tye Brown, junior barrel racing; Shawn Knight, senior men’s breakaway roping. There were no qualified rides in bull riding and no qualified times for steer wresting and junior breakaway roping.
At Poplar, it was déjà vu in the bareback riding. Tucker Zingg of Crow Agency won the event for a fourth year in a row. He also won in 2015 and was second in 2018 and 2017.
Ben Ayre won the tie-down roping and placed fourth in team roping with his father Bill. Hometown cowgirl Heather Crowley picked up a victory in the barre racing.
Other winners at Poplar were: Ridge Ward, saddle bronc; Trig Olson, steer wrestling; David Wold and John Graham, team roping; Tiffany Ogren, breakaway roping; Bailey Billingsley, junior barrel racing; Charlie Cornwell, junior breakaway roping; Don Ell, senior men’s breakaway roping.
The Wilsall Rodeo is Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday performance begins at 6:30 p.m. and the Sunday performance starts at 2 p.m.
The Upper Yellowstone Roundup in Gardiner, scheduled for Friday and Saturday, has been postponed because of flooding and mudslides earlier in the week. Organizers hope to have the rodeo at a later date.