|Chesney was the front-runner on Cowbuy U, and he's glad the nationwide audience got to see the real him.
Bobby Chesney ’00 wears two hats. He grew up the son of a football coach, dominated as a high-school defensive back, starred on the Red Devil defense and now is an assistant football coach and defensive coordinator at The Johns Hopkins University (JHU)—so
his first hat is actually a helmet. But, earlier this year, he traded his helmet for a Stetson as a contestant on the Country Music Television (CMT) reality show Cowboy U: Colorado.
So how did Chesney end up a cowboy wannabe?
“I’ve always been intrigued by the cowboy, blue-collar lifestyle, and I’ve looked for opportunities to learn more about it,” he explains.
An opportunity arose in spring 2006 while Chesney was living and working in Philadelphia. He took an acting class through the Philadelphia Casting Company and was an extra in several movies and commercials before trying out for the show.
“The combination of a chance to win money, experience the cowboy way of life and be on TV seemed like a trifecta,” Chesney says.
The timing worked with his busy schedule at JHU, where he began work shortly after the tryouts. Between football camp, regular season, playoffs, recruiting season and off-season training, he only has a few weeks in the summer when he’s free to roam.
In July ’06, the night before Cowboy U was to start filming, Chesney flew to Colorado Springs and was sequestered in a guarded hotel room (to keep the contestants from meeting one other). The producers arrived and explained how things would work the next day.
Chesney and seven other aspiring cowboys (and girls)—Cosmo, Sarah, Rich, Candace, Katie, Farrah and Malcolm—spent three weeks living like real ranchers—waking at 4:30 a.m., doing chores, wearing Western-style clothes, showering outside, preparing their own food on a campfire and driving cattle—under the watchful eye of authentic cowboys.
The contestants participated in more than 20 challenges to test their strength, agility, hand-eye coordination … and intestinal fortitude. Their performances were considered during weekly eliminations by Rocco and Judd, the lead instructor and wrangler, respectively.
The challenges included a donkey race, mechanical-bull riding, target shooting, barrel racing and steer wrestling. The intestinal fortitude came into play when the contestants had to eat Rocky Mountain oysters (bull testicles) and perform a pregnancy check on a heifer.
In one challenge, the contestants paired up to catch a calf, put underwear on it and haul it across the finish line.
“I estimated the calf would weigh about 50 pounds, but I think it was closer to 150 or 180,” Chesney recalls. “I realized that this thing wasn’t going down without a fight.”
And fight he did—to a first-place finish. Chesney won more challenges than any other contestant and was praised by the instructors for consistently giving it his all.
“That comes from being the son of a coach and from being a coach myself,” Chesney says. “That competitive edge is present in everything I do.”
And with his winning smile and charisma, he quickly became popular with the nationwide audience, when the half-hour reality series aired Jan. 12 to March 2.
The whole wild ride led to one climactic event—Rodeo Day. Chesney and the three remaining finalists went head-to-head in four events, each with a different point value. The player with the most points at the end would win the $25,000 prize.
Chesney was considered the one to beat. “Bobby has it all,” Rocco said. “Right from the beginning, he had the best of everything.”
It came down to a tight points race.
Rich won the barrel racing and earned 10 points. Bobby won steer wrestling and wagon racing, giving him 40 points. The winner of the bull riding, worth 50 points, would be the overall winner.
Malcolm went first. Two seconds into the ride, he was thrust forward, and his head collided with the bucking bull. According to the rules, the clock should have stopped there.
“I’ve played it back many times in slow motion,” Chesney recalls. “He got 4.3 seconds. I didn’t complain because I thought I could beat his time.
“The scene was set. All I needed was to hang on for 4.4 seconds. But the bull jumped and turned and got me rocked off to the right. I knew right away that I didn’t have it.”
The surprise was visible on the contestants’ faces, and the message boards on CMTs Web site went wild. Chesney, the fans’ favorite, lost. Had he questioned whether Malcolm’s score was valid, the outcome could have been different. But the loss hasn’t overshadowed the fantastic experience he had.
“The show gave me a good understanding of what [cowboys] do, and I gained a huge amount of respect for that way of life,” Chesney says. “I also learned to enjoy the simpler things in life and look at my surroundings with a little more appreciation.”