By Doug Gorman
Country music star Toby Keith's hit song "Should've Been a Cowboy" is an anthem for many cowboy wannabes.
However, Cameron Brown, a rising senior at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy, is the real deal.
Brown plays out his cowboy dreams often as one of the country's top high school rodeo participants.
Next month, the honor student from Hampton puts his skills on the line in Gillette, Wyo. at the National High School Finals Rodeo.
The upcoming event attracts 1,500 contestants from 39 states, Canada and Australia, making it the largest rodeo in the world.
Once the event starts, Brown will stay busy.
The local cowboy qualified in three different events, including team roping, steer wrestling and cutting horse.
In the team roping competition, Brown will join forces with fellow Georgia resident Ty Ethridge, who lives in Franklin.
The teammates get together often to hone their skills, and Brown likes their chances to win the event.
"He either comes to my place, or I drive to Franklin to practice with him," Cameron said. "We work well together."
To get to the high school nationals, Brown collected points in all three events during the course of the 33-rodeo season.
"Your really can't skip a rodeo because if you do you lose points and that can keep you from qualifying to nationals," he said.
Although rodeo competitions keep Brown busy, the hectic schedule hasn't hurt his grades.
One of his most recent honors is winning a belt buckle for highest grade point average among Georgia cowboys.
Brown likes all three of the events he will participate in Wyoming.
Brown doesn't limit his rodeos to the high school circuit. He also competes with his brother Ethan in team roping contests on other circuits.
Ethan also competed in high school rodeos. He is now a student at Southern Tech, majoring in civil engineering and surveying.
The brothers' parents, Gordon and Susan, have also gotten in the rodeo act, making rodeo a family affair for the entire family.
Gordon serves on several rodeo committees, and Susan is a rodeo queen coordinator.
"We have met a lot of friends through rodeo," said Gordon. "It's been a lot of fun."
Cameron's interest in rodeo goes back almost a decade. Cameron, who is also an Eagle Scout, was visiting the Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico when he was first introduced to the sport.
"They had a western day and we got to do some roping. When we got home, my brother and I bought some ropes and began practicing," Cameron said.
By the time he was in middle school, Cameron was hooked on the rodeo. He has been competing ever since.
Cameron calls himself a big sports fan, but doesn't have the chance to participate in much other than rodeo.
"My brother and I are athletic, but we haven't had the chance to play other sports. It's seems like there is a rodeo event every week."
The rising senior isn't complaining. Despite the competitiveness of the sport, Brown has made many friends.
"I have had the chance to meet people from all of the country. I have friends all over the United States. That's one of the things I like about rodeo," he said.
Brown has even met some professional cowboys.
"Professional rodeo cowboys are really down to earth," he said. "They are regular people. They don't get caught up in a lot of media hype."
Cameron doubts he will try the pro circuit. Professional cowboys spend a lot of time on the road traveling from city to city, something that doesn't appeal to Brown right now.
"When I get out of high school, I want to follow in my brother's foot steps by going to college at Southern Tech and studying engineering," he said.