Cowboy Cody Kiser rides for a purpose

Cody Kiser, 23, gives a thumbs-up after competing Thursday at the Snake River Stampede.

Cody Kiser, 23, gives a thumbs-up after competing Thursday at the Snake River Stampede.

Carson City rodeo cowboy Cody Kiser is enjoying a busy year both inside the arena and out.

And it’s been a pretty successful one for the 23-year-old Kiser.

In addition to receiving his degree in civil engineering from the University of Nevada in May, Kiser continues his pursuit of bareback riding as a professional rodeo cowboy. Now, he’s wearing a new hat with the Oral Cancer Foundation to act as spokesperson and role model, a partnership that was launched this week at the 99th Snake River Stampede in Nampa, Idaho.

“So much has happened to me this year,” Kiser said Friday morning during a conference call from Nampa. “I’m pursuing my dream (of professional rodeo) and more.”

Kiser, a 2009 Dayton High School graduate, was a two-time qualifier for the National High School Finals Rodeo and qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in 2010-11 as a freshman at Nevada. He didn’t rank among the leaders Thursday night after putting up a score of 66 points at the Snake River Stampede, however, he stands seventh in bareback on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s California circuit for PRCA and 38th in the All-American ProRodeo Series.

He’s excited about his new partnership with the Oral Cancer Foundation in an effort to get the word out about the risk factors leading to oral cancer resulting from spit tobacco or smoking.

“I’m really thankful for this opportunity,” Kiser said. “I’ve never chewed tobacco or smoked, I’ve always tried to live a healthy life. So when they approached me about being a spokesman, I read what the organization was doing and it was kind of a no-brainer to me.”

Even though he has no experience with oral cancer, Kiser’s goal is merely to serve as a positive role model for children and teens.

“I’ve never had oral cancer and I’m not related to anyone who has had it, thankfully I don’t have that background, but I’m still passionate about it and I want to make an impact for the sport. Hopefully, I can help reach young kids before they start using tobacco.”

Brian Hill, founder of the Oral Cancer Foundation, is himself a survivor of Stage 4 oral cancer.

“It’s a lot more common than people realize,” Hill said as part of the conference call. “In five years, 50 percent of people who are diagnosed with oral cancer will not be alive. That’s a pretty shocking statistic.”

Hill pointed to former San Diego Padres baseball star Tony Gwynn as one recent casualty of the disease. Two other well-known victims of oral cancer include Babe Ruth (1948) and Sigmund Freud (1939), according to the Oral Cancer Foundation website.

“We’re just glad to find a spokesman like Cody who is a good, positive influence to help us get the word out to people to be more aware of the risk factors,” Hill said.

Research shows 15 percent of high school boys are already using spit tobacco, the Oral Cancer Foundation website says. The message to youth is simple: “Be Smart. Don’t start.” Kiser now rides with a patch on his shirt to promote that message.

“He’s definitely wearing our brand,” Hill said, laughing.

Kiser saw the direction of his rodeo career change as a high school freshman when he sustained serious injuries as a bull rider.

“Basically, a bull stepped on my face, breaking some bones,” he said. “My jaw was wired shut, so it was pretty bad. That’s when I decided to switch to bareback. I don’t know if it was a good decision, but at least now I’m on top of the animal and not underneath.”

More important, Kiser wants to continue competing as a cowboy for as long as he can.

“This is definitely going to be a long year,” he said. “I’ve been to more rodeos this year than ever … by the end of this year, I expect I’ll have been to nearly 75. I have no plans to stop riding. I’m still having fun, which is the most important part, so I want to keep going for as long as I can.”


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