ALTAMONT — Rodeo announcer Justin McKee shared a secret to his success with his alma mater Friday morning: Hard work.
McKee graduated in 1987 from Labette County High School in Altamont. Since then he’s been state FFA president, attended college, perfected rodeo announcing skills and recently started a cowboy church in Lenapah, Oklahoma, where he lives.
He shared his humor with an all-school assembly in Harrison Auditorium and how high school experiences shaped his life. LCHS student council president Clancie Sorrell conducted the on-stage interview after LCHS Principal Shane Holtzman introduced McKee: “Justin today is one of the most recognized faces if you watch bull riding or any type of the rough stock competition of rodeo.”
McKee was an auctioneer and then a play-by-play announcer of the Professional Bull Riders tour. He also announced Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association events. He then had a career change, leaving the PBR after 10 years and starting the church in Lenapah. He also is a cattle rancher, continues to announce rodeos and hosts two shows on RFD.
Sorrell wanted McKee to talk about what it means to be a Grizzly — the school mascot — and memories from his time at LCHS.
McKee said his career took him to 45 of the U.S. states, but he always enjoyed coming “home” to LCHS to visit his “family.” He said the student body and faculty made the school feel like family to him. He was active in athletics in high school and FFA, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Future Business Leaders of America. He liked public speaking and was told he excelled at it by a high school instructor. So he developed it.
A Dale Carnegie course after he was elected state FFA president gave him additional tools to succeed through the ability to draw conversation out of others. He said he learned that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
“FFA and Labette County High School had a huge impact because I speak for a living right now and I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing now had I not had that foundation of traveling and speaking and meeting people,” McKee said.
He encouraged students to get involved in high school life and activities. He said students should not waste time as freshmen with girlfriends or boyfriends or earning money to buy a pickup. High school offers a long list of things in which students can participate and students can get to know fellow classmates through participation. He said these are once in a lifetime activities.
In high school, McKee said he had a serious girlfriend and had friends based on that relationship. He didn’t get to know many of his fellow classmates until later in life.
If given a chance to go through high school again, McKee said he would get involved in as much as he could. His only regrets are not doing what he could have done in high school, he said.
“Here is the key to life right here and that is to give our life away.” In high school, McKee said he wanted to get pats on the back for his accomplishments. “You know what’s better than that is when I go encourage people for what they’ve done.
“That’s my goal in life. Who can I build up, who can I encourage, who can I motivate, who can I brag on? Because when they feel good, there’s something in my spirit that connects and I feel good. That’s why God created us is to be encouragers,” McKee said.
His upbringing and high school agriculture teachers and high school coaches (football and wrestling) taught him how to work and taught discipline.
“The road to success is a road. It’s not a couch. The road to success is a road. It is.”
He said life is about opportunities and why miss opportunities because their dressed in bib overalls and look like work?
He said he worked hard when he got into rodeo announcing. There were many other announcers working who were funnier, smarter and more knowledgeable.
“I knew if I was going to be successful I had one shot. You know what that shot was? I’m going to outwork them. I’m going to research more, I’m going to study more, I’m going to be on the phone more, I’m going to bring more, I’m going to tell better stories. I’m going to outwork them. Don’t be afraid of work,” McKee said.
He told students to get their minds to believe what they were created to achieve. All of us are created for great things, he said.
The worst thing that kids can get caught up in, according to McKee, is “comparison. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. … Don’t do it.”
Students should think about who they are when they get up every day. They should say, “‘Thank you, Lord, for creating me this way. Help me make the absolute best of this day that I can and show me someone I can encourage today.’”
LCHS provides each student with the tools to succeed, McKee said. He told students to work hard and realize where they came from and know they are equipped for greatness.
McKee said he made lots of money in his career and lost lots of money.
He finds peace in “knowing who you are by building other people up.”