- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - Jim Brown is best known as the coach of New Mexico State University’s rodeo team, and rightfully so. Brown, the first coach the rodeo team has had since it was formed in 1942, has molded the program into one of the country’s best.

In 2007, Brown was named Coach of the Year by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. He has coached the women’s team to nine out of 12 Grand Canyon Regional Championships; the men’s team has won eight championships under Brown. Since 2005, six members of the rodeo team have won national championships. Brown started working at NMSU as the rodeo coach in August 2002.

“Our team doesn’t receive any funding from the Athletics Department,” Brown said. “We’re funded through legislative money, which allows us to provide scholarships and buy practice stock.”

Brown described the program, and his role, as “an army of one.”

“I feed the animals, design the posters, load the trailers, line up the rodeos - it’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding,” he said.

Brown, who earns $47,031 per year in the Agriculture Department, also has another important duty - owning and caring for Keystone, the horse mascot of the Aggie football team.

Keystone was born May 16, 1999. Today, the quarter horse weighs nearly 1,400 pounds. Keystone actually has three names, Brown explained.

“He’s registered with the American Quarter Horse Association as Tarver Plenty Redman,” said Brown. “My name for him is Roanie. But when he got involved with the Aggie football, about nine years ago, he was introduced at the homecoming game. As part of the homecoming festivities, they held a contest to vote on a name for him.”

The choices were Gunpowder, Pistol, Rolling Thunder and Keystone. The students chose Keystone.

The idea for adding a horse mascot for the football team came from then-head coach Hal Mumme and Bump Elliott, who was special assistant to the athletics director.

“They approached me and said they wanted to get agriculture back in the spotlight,” said Brown. “NMSU has always been an ag school, but it was kind of slipping from the forefront at that time. We did a couple of test runs, they liked it, and the rest is history.”

Brown said Keystone has become a fan favorite over the years.

“When he’s not there, they miss him. They’ll come up to me afterward, asking where he’s been,” Brown said.

Keystone wears a set of specially designed sneakers for running on the newly installed field turf at Aggie Memorial Stadium.

Brown described Keystone as “an easy keeper. He’s a big ol’ teddy bear. He has his quirks, though. He doesn’t much like having his face touched, but he’ll sure eat treats out of your hand.”

___

Information from: Las Cruces Sun-News, http://www.lcsun-news.com

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