(Editor's note: PRCA release)
COLORADO SPRINGS - Craig Latham, a nine-time National Finals Rodeo qualifying saddle bronc rider, passed away Oct. 8 after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 54.
"Craig was just great," legendary saddle bronc rider Billy Etbauer said. "He had as much try as anybody and he was the greatest traveling partner you could ever have. There is not enough good you could say about him. He would just grit his teeth and get it done."
Latham traveled with his best friends – brothers and ProRodeo Hall of Famers – Robert, Billy, and Dan Etbauer – and was commonly referred to as the "fourth brother." They rode all over the United States and Canada, with Billy winning five saddle bronc riding world championships and Robert claiming two more.
"It didn't matter what Craig was always there," Billy said. "He would help anybody, and they just don't get any better. I wouldn't have been able to do a lot of what I did and was able to do without Craig. He was a huge blessing to me as far as life and rodeo."
Latham qualified for the NFR in 1989-90, and 1992-98. He finished in the top five of the world standings six times and was a career-best second in 1993. He also placed a personal-best second in the NFR average in 1993 and 1998.
Latham, who joined the PRCA in October of 1987, earned $947,834 during his rodeo career.
"He was just genuinely a good man," said Lori Latham, Craig's wife of 31 years. "He just wanted the best for everybody and to help as many people as he could."
In 2011, Latham was diagnosed with multiple myeloma/plasmacytoma, which threatened to take his life, but surgery removed the cancer.
A year later, the cancer returned, forcing the gritty cowboy to suffer through six weeks of radiation treatments. He was in chemo the rest of his life.
"He was battling cancer since 2011 and the thing kind of took a turn back in March of this year," Lori said. "The last six months have been a pretty big struggle. He stayed active and just a week ago he was going down and helping one of his former students, Kaylee Moyer, who coaches at Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas. If he was home, he did not miss a roughstock practice at Panhandle State on Tuesdays. He went there a week-and-a-half ago."
Following his rodeo career, Latham was named coach of Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, where he coached from 2003-15. He led the team to national championships in 2004 and 2013, and team members to countless individual national crowns.
"I was rodeoing and still pretty connected to the school back in 2003," Latham said about being offered the coaching job at his alma mater in a Feb. 14, 2014, issue of the ProRodeo Sports News. "When the opportunity arose, I thought I'd like to do it. And now I love it."
Latham, in the Feb. 14 PSN article, said the experience he gained while riding at rodeo's highest level gave him a wealth of knowledge to pass on to his student-athletes.
His battle with cancer – multiple myeloma has no cure – also provided perspective he could share.
"They say there's no cure, but there are unrideable bulls until somebody rides one," he said. "I tell the kids to chase their passion, whether it's their schoolwork or rodeo. Nothing is promised. You have to work for it and do your best."
Since Latham was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, he began receiving treatment at renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., which is where he passed away.
"They did everything they could for Craig," Lori said. "The average (lifespan) for what he had was four to five years and we had 10½. We feel blessed, but we feel lost right now."
The Lathams celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day 2021. They have two daughters: Chaney, 30 and Sadie, 24. Chaney is married to PRCA saddle bronc rider Tyrel Larsen. They have two children, sons, Charlie, 5 and Waylon, 1.
"Craig's two grandchildren were the world to him," Lori said.
Craig Latham grew up in Kaycee, Wyo., while Lori is from South Dakota. They met while both were competing for the OPSU rodeo team.
Lori said funeral arrangements are pending.