The former 4-H’er makes an OSU Spirit Rider’s dream come true < Oklahoma

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Media contact: Trisha Gedon | Sr. Communications Specialist | 405-744-3625 | [email protected]

When he was 7 years old, Rob Bomhoff attended his first football game in the state of Oklahoma. After seeing Bullet and the OSU Spirit Rider race across the field after the first touchdown, Bomhoff told his mother that that’s what he wanted to do one day.

That day has come. After a year on the Spirit Rider ground staff, Bomhoff was selected as the 2022–2023 Spirit Rider. He’s raced to the 30-yard line after every Cowboys touchdown at Boone Pickens Stadium this football season. The grin on his face as he runs Bullet back into the tunnel in the West Endzone is guaranteed to be as big as it was when he first sat in the stands as a 7-year-old and saw Bullet.

Bomhoff isn’t the first member of his family to sit on Bullet. His father’s cousin, Warren Ahlden, was the ninth Spirit Rider. Bomhoff’s cousin, Dan Bomhoff, was the 18th Spirit rider in the saddle. Rob Bomhoff is Spirit Rider #36.

It wasn’t just family heritage that drove Bomhoff to become a Spirit Rider. He attributes the skills he learned as a member of the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development Program in Kingfisher County to helping him achieve the goal he set for himself as a youth.

“In my role as Spirit Rider, I speak to so many people. When I was in 4-H, I gave a lot of speeches and attended horseback riding camps and clinics,” said Bomhoff, an animal scientist/pre-vet junior and a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity from Okarche. “The leadership roles I had helped me manage a team and my time. Everything I did in 4-H I do now, but I represent OSU instead of 4-H. Being in 4-H was probably the best thing I’ve ever done to prepare for being the Spirit Rider.”

As an active 4-H, he served as Kingfisher County 4-H President and was selected as Kingfisher County 4-H Ambassador. He was also inducted into the Kingfisher County 4-H Hall of Fame. When he was a junior in high school, he and his father revived the local 4-H Horse Club, which his father still works with today.

Laine Martin was Bomhoff’s OSU Extension 4-H educator from his seventh grade through his high school graduation.

“Rob has been a great leader and role model for the Kingfisher County 4-H program. He was great at working with the shy kids and getting them involved in different things,” said Martin. “He was one of those kids that you want to represent the club and the 4-H program. I always had a good feeling that he would succeed in life.”

What does a typical football game day at Bomhoff look like? The night before a game, he drives to the farm near Tulsa where Bullet lives. He has Bullet wash and clean up before returning to Stillwater early Saturday morning. About four hours before the game, Bullet, Bomhoff and the ground crew attend the block party on the north side of the stadium, signing autographs and posing for photos.

“The ground crew really helps with these kinds of activities,” Bomhoff said. “They are there to protect the children and Bullet.”

Then head to the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center to see more pictures and give the kids a chance to pet Bullet. Later, Bomhoff and Bullet warm up on the Old Central lawn, then make their way to Boone Pickens Stadium, where they position themselves for the pre-kickoff band run.

He said it’s hard to put into words how he feels when he and Bullet gallop onto the field in front of 60,000 fans.

“That first time was like nothing I had ever felt. There was so much adrenaline and it was the biggest rush,” he said. “I’m more used to it now and I really don’t even hear the crowd – it’s more like white noise. But sometimes I do the drive and the student section starts singing ROB instead of OSU.”

Besides football games, Bomhoff has other appearances with Bullet throughout the year. He relishes the opportunity to share his story of being the Spirit Rider and speaking to the children.

“It’s a lot of fun being there for the kids, both at games and other performances,” he said. “Seeing Bullet up close makes their whole game. I love seeing their bright faces and encouraging them to dream big and make them come true.”

Things to know about Bullet:

  • He is 8 years old
  • He is the fourth Bullet and started his OSU career in 2019
  • He was a mounted hunter before becoming Bullet
  • Weighs 1,300 pounds
  • Likes popcorn, M&Ms, carrots and apples
  • Lives on a farm near Tulsa

Jennifer Roberts has been the team coordinator of the OSU Spirit Riders for 18 years. A former Spirit Rider during the 2000 football season, she has worked with all four Bullet horses.

“I’ve gathered a lot of data that we’re using to keep the atmosphere around Bullet as calm as possible,” Roberts said. “One of the qualities we need for Bullet is a horse that’s really broke, healthy and smart. We also need a horse that is not easily excited, stays calm and can handle the environment. An OSU ball game is not a natural environment for a horse.”

Roberts receives a script prior to game day detailing any special events that take place during the game, such as fireworks, flyovers, or other animals on the field. This helps the ground crew prepare to keep Bullet steady and safe.

“We have the ground crew and others spinning the whole game overhead watching and listening to the environment to mitigate the risk of problems,” she said. “Our goal is to keep the atmosphere around Bullet as calm as possible.”