Before this past summer began, assistant football
coach Bobby Chesney was no cowboy. He had lived in and
around big cities most of his young adult life, and his
only prior experience on horseback didn't quite go as
planned. In fact, he claims that if it weren't for a handy
overhead tree branch to grab hold of, the horse he was
attempting to ride would have bucked him right to the
In other words, he was just the sort of city slicker
Country Music Television had in mind for its popular
reality show Cowboy U.
The eight-week show, whose sixth season kicked off on
Jan. 12 on the CMT network, attempts to acclimate a fresh
batch of city dwellers — four men and four women
— to the cowboy lifestyle in only three weeks. For
this current season, 28-year-old Chesney and seven others
traveled to a ranch in Colorado to, among other things,
shoot at targets from a horse-drawn wagon, wrangle
chickens, ride a bull and administer a pregnancy test to a
As in most reality TV formats, contestants are sent
packing until one cowboy or cowgirl is left standing to
claim the prizes — $25,000 in cash, and a nifty belt
Chesney actually had been in the market for a
working-ranch vacation when he learned of the casting call
for the show. Put off by the high price tags of such a
vacation, he thought here was a chance for a free ride. He
auditioned in Philadelphia, and next thing he knew he was
flying out west.
Right from the start, Chesney said he realized he
wasn't in Baltimore anymore. Before he even had a chance to
unpack, he and his fellow would-be cowboys teamed up for a
challenge that had one person wrestling a calf to the
ground (if they managed to catch it, that is) while the
other put underpants on the animal. As if that wasn't
enough, the pair then had to race the panty-garbed beast to
the finish line.
Chesney's team won, but he said it wasn't as easy as
"Sure, they're innocent-looking calves, but let me
tell you, they're at least 150 pounds and plenty tough,"
said Chesney, who knows a thing or two about tackling.
Chesney, the football team's secondary
coach and special teams coordinator, joined Johns Hopkins
two years ago. The native of Kulpmont, Pa., played his own
ball for Centennial Conference rival Dickinson College,
where he was a standout free safety.
He said that friends, family and the rest of the
football staff were delighted when they learned he was
chosen to be on the show.
"Everyone thought it was pretty neat. For me, here was
a chance to be on a national stage, and also to give some
recognition to the football team. I tried to name-drop
whenever I could," he said.
Chesney has actually become a hometown hero of sorts
in Kulpmont, population 2,985. For the show's premiere,
friends and family rented out a restaurant and brought in a
mechanical bull, an event that drew TV and newspaper crews.
The gathering was turned into a charity event, with the
$3,000 in proceeds going to the Special Olympics, an
organization with which Chesney volunteers in the
Talking with The Gazette on the eve of the premiere,
Chesney said that he was excited to see himself on
television, and somewhat nervous to learn what candid
moments got caught by the cameras that followed the
contestants everywhere, even to the outdoor showers and
Living in a cowboy boot camp of sorts, each contestant
was only allowed to keep one "big city luxury." Chesney
kept a deck of cards.
Overall, he called it an experience of a lifetime.
"You learned a different way of life. There was no TV,
no phone, no newspapers, not a note of music, just you and
a few others out there on the ranch," he said. "I think the
reason to tune in to the show is that you get a chance to
see people in situations they would not normally be in,
people who also were not comfortable in their surroundings.
But you had to deal with it, and keep a positive attitude
How far did Chesney go? He's not at liberty to say. He
said you'll have to tune in at 8 p.m. on Fridays to find