There are many things that test the measure of a champion, but the heart of a winner is proven in what they do when nobody’s around.
It’s break time in the world of professional rodeo. The top 15 in each event will begin competition at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three weeks from tonight at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The rodeo season ended a month and a half ago, so this two-month stretch is a great time to vacation and rest a body weary from nine months of solid competition and hundreds of hours on the highways getting from one event to another. They’re tired of home being on wheels; they’re ready to stretch out and experience space.
But champions continue to work while they rest. There are gold buckles on the line in Las Vegas, and they want every edge they can get when they arrive in the Nevada desert. They want to chase $18,000 a night and that coveted average title worth somewhere around $47,000.
Two world champs proved it last weekend at the Tom Thumb Texas Stampede in Allen, Texas. Ryan Jarrett, the 2005 all-around world champion from Comanche, Okla., and Tuf Cooper, the reigning tie-down roping titlist from Decatur, Texas, shared the calf roping title with Tuf’s brother, Clint, posting 7.7-second runs – only Clint will miss out on this year’s NFR.
So what does it mean for men like Tuf Cooper and Jarrett to be roping sharp this close to ProRodeo’s grand finale?
“We’ve been practicing a whole bunch and getting everything ready for the NFR,” Tuf said. “My roping feels good because we get so much time to prepare and practice this time of year. Our horses are well rested and working really good.
“They’re just as sharp as they can get. It really makes a big difference in what we’re doing. This time of year is a great time to have a rodeo for me.”
As the weather cools, Tuf and his other brother, three-time NFR qualifier Clif, will practice at the home of their brother-in-law, Trevor Brazile.
“We just broke in and prepared the calves for the NFR,” Tuf said Monday. “For the next three weeks, I’ll take all my horses and calves over to Trevor’s house every day and rope in his indoor arena. We’ll make lots of practice runs.”
Yes, they will, and I suspect they’ll be as sharp as ever on Thursday night, Dec. 6, when they nod their heads inside those golden chutes.