Jade O’Brien Smith could have cared less when his world heading standings leader dad, Clay, missed the first steer on opening night at the $10 million 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for partner Paul Eaves. After Clay and Paul rallied in 4-flat to win Round 2, seven-month-old Jade slept through Clay’s first-ever go-round buckle presentation ceremony in his four-straight trips to Vegas just the same.
Babies are living, breathing testaments to unconditional love. They’re happy to be held by us, win, lose, or draw, and Baby Jade—who at the literal end of the day only cares about those hugs and kisses Daddy Clay and Mommy Taylor have for him—is no exception.
But if any baby was destined to kick and scream when his dad broke a barrier or stubbed a toe with his rope, it’d have to be one by the name of Jade O’Brien, right? Born April 23, 2018, Baby Jade was named after three-time World Champion Heeler Jade Corkill. O’Brien comes, of course, from seven-time World Champion Heeler Clay O’Brien Cooper, and that’s also Clay O’Brien Smith’s middle name.
“Jade (Corkill) has been the most dominant heeler in our era,” explained Clay O’Brien Smith, who after being named for a ProRodeo Hall of Fame heeler ironically turned out to be a world-class header. “And Clay O’Brien Cooper is one of the greatest of all time. I’m a header, so my son’s got to be a heeler.”
This family tradition started with Clay O’Brien Smith, who was Mark and Tammy Smith’s first born. They named their second son after Clay O’Brien Cooper’s partner in those seven world team roping titles, Jake Barnes (and yes, fate had a little fun again, as Jake Smith turned out to be a heeler). And it gets even better than that.
Mark and Tammy had a Clay, so they decided to name his little brother Jake. Before their second baby was born, Tammy picked up the phone and called Jake Barnes. She asked him what he thought would make a good middle name to go with Jake.
“Jake said, ‘Ma’am, Jake is my middle name. My name is Billy Jake Barnes,’” Clay Smith said. “So Billy Jake Smith it was. What was so cool about that is that my mom had a brother named Billy who died when they were kids. So that was just meant to be.”
Mark and Tammy’s third son is Britt Wayne Smith, after NFR heeler Britt Bockius. Wayne is Mark’s middle name, and I’m guessing that in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, Wayne is also a synonym for caboose. Britt’s the third and final brother of his generation. But this next round of Smiths is just getting started.
“I’m not saying Jade doesn’t have the option of doing something else, but I think everybody will be pretty surprised if he doesn’t decide to rope,” Clay said. “I think my job is to give him a better opportunity to rope than I had, and that’ll be hard to do.”
As for missing that first steer, well, Speed Williams showed us that if you’re going to go out of the average at the Super Bowl, the first round is the best time to do it.
“When you miss that first one, it’s kind of like it breaks the ice,” Clay said. “When you’re going that fast 10 times in a row, you’re going to mess up. I hate to have to use my mulligan in the first round, but that’s just part of it.”
Yes, they came back swinging. They kept the Smith family streak going on those naming rights, too. And Baby Jade is the best possible perspective patrolman.
“Having him makes the tough things not matter as much as they used to—like last night, when I missed that first steer,” Clay said backstage at the go-round buckle presentations at the South Point. “It’s different in a good way. I want to win the world. That’s what we’re here for. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. But I’ll be happy no matter what. And my family has everything to do with that.”
Clay’s job is to feed his family with his rope. But when you’re a baby, you’re only job is to enjoy the joy that goes with being the center of your parents’ universe. TRJ