2020 Resistol Rookie Champion Heeler Clay Futrell
Clay Futrell, from Union Grove, North Carolina, showcased his heeling talents during one of ProRodeo’s toughest seasons yet during the COVID-19 pandemic by winning the 2020 Resistol Rookie of the Year Heeling title.

Clay Futrell finished out his 2020 PRCA season with the Resistol Rookie of the Year Heeling Title with $34,501.61 in total season earnings, which also put him 24th in the PRCA world standings to qualify him to rope at the winter rodeos in 2021. Futrell, 21, established an early lead in the Resistol Rookie heeling that led to a more than $27,000 lead on the No. 2 man, Zak Dobbins.

Who’s Resistol Rookie Heeling Standings Leader Clay Futrell?

From the start

Flash back to 2011 when Futrell first ever picked up a heel rope. With the help of his parents, fellow roper and family friend Bronc Fanning and a Western Livestock Sale purchased horse, Futrell has now accomplished one of his many goals.

“I breakawayed and junior rodeoed, but I started heeling in 2011,” Futrell said. “My dad hired Bronc Fanning to come over to the house every day to give me lessons. He’s the one that taught me how to rope. I still talk to him. I went and ate lunch with him the other day. I talk to him at least once a week about my roping and that kind of stuff.”

At the age of 12, Futrell was fond of having a rope in his hands but was competing more at the junior rodeos in the breakaway roping. That was until his father, Bart Futrell, who owns and operates Bow F Bucking Bulls and hosts amateur rodeos, hired on Bronc Fanning, originally from Oklahoma, and now residing in North Carolina, to help Futrell learn to hell.

“As far as taking me to all the Junior rodeos and giving me every opportunity there was, and having someone good here to help me every day and taking me out West to the Junior World and ropings like that, [my parents] pretty much did everything they could to give me all the opportunities to help me keep getting better.”

After daily lessons with Fanning, it was time for Futrell to decide which event he wanted to focus more time and effort on and his conclusion was to heel.

“That’s when I was starting to tie calves and heel,” Futrell said. “I was pretty much below average in both events. Bronc pretty much said [to] pick one of them and try to get as good as possible at it. He was coming over here every day, and I thought I had a way better future at that than roping calves, and I liked it more because I took off with the heeling. He’s who I give—besides my parents—the credit, as far as getting me to where I am right now with my roping.”

The Horsepower

Along with learning how to heel, Futrell was also training a young, sorrel colt that his dad brought home from the Western Livestock Sale in Fort Worth, Texas, which became the 12-year-old gelding named Cutter that helped Futrell secure the Resistol Rookie year-end title.

“I remember the first day [Bronc] ever came over,” Futrell noted. “I didn’t have a heel horse and we just had Cutter. That’s what I started roping the sled on every day. Once I got hooked on it and that’s all I wanted to do, my dad bought me a finished horse and then I had the finished horse to rope steers on and got to the jackpots and junior rodeos on. Throughout the years, we got a couple more to rope on.”

Futrell qualified for the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) Finals multiple times and won the Southern Rodeo Association (SRA) twice and has added a few more memorable wins over the years with Cutter.

“Besides that, I placed with Tyler Waters at the World Series Finales in the #15 one year,” Futrell remembered. “And the Lonestar Shootout was the biggest win. We won third at that. But as far as growing up, I didn’t really win anything huge.”

The 12-year-old sorrel got the call to help Futrell win the once-in-a-lifetime Resistol Rookie title, and now Futrell plans on finding a backup heel horse to help Cutter out in the long haul for the 2021 ProRodeo season.

Futrell Makes Minor Changes to Surge Into ProRodeo’s Final 2020 Push 

“I pretty much rode him everywhere,” Futrell said. “Just from getting hauled so much, he was getting pretty sore, but he kept working. He worked good all season. One of my main goals is, by next summer, to have something that I’m as comfortable on as Cutter, to where I can give him a break.

“I think, as far as rodeo-wise, you want something that’s easy, of course. You want something that is forgiving and will let you put him wherever. I got to ride Brady Minor’s horse at two rodeos, and he was just so forgiving and let you just get as high as you wanted to. It was easy. But that’s one of the best horses there is, I think. I want something that’s forgiving and will let you put him wherever type of deal.”

The 2021 ProRodeo Season Plan

Now that Futrell has the 2020 Resistol Rookie Heeling title added to his resume, he plans on continuing his partnership with his second-cousin, Cory Kidd V, the 2020 Lonestar Shootout Champion Header.

“I don’t have any second partners yet,” Futrell said. “Cory has played a huge roll in taking me to places. I grew up really close to him and he was roping every day.”

Clay Futrell, the 2020 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year. Courtesy Resistol/Matthew Range Photo

And if there’s one thing that Futrell learned from his Resistol Rookie year that he will keep with him for years to come, it’s to take the best shot on every single run.

“There’s so much that I learned, honestly,” Futrell said. “I think towards the end, when it was more of a ‘you got to win type of deal,’ I was trying to make too many things happen. I was trying too fast and missing, instead of being able to take the best shot every time. That keeps your confidence up and keeps your horse working good, and you’re ready for the next one instead of taking a bad shot and thinking about it too much. That was one of the biggest things that I picked up on at the end. Everyone needs to be building to the next run. Taking bad shots is going to have you overthinking about things.”


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