Junior Nogueira had a special angel riding shotgun when he pulled back on his first $100,000 team roping title at The American last Sunday, February 25, in Dallas.
The night before, Junior’s late dad and namesake, Lucinei Nunes Nogueira Sr, was inducted into the Associacao Brasileira de Criadores de Cavalo Quarto de Milha Halla da Fama back home in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The ABQH is the American Quarter Horse Association’s international affiliate in Junior’s native country, and his dad’s recognition on the eve of The American had a sentimental lump in his only son’s throat. Junior’s mom and biggest fan, Eliziane, stayed home in Brazil to accept the honor on behalf of her late husband.
“I am very proud to be my father’s son, and it comes with a lot of responsibility,” said Junior, 27, who lost his dad when he was just 5. “My dad was like Trevor Brazile in Brazil. He roped calves, he team roped—both ends—and he bulldogged. He was a very good horseman, and he trained a lot of horses.
“When they first introduced saddle bronc riding back home, my dad was the first to get on. He was a cowboy—the real deal—and in Brazil people still cry when they talk about him. People loved him. My dad was a great man.”
Junior’s dad’s nickname was “Testa,” which means “forehead” in Portuguese. He earned it by scoring so many goals with head shots back in the soccer-playing days of his youth. Eliziane says Lucinei Sr hoped to one day become a pilot after his competitive rodeo days were done. But he never had the chance. Lucinei had a heart attack backing in the box to rope a calf at 36.
Junior and Kaleb set a new team roping record at The American with their 3.32-second run in the long round last Sunday. It was Kaleb’s third $100,000 win at the world’s richest one-day rodeo, and Junior’s first. They won the final-four shootout in 4.57.
“I’ve always wanted to win this rodeo,” Junior said. “I’ve made the final-four four times in the five years they’ve had it, so it’s very, very special to me to get this done.”
The only time Junior didn’t make the final-four cut was a close call. When the rope popped off of JoJo LeMond’s saddle horn and he lost his rope in The American long round in 2016, Junior already had the steer roped and JoJo was about to face.
“When I got here this year, I said, ‘God, you brought me here to America and you gave me this dream,’” Junior said. “I am so happy. And I know this would make my dad so proud.”
Can you imagine just how proud it made Brazil’s best all-around cowboy when his son was crowned the World Champion All-Around Cowboy in 2016?
Kaleb rode Dre, and Junior rode Green Card to win The American. We all know how huge horses are to every timed-event cowboy.
“My dad once said, ‘If I die on a horse, I’ll die a happy man and I’ll die in peace,’” Junior said. “He died on his horse the next day.
“Rodeo and horses were my dad’s passion. Now they are my passion. My dad died trying to be his best and giving it 100 percent. Now it’s up to me to do the same.”