SWR: Congratulations on winning Laughlin. Was that the biggest win of your career?
Derrick: It was one of the biggest wins, I guess it would be up there. I just kind of placed here and there in the past. I won a couple rodeos last year. I couldn’t believe I roped good enough to win. My first one, we went at them pretty good. We ended up winning the round, we were 4.2 and the second one we just kind of caught. We were 5 flat.
SWR: I remember last year you were 3.7 in Vernal. Had you ever been that fast before?
Derrick: I was 3.3 with Cesar de la Cruz at the George Strait last year. I don’t know how I did that, it just kind of happened. That one run changed my life.
SWR: Really, how?
Derrick: Before that I didn’t really believe in myself, I wasn’t really nobody. After that, it just kind of took off from there.
SWR: What’s it been like getting started in a pro rodeo career?
Derrick: First of all, when I started going to ProRodeos I heeled. I heeled for about three or four years at circuit rodeos around the house. I didn’t even go full-time circuit. Last year was my first full year. I started at Reno last year and went half a year.
SWR: Who has helped get you started professionally?
Derrick: There was really nobody who helped get me started. Victor (Aros) called me one day to see if I wanted to rope at some circuit rodeos and I said, “Yeah.” Then we entered Reno and won a round there and then we just kept entering and winning and entering and winning. I wasn’t planning on going that hard, but we just kept sneaking by and going. I always wanted to ProRodeo and see what it was and now I kind of do.
SWR: What do you think of it?
Derrick: First, it was a real big deal, and it still is. But now it’s just something you do.
SWR: Who are heroes, who have you modeled your style after?
Derrick: I’ve got heroes, but I don’t copy anybody. Jake, Clay-them for sure. Speedy and all those kind of guys. All the top guys are my heroes. Those guys who are up there and ranked are my heroes really.
SWR: I’ve heard Cesar give a lot of credit to his uncle Victor. Does roping with him help you?
Derrick: I don’t travel with him much. This year his wife had a baby just before Laughlin and he’s been on the road with his family, so I’ve been on my own.
SWR: Tell me about your upbringing.
Derrick: I was born in Winslow, Ariz., and I was raised in a place called Seba Delkai. I’ve lived there my whole life and still live there.
SWR: I’ve heard your dad’s a pretty influential guy in the roping scene in your area. Does he still rope?
Derrick: My dad, his name is Victor, he used to rope a lot and now he’s slowed down. I guess he’s getting old. He taught me a lot. He’s just my dad, so I don’t know what everybody else thinks of him.
SWR: You’re Native American, right?
Derrick: Yes, I’m a Navajo and I was raised on the reservation.
SWR: It seems at the youth rodeos there are more and more Native Americans becoming more and more competitive. Are we about to see an influx of these great ropers to the pro ranks?
Derrick: Navajos love roping and rodeo. Most everybody does it out there. Everybody loves it, I don’t know why. I hope I’m not the only one. There should be more, there are guys who rope better than me.
SWR: Do you view yourself as a trailblazer?
Derrick: No, not really. I hate to say I’m a trailblazer. If I can do it, other guys can do it.
SWR: I also wanted to ask you about your horse. That paint horse is pretty recognizable, where did you get him?
Derrick: I don’t remember where I got him. He was just always around the house. He was a colt when we got him and I kind of made him-well, screwed him up-myself and I’m trying to fix him now. I just call him the little paint horse. He doesn’t really have a whole lot of good qualities. He’s won me a lot of money and he’s lost me a lot of money. He’s not the best horse. You can’t rely on him. If you want to go fast, he might work once in a while, but you can’t trust him sometimes. I really don’t have a horse I can brag on right now.
SWR: Looks like you’re getting by him pretty good anyway. You’ve got a nice season started.
Derrick: Yeah, I’m getting by. I’ll keep on pitching.
SWR: What are your expectations for this year? Are the Finals a realistic goal?
Derrick: It’s been my goal forever. If I can keep winning, we’ll keep going and see how it goes I guess.
SWR: Well, best of luck, we’ll be watching