Kendra Santos: How big a deal is team roping in Brazil?
Junior Nogueira: Team roping is growing and getting big in Brazil. There are a lot of good ropers in Brazil now, and everybody in Brazil knows what happens here. Everybody there knows Jake Barnes, Clay O and Allen Bach. They watch the DVDs and watch old tapes. Like here, the lower-numbered ropers are really big in Brazil.
Ks: Why was it important for you to come here?
JN: It was a dream I had. We watch the NFR in Brazil. The best ropers live here. My dream is to compete against those guys to make me better. Everything that happens in my life is because of God’s plan.
KS: Jake told me your dad was a really good calf roper in Brazil, and that he died when you were 5. What happened to him?
JN: Yes, my father (Lucinei) was an all-around cowboy who loved to rope calves. One day he rode into the box to rope a calf on his best horse. He talked to his best friend as he was riding in the box. He had a heart attack and died right there on his horse.
KS: I’m so sorry. Tell me about your mom.
JN: My mom (Eliziane) ropes, too. She’s a breakaway roper and a header. I also have a little sister, Ludmila, who’s 13.
KS: Your name shows up in official results as Junior Nogueira, but I’ve seen Testa as part of your name also. Tell me about that.
JN: Testa was my father’s nickname. Now it’s my nickname, too. When my dad was a boy he was playing soccer and scored a goal with his forehead. Testa means forehead in Portuguese.
Ks: How old were you when you started roping?
JN: I started roping with my daddy when I was 4. He would rope a steer, dally and stop him. Then a guy would put me and my pony into position. I missed the very first steer. But I put a trap down there and roped the second steer by two feet. I remember that it was a yellow steer with big horns.
KS: What is the greatest accomplishment of your young career so far?
JN: Winning the biggest roping in Brazil seven times. I went pro when I was 14. I won a car at my first big roping. I’ve won nine cars, 54 motorcycles and two horse trailers.
KS: How is team roping different in America compared to team roping in Brazil?
JN: I get to compete against my heroes here is the biggest thing. And we don’t compete as often in Brazil as here. It’s a much more busy schedule here. There are some good ropers over there, but over here there are lots of good ropers.
KS: I’ve seen footage of you roping in Brazil, and it looks like the cattle are a lot different.
JN: Yes, we rope mostly Brahman muleys in Brazil. The horned cattle here handle and hop differently. But Jake’s helping me get it figured out.
Ks: How did you get hooked up with Jake?
JN: God. About five years ago, (Brazilian bull riding legend) Adriano Moraes, who was friends with my daddy, called Jake and told him about me. Then a mutual friend introduced us last December.
Ks: What’s the most important thing Jake’s taught you so far?
JN: Jake’s teaching me everything about how to be an American cowboy. He’s the same age as my daddy, and I get to live at his house. He’s teaching me everything, including about how hard I need to work to make my dreams come true.
Ks: How is it being on the same team as a ProRodeo Hall of Famer?
JN: Sometimes I walk in the box, look over and see Jake, and I can’t believe it. I think I’m dreaming. My idol is over there, and I’m roping with him. It’s so great that I sometimes think I’m sleeping and that I’ll wake up. Jake tells me it’s reality, but it’s still unbelievable.
Ks: What’s been Jake’s greatest impression on you so far?
JN: He’s not young anymore (Jake will be 55 on April 4), but he’s still in shape and he still works so hard every day. Jake’s knees hurt, but he never complains and he never stops working hard. He’s so tough.
Ks: What would be your idea of the perfect first year in ProRodeo?
JN: To win (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association/Resistol) Rookie of the Year and make the National Finals. That’s my dream.