Junior Nogueira has changed the heeling game since exploding onto the ProRodeo scene at The American with Jake Barnes in 2014—setting records, winning every jackpot left to win and picking up two gold buckles along the way.
And now, with a $3,600-a-man go-round check at the Cinch NFR Playoff Series in Puyallup, Washington, Junior Nogueira followed his partner Kaleb Driggers into rodeo’s $2-million-man club.
Nogueira, 32, won $1,776,458 entering his record-breaking 2022 season, in which he and Driggers set the single-season earnings record by the end of July. Up to September 14, Nogueira has $223,974 won—putting him $432 above the $2-million mark.
“It’s a blessing for sure,” Nogueira said. “It’s been an amazing year, with a lot of records and a lot of achievements. But to see how many things God can put in my way, and make my dream come true. Now I have a family, and kids and horses, and I’m living my dream. To be able to take care of my family, to rodeo, it’s been amazing what this country has done to me. I’m very thankful for being here, for following my dreams, and thankful for America and ProRodeo also.”
From Presidente Prudente, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Nogueira has been in the PRCA since moving to the U.S. in 2014. He’s never once missed the Finals since his rookie year, notching nine NFR qualifications (including this year) and averaging $222,270.22 annually in ProRodeo earnings. Along the way, Nogueira has roped with Jake Barnes, JoJo LeMond (at the 2015 NFR, when a traumatic brain injury sidelined Barnes), Kaleb Driggers and Cody Snow, but nearly $1.5 million of Nogueira’s earnings have been with Driggers.
“Kaleb and I have had a unique partnership all these years, and especially the last few years, we’ve been a great team,” Nogueira said. “I’m so thankful for him, and his dedication and professionalism have helped to push me. He’s given me plenty of opportunities.”
In 2022, Nogueira has won everything from the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo to Oakley, Utah and San Juan Capistrano, setting the Cowboy Christmas earnings record along the way, too.
“I dreamed all of this,” Nogueira said. “If I tell you I never dreamed this, I’d be lying. I dreamed to make the Finals, to rodeo, to be a World Champ. I know that sounded really, really impossible back then, but when you put your dreams in God and work really hard, they have a great chance to be a reality. It’s true, and like I said, there are so many people I need to be thankful for. Jake Barnes, Robbie Schroeder, my mom, people who’ve been on my side. They’ve all been so important in my whole career. My mom never let me know limitations. They’ve all been very important to my career. It’s nice to carry the family legacy for my professional career. There’s no way to do this without everybody’s help. The year isn’t over yet, and I want to finish strong and do my best.”
Nogueira’s been with wife Jacqueline for the majority of his career, and she moved to the U.S. to support him pursuing his dreams after earning a degree in veterinary medicine. Together, they have two kids—Isabella, 2, and Jake, 10 months.
Nogueira split his winnings over the years across a number of horses, most notably between his gray mare Apache R Hali (Hali), his black 3.3-mount Peppers Homespun Kid (Green Card) and Kiehnes Frosty Pepto (Timon).
“I started my career on Hali, and I don’t know where I’d be without her,” Nogueira said. “And Green Card truly helped me build my life for my family and I, and to those two horses I’m so thankful.”