Fairytale

‘We’re Just Friends Out Here; I Don’t Even Know What We’re Doing.’ — Best Friends Begay and Todd Win NFR Aggregate Title (BAM!)
Derrick Begay and Colter Todd win the 2023 NFR average team roping title after a fairytale season in ProRodeo.
Derrick Begay Colter Todd NFR Average
Begay and Todd celebrate their 2023 NFR average title. | Jamie Arviso Photo

Derrick Begay and Colter Todd decided to ‘rodeo a little’ in the winter of 2023, and somehow, someway, they left the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo later that year as the NFR aggregate champions, roping all 10 steers in 69.00 seconds.

They left the Finals $131,009.65 per man richer from their 10 days’ work, including the $78,747.07 a man they won for their average title. Begay, 40, of Seba Dalkai, Arizona, finished the season fourth in the PRCA world standings with a career-high $269,125.06 won, while Todd, 39, of Willcox, Arizona, won $284,292.26 in 2023. Todd’s earnings are $197,121.26 higher than what he won at his first NFR heading with Cesar de la Cruz in 2006, and still $118,502 more than what he won when he and de la Cruz finished third in the world the next year. Todd has not made an NFR appearance since 2008, and he’d been in retirement since then raising his family and ranching.

Fun Fact: Any time Derrick Begay and Colter Todd won something in 2023, they’d say “BAM!” to one another. Family and friends carried signs with the exclamation on it in the Thomas & Mack.

The Situation

In Round 10, they had an outside chance at the world title if eventual champions Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp fumbled at the end of the round. Any sort of catch would clinch their average spot as the only team to catch all 10 steers.

“Backing into the box tonight, it’s been like every night: be aggressive at the barrier and rope the steer wherever he’s at,” Begay said.

Derrick Begay and Colter Todd run their final steer of the 2023 NFR. | Jamie Arviso Photo

He took that same start he saw all week, and they stopped the clock in 4.4 seconds—enough for sixth in the round and $4,952 a man, but not enough to give them the gold buckles as everyone else in title contention caught, too.

Derrick Begay and Colter Todd’s Mental Game

“In my mind, I was pretty sure for him to have a chance [at the world title], we needed to do pretty good in the round and other stuff would need to happen, too,” Todd said. “I was thinking we needed to be 3.9 or 4.0. I obviously at some point in there decided that was not my plan anymore and cut to the inside. I was a little upset at myself that I let emotions control my reactions instead of just staying hooked and pushing on around there to get that steer fast. But at the end of the day, I’m grateful that I caught him.”

Todd on 12-year-old mare Docs Gunslinger Chic, who won the world with Paul Eaves in 2020, in Round 10 of the 2023 NFR. | Jamie Arviso Photo

But in typical Begay and Todd fashion, those scenarios weren’t something they spent their family meals together the 24 hours before discussing.

“We’re not partners—I know we’re not,” Todd said. “We don’t talk, we didn’t talk, we didn’t look at the standings. We’re just friends out here, I don’t even know what we’re doing. I mean, I apologized for cutting in. But that’s it.”

“We don’t consider ourselves professional team ropers,” Begay added. “We’re here with the best guys in the world. We’re on the highest stage of rodeo and we’ve won the second-most prestigious buckle they give. So I’m not going to lie—two guys like us aren’t supposed to do what we just did. I’ve never even been close to this in 10 years here. I usually miss one of the first three. I guess one word would be this is special, to do it with him. I’m not sure how to describe our relationship. We’re not even team ropers. We’re just good friends that like to rope. And that’s where it all started and where it still is it feels like. We’re not even serious about it. We care about it, we want to do good, and we’re both really competitive still. But it’s, I don’t know. In 2022, that’s when I first started roping with him. Nothing was planned. I needed a partner at a little rodeo and we just kept roping then. 2023, we didn’t have no plans this year. We just kept entering and kept going, and here we are. We never had no goals. We never told each other we wanted this or that, we’d just go to the rodeo together and we’d either do good or we didn’t.”

For two guys as laid back about team roping as they are, they still felt the pressure of the moment in a big way, but both for different reasons.

“I think that’s the thing, in a sense, the thing I’ve had to overcome the most, because he is Derrick Begay,” Todd said. “Sure, we’re really good friends, and cowboying, everyday life, it’s not. But you get out here and you realize that everybody is fans of Derrick Begay. And you put that pressure on yourself.”

The inverse was true for Begay.

“I guess this is unexpected,” Begay said. “I’ve heard people say, ‘no words can describe how it feels.’ I’ve roped with my family members forever, and this is as close as you can get, roping with your best friend. Team roping is team roping, but what’s neat is what we do outside the arena. Those moments are fun to enjoy. Being in the spotlight for 10 days, seeing Colter Todd. I’m a big fan of him. It’s tricky roping with your best friend and your childhood hero. I’m roping for him, so there’s a lot of emotions in it. I don’t know, I’m not really sure how to explain it…The greatest header of all time—Clay Tryan, in my opinion, he’s the greatest—told me once, ‘You don’t cry when you win. You’re supposed to go there to win, that’s why you’re there. It shouldn’t be a surprise.’ But, I might cry. I wasn’t expecting this.”

Derrick Begay’s and Colter Todd’s Horsepower

Begay pinged the barrier all week on Caseys Glory, the 13-year-old gelding he bought from New Mexico’s Lee Kiehne. He’s the only horse Begay’s had to rodeo on of his own all year.

“My horse is still just good enough,” Begay said, just like he said of the gelding Swagger he rode at seven NFRs and won most of his $1.5 million in career earnings aboard. “Luckily enough we’re the only team that caught 10. Nobody else did.”

Todd borrowed Docs Gunslinger Chic, the 12-year-old mare that Paul Eaves won the PRCA world title on in 2020, now owned by Highpoint Performance Horses.

“I was very grateful and very comfortable on her,” Todd said.

What’s Next?

Begay and Todd are, of course, into all the winter rodeos. And as usual, they’re committing to no plan for the future. But, luckily for us, they’re not ruling anything out, either. TRJ

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