When he backed into the heading box at the 2021 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Clint Summers joined some very rare rodeo company. The NFR Switchenders Club is so exclusive that before this year only seven cowboys—Bret Beach, Trevor Brazile, David Motes, Walt Rodman, Mark Simon, Speed Williams and J.D. Yates, in alphabetical order—have ever accomplished the feat in the history of Rodeo’s Super Bowl. Quinn Kesler headed in Vegas, too, which brings this party’s total to nine.
“I’m overly excited, I really am,” said Summers, 30, who calls Lake City, Florida home, and also has a place in Stephenville, Texas. “I heeled forever, and maybe it’s just part of being a heeler—every heeler thinks he can head.”
Summers heeled for 2017 World Champion Header Erich Rogers at his first Finals in 2018.
“Making the NFR was definitely a dream come true,” Summers says. “It was everything I’d worked for my whole life, from when I was roping the Fast Lane as a kid. All I ever thought about was trying to get to the NFR. When I finally got there, it was an awesome feeling.”
Summers finished 12th in the 2018 world heeling standings. Then came 2019, which did not go so swimmingly. Summers started the year heeling for Rogers. When they split around San Antonio and Houston time that winter, Clint found himself in no man’s land.
“I talked to Trevor, and said, ‘What do you think?’” Summers remembers. “I rope with him a lot. When I’m in Stephenville, I drive to his house in Decatur about every day to practice. Trevor told me, ‘I’m not saying you can’t heel, because you heel good. But you can head, and you ride head horses good. Just my opinion, but I think you’d do great heading.’ My dad (Darren) asked Trevor if he really thought I could make it heading, or if he was blowing smoke up our butt. Trevor said, ‘Who do you think told him to head?’
“I didn’t have a partner, so heading kind of sounded fun at the moment. A week or so went by, and I talked to Rhen [Richard] about heeling for him. So I made Trevor a deal. I said, ‘I’m going to rope with Rhen this summer. But if we don’t win anything, I’m coming home and I’ll be at your house heading every day. Rhen and I didn’t hardly win anything (Summers’ total 2019 earnings were about $15,000). Rhen went home right after Dodge City and right before the Spicer Gripp in August. So I borrowed a head horse from (Kaleb) Driggers, and headed for Ty Arnold at the Spicer Gripp. That was pretty late in 2019. It kicked off my heading career, and I sold my heel horses.”
Trevor’s hooked him up with an impressive laundry list of horses. His sorrel horse, Ransom, came from the Trevor and Lari Dee Guy collab, and was owned by Clay Smith and Wyatt Imus before making his way back to Brazile and now Summers. Then there was a bay mare by the name of Brown Sugar that Clint rode some last year, and has since sold, that came out of Brazile’s barn. Summers now has a 5-year-old sorrel futurity horse of Trevor’s, Lady, who’s actually Ransom’s little sister. Trevor trained the flashy sorrel War Wagon, who went to Imus before now belonging to Clint. The horse Clint’s been riding all summer this year is an 11-year-old bay they call JV, that Brazile sold to Imus when he retired, and Imus has since sold to Summers.
“JV’s the horse Trevor and I both rode at the 2018 Cinch Timed Event (Championship at the Lazy E Arena) when I helped him,” Summers said. “He was by far the best head horse I ever rode in my life, and we fit each other. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to own him. He scores phenomenal, and is the fastest horse I’ve ever ridden in my life. He was a racehorse in his younger years. JV’s a huge part of how this year has gone for me.”
The Trevor Factor cannot be minimized in the story of Clint Summers’ roping career. The Summers family owns furniture stores—Badcock Home Furniture & More—in Florida.
“All my family roped, but nothing real serious,” said Clint, who this month will marry North Carolina-native Brittany Adams on November 6. “I grew up around it and going to jackpots. We all goofed off, roped and hunted, but nobody in my family really rodeoed. I guess I was the one who decided to go on with it a little bit. And once I committed, I was in.”
Clint grew up roping as many calves as steers, and thinks it’d be fun to get back to the tie-down roping and maybe even some steer roping moving forward.
“Growing up and heading, heeling and roping calves my whole life, Trevor’s been my idol,” Summers said. “I always wanted to be Trevor Brazile. Trevor’s a winner in and out of the arena, and that I get to talk to him every day on the telephone now is crazy. How it all started was when Patrick (Smith, with whom Trevor won a world team roping title in 2010) went home in the fall of 2017, and I got to heel for Trevor up in the Northwest. We got to be buddies, and that led to me helping Trevor at the Timed Event in 2018.”
Summers goes way back as a switchender.
“There aren’t a lot of open ropings in Florida, but there are a lot of 12 slides,” he said. “So all us kids from down there went to the ropings and did both. We didn’t really have a set side at the jackpots. I grew up heeling at the rodeos, and heeled for Driggers at the junior rodeos all the way until he graduated. We jackpotted and amateur rodeoed together, too, then he started heading for Brad Culpepper (Driggers made his first NFR heading for Culpepper in 2011).”
Summers officially switched ends in 2020, and headed for Douglas Rich. As Clint puts it, “It felt like time to do something different. It just felt like the swap was meant to be.” Is Summers surprised by how far he’s come so fast on the heading side?
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “I feel like if you work hard enough at something, you can achieve whatever you want. I didn’t know how long it would take me, but when I started heading, I felt like I could do it. I was all-in, and was going to do whatever it took. Making the NFR on a second side is awesome, but a gold buckle is what we’re all after. When I heeled at the Thomas & Mack, I thought heading there looked so fun. I thought, ‘I’d love to get to head there one day.’ Getting that opportunity now is pretty exciting.”
He’ll be heading for Finals freshman in Ross Ashford.
“Ross and I started this year off together after roping at a lot of jackpots together as second partners last year,” Summers said. “I like Ross’s style. He uses a big loop, and he likes to throw fast. Trevor’s been awesome about helping me with horses, and I just knew if I got the horsepower I was working on and could get it on the horns and set steers up for Ross, our styles would be great together. It’s worked so far this year, and I can’t wait to see what we can do at the Finals. It’s Ross’s first NFR, and my first one as a header. I think it’s pretty cool to get that done together.”
There have been countless heading firsts for Clint in 2021. Thankfully, Cowboy King Brazile was but a phone call away with all the answers.
“I called Trevor before I headed for the first time at Pendleton, and asked him everything from which horse to ride to which bit to use and whether barefoot or ice nails was better on the grass,” Clint said. “There’s a whole lot of slipping and sliding when you heel there, and I didn’t really know what to expect as a header. Trevor told me heading would be way easier than heeling on the grass. I was really having doubts when he told me to ride the racehorse (JV) there.
“I said, ‘There’s no way.’ JV scores awesome, but he runs so hard and he gets on his butt pretty good and gets out of there. But Trevor and Patrick set the arena record at Pendleton a few years ago with Trevor riding JV. And when Trevor tells me to do something, I do it. I rode JV the first two rounds, and we made it back (to the short round). Then it rained, so I got off of him and got on a little sorrel I have that I call JJ. We ended up fifth in the average.”
Brazile owns the lion’s share of rodeo’s records, and is proud to be a member of the NFR Switchenders Club. He’s also proud to welcome Clint (and Quinn) to the party.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Trevor, who switches ends with Summers when Clint comes over to practice. “Qualifying for the Finals at both ends is one of the feats where you don’t have to wonder how handy a guy is. We’ve all heard people say, ‘He can heel as good as he can head’ about a lot of guys. And I’ve seen a lot of people try it. But only seven people in history had ever gotten it done before now. Nobody has to brag on you once you’ve done it, because it’s just a fact and the discussion is over. Some stats just don’t lie, and that’s one of them.
“I love having my horses out there, and thanks to the Cowboy Channel I can watch them. War Wagon’s 6 this year, and Lady is 5. I rode them both at the roping futurity last year, and they’re still eligible this year. JV, Ransom, Brown Sugar—when you rope good, ride a head horse good and don’t skimp in the head-horse category, your path to success is a whole lot smoother and faster. I’ve seen so many guys try to ride inferior head horses, because they rode good and handled their rope good, and thought they could get by. Clint doesn’t cheat that part of the process, and it shows.”
It’ll be tough for Clint to tie the knot this month without a couple of special family members in attendance. He and his family lost two loved ones to COVID this year.
“I lost my Uncle Darrell ‘Stump’ Summers during Dodge City, and lost my Granny Patsy (Summers) about a week and a half after that,” Summers said sadly. “I did get to talk to my Granny when she was in the hospital, but losing them both like that was pretty tough.”
He honored them by doing the family proud, and representing Team Summers in Vegas.
“You always hear people talking about guys who’ve made it both ways,” Summers said. “It’s an awesome feeling to get it done. But the main goal I’m after is a gold buckle. I don’t care if it’s heading or heeling. I love to rope, and that’s what I want. For now, I don’t plan to go back to heeling, so it’ll have to be in the heading. I’ve dedicated my whole life to roping, and I’m going to work hard to give myself the best possible chance. When you get a chance like this, you’ve got to run with it.” TRJ