Erich Rogers and Paden Bray made three fresh steers in AT&T Stadium look easy March 7-8, 2021, winning the $100,000-per-man payday, of which $50,000 each counts toward the PRCA world standings.
As invited contestants from the top 10 in the PRCA world standings in 2020, Rogers and Bray roped their first steer Saturday in the Round of 16, proving to be their toughest run of the weekend with a 5.29-second run on a steer that required Rogers to throw more Powerline Lite than he's used to.
"Four years ago there's no way I could have heeled that steer," Bray, 22, said. "Now I'm not saying I've got it going on, but I feel like I can control my emotions a little bit better and my reactions a little better. When that steer hit like that, Erich did a great job. That one was a tick on the fresher side. When he hit, the next moment he was right beside my heel horse. I told myself stay down, don't panic and just stay forward in your saddle and put your rope on the ground and see what happens. I just tried to stay real soft and open and didn't try to panic and force anything. It was a pretty crazy shot—I was even kind of surprised."
On day two of the event in the Round of 8, Rogers and Bray made a smooth 5.17-second run to win the go, and they came back and were even smoother and even faster in the Finals with a 5.05-second run.
"My header just flat out come untrained," Bray laughed. "He hit the barrier and got in front of them steers and roped going to them and they were in tow, and he just kept them in front of me and second hop both times the momentum was good. The run was easy and it was very easy and it felt very consistent. I just did my job. The runs felt easy because they were easy—they were set up perfect."
Rogers made it easy on Sandy—the same mare owned by Paden's dad Ken Bray that Rogers used in the team's campaign to the NFR average title in 2020. Registered as DMO Sand Drifter, the 14-year-old bay roan came from Logan Olson after he slowed down rodeoing, having won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo on her earlier in her career.
"Him and that mare are nothing nice," Bray said. "I bet he's won over $300,000 on that mare."
In 2020 alone, Rogers and Bray won $175,503 in ProRodeo competition and finished third and second in the PRCA world standings, with most of the money coming with Rogers aboard Sandy. They earned $122,962 at the 2020 NFR with Sandy on the head side.
Bray, for his part, was on the sorrel gelding he calls Slider—a horse his family also had a hand in since his start. The 13-year-old gelding, registered as EM Magic Bar Eleven, came off the Montgomery Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, as a weanling.
"He was so spot on," Bray said. "That horse—I don't know if he's the best horse, but he's the best horse to me. On that first run, he stayed forgiving right there even though he ran into the steer. The momentum change was pretty drastic. We were going full-contact, the steer was out in front of us, Erich reached and roped him and then the steer completely hit the breaks and was trying to fight his head. He stayed pushed up and soft and forgiving. I'd say 99% of the heel horses would have just wiggedout and got tight and took the complete throw away. And the next two runs it was like a day off back there. He set them up and I just went one, two three and he was spot on. He felt so good and had strong finishes."
Rogers entered The American seventh in the world standings with $10,282, and after the win jumped to first place with $60,282. Bray was fifth on the heel side entering The American but also jumped to first with the same amount of money.
"If it was up to me, I'm young and dumb and I want to rodeo like I don't have anything won," Bray said. "We've had a really good winter and had $10,000 won, but I don't want to back off any. If a guy sits in his chair at the end of the year, I want to say you know what, I gave it my all and went to every rodeo I could and I made every steer count. If the stars line up and I win the world, I want to win it by at least $50,000 because I want to have that good of a year and that good of a Finals." TRJ