The team roping current was swift at Rodeo Corpus Christi, and Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira rode the rodeo’s $545,000 wave with great gusto to skip town $19,900 richer, with the coveted trophy surfboards in tow. The old partners and friends—who’ve reunited for a roping reunion tour in 2021—blazed a blistering trail through the qualifying and progressive rounds. They followed up their 3.75 in the Progressive Round with a 3.66-second scorcher in Mother’s Day Sunday’s nine-team Showdown Round. That turned out to be the run of the rodeo, because in the end, it was a businessman’s layup run roughly twice as long as the one before it that closed this popular team’s Corpus Christi deal.
“Sometimes people back themselves into a corner in that scenario, and make a mental mistake when all they have to do is catch,” Driggers said of being the last in the three-team Triple Crown Round, when the two teams in front of them—Clay Smith and Jade Corkill, and Erich Rogers and Paden Bray didn’t stop the clock. “We’ve run so many steers together that we didn’t need to talk about it before we rode in there to rope that last one. And we know how to catch the steer, when that’s all we need to do.
“As tough as it had been here, I really didn’t see it going this way. It was a great set of steers and competitors. I honestly thought we were going to have to be 3.5 to win it. When we were out back waiting to rope, I was thinking that $6,750 for second would be awesome still. So I was trying to decide whether to go for it and try to win it if those other guys put the pressure on us, or just take that $6,750 route if it was looking a little easier.”
Their smart, safe 6.04-second run in the Triple Crown Round sealed the deal, and was worth $16,500 of their $19,900 per partner from the beachside Buc Days. Driggers rode Cuervo, who’s the bay he just bought from Jeff Flenniken. Nogueira rode Timon, who he cracked out right before the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“When our time didn’t matter on that last steer, I tried to break the barrier,” said Driggers, who didn’t break it, but said they made the most of their time in town by tooling around on rented scooters and trying to founder on fresh local seafood. “Junior just hung back, let that steer push to the right in that small arena, and let me run up in there and get a good head catch. Then I pulled him out in front of him slow, so he could catch back up and get a good shot at him before the left wall.”
“It’s all about teamwork,” said Nogueira, who treated the Sunday crowd to his trademark Pullback for Jesus at run’s end. “If he doesn’t do his job right and I don’t do my job right, we aren’t going to go anywhere. The only chance we have to win is working together.”
Driggers seconds that.
“I’m glad to be back roping together again,” he said. “A lot of partners are scared to step on each other’s toes. With Junior and I being such good friends, if something’s not working for him or me, we talk about it, we fix it and move on. I think that’s one thing that a lot of teams get caught up into—not communicating. I’m not saying be rude about it, but talk about it. If you let problems keep building, they can turn into a big deal before you know it.
“I think that’s one luxury Junior and I have as a team. We’ve roped together so long that we talk about everything. We’re both open-minded, and we both want to win. That communication is a strength we have as a team. We’re on the same team, and we get that. When something comes up, we talk about it, adapt and roll on with it.”
The way these two see it, a successful partnership is pretty simple.
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the secret to a successful partnership?’” Junior said. “We’re friends. That’s the first thing. I roped with Jake (Barnes) when I first came to America, and lived at his house. We worked so hard and ran so many steers. Then I came to Texas, and rented a house right in Kaleb’s neighborhood, and we roped together every day. Now I have my own place, but we hang out a lot. When we’re rodeoing, we stay more together than we stay with our wives.
“We rope good together. We win, and when we back in the corner we know what kind of run we have to make. I know Kaleb’s going to hook that steer fast, if we need to be quick to win. I always just have to worry about doing my job. Nowadays, the competition’s so tough. So we keep working on more things as a team. A little mistake costs a lot. But if we make all the right moves on the same run, we’re going to gain a bunch, too.”
They made the trip to Rodeo Corpus Christi to boost their bottom line. Check.
“The opportunity to come here and take a shot at this kind of money is amazing,” said Driggers of the World Champions Rodeo Alliance bringing new money to the table in recent times. “This has to be one of the top 10 rodeos of the year. It’s an awesome opportunity and an awesome concept, so naturally we’re going to be here.”
Their win at Rodeo Corpus Christi gives Driggers and Nogueira a start on the Triple Crown of Rodeo $1 million bonus, that goes to anyone who can win three straight WCRA majors. Next stop, the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo, coming up July 20-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah.