Travis Graves of Jay, Okla., just heeled at his sixth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Graves and 21-time World Champion Cowboy Trevor Brazile were the reserve world champion team ropers in 2014, which means Graves finished second only to Jade Corkill on the heeling side.
Kendra Santos: Talk to me about 2014 in general.
Travis Graves: It was a great year. Trevor and I had a lot of fun and we did good. Our goal was to win it and we came up short, so it was a little disappointing that way. But we went into the Finals third and came out second, so a guy can’t get too down about that. It was one of my better years.
KS: Now shift gears with me to the 2014 NFR, where you and Trevor won a round, placed in four others, finished fifth in the average on eight steers and won almost $75,000 a man.
TG: It was the best NFR I’ve ever had as far as money won and my performance. I thought I heeled better than I ever had there. Again, our goal was to win it and we came up a little short. But overall it was a pretty good NFR.
KS: Any regrets, or were you completely satisfied with the way 2014 went?
TG: I wasn’t completely satisfied, because the only way I think anyone’s satisfied is if you win the championship
KS:Was roping with Trevor what you expected?
TG: Yes, it was. Trevor takes care of business, has a lot of good horses and knows his way around. It was exactly what I thought it would be—good.
KS: Is it true what everyone assumes, that there is a little extra juggling involved because Trevor works three events?
TG: It is a little harder with him working three events, mostly on the jackpot side, because Trevor can’t go to as many ropings as regular team ropers can. But that’s part of the deal. That’s what Trevor does. I knew that going in, so had no complaints.
KS: Tell me something about Trevor Brazile I don’t already know.
TG: He’s a funny guy. Trevor always jokes around and has a good time. And he has a short memory as far as rodeo goes. If he misses or messes up, he might be mad for a minute. But then it’s on to the next one with a positive attitude. Oh, and Trevor loves sushi. Me, not so much.
KS: What was the best part of the Trevor experience for you? Did you learn anything new that’ll come in handy moving forward in your career?
TG: That short memory deal comes in really handy. I already knew things like “you get out of it what you put into it,” but Trevor lives all those things we were all taught when we were growing up. He wins because he deserves to win.
KS: So it’s you and another champ, Chad Masters, in 2015, eh?
KS: Do you expect a new-team learning curve, or is that really necessary with a couple of veterans like yourselves who’ve roped together before?
TG: I don’t think there should be any problem with us winning right away. We’ve roped second partners for four years, and I’ve known Chad since I was about 10 years old. It should be fun and I expect us to do well. We’re a lot alike and it should be a fun year.
KS: What drives you, and leads you out to that practice arena every day at this stage of your game?
TG: I want to win the world title. That’s pretty much it, but I also love roping. It isn’t a hobby. I crave it. I like getting better, and I always want to improve. It takes a lot of effort to keep getting better, and I think a guy can always get better. I don’t know if anybody ever has roping figured out.
Ks: Who are the guys you look up to most?
TG: I look up to guys like Clay Cooper, Walt Woodard, Al Bach and Rich Skelton. They’ve done it forever, and they’re the reason it’s as tough as it is today.
KS: You’re 30 now. Can you imagine yourself still doing this at their age?
TG: I’m never going to say never, because they still love it just like I do now. They’re still some of the best guys, and it’s hard to quit. It’s a drug. I can’t say how long I’ll do this. As long as I’m competitive and love it, I’ll keep going.