Living Legends Build Their Perfect Team Roper
Living legends combine the best of today's big guns to put together the perfect header and heeler.

Jamie Arviso photo; Crystal Amen photo; Andersen/CbarC photo; Jamie Arviso photos; Hubbell rodeo photos

All my life I’ve heard my ranch-raised, horse-doctor, timed-event cowboy dad say that if he could only take this horse’s mind and put it in that horse’s body, he’d have the perfect rope horse. That got me thinking that it might be fun to ask a few hall-of-fame team roper types to apply that same thought process to the concept of building the perfect team roper. I asked Bobby Hurley, John Miller and Tee Woolman to combine the best of today’s big guns to build the perfect header, and Clay Cooper, Bobby Harris and Walt Woodard to put together the perfect heeler. Here’s what they came up with…

Bobby Hurley , 1993 & ’95 World Champion Header

Bobby Hurley’s Big 3: Chad Masters, Kaleb Driggers & Clay Smith

I’d start with Chad Masters, and how he rides his horse. A lot of guys today, when their right arm gets to swinging they forget they have a left hand. In my eyes, Chad rides his horse better than anybody going down the road today. If people would learn how to really ride their horse, it would solve a lot of their problems.

Kaleb Driggers can drag it off the horns from way back. He’s just really good at catching when he reaches. 

I’d throw Clay Smith in there for the way he finishes a run. From the time his heeler throws to the time he faces, his horses usually face really, really good. Clay gets a lot of good flags just because of how his horses face. And his horses face like they do because of how he rides them. 

Hurley likes how Masters (top) rides his horse, how Smith (bottom) puts fast finishes on his runs and Driggers’ reaching percentage. I Jamie Arviso photos

John Miller, 1970 & ’71 World Champion Header

John Miller’s Big 3: Kaleb Driggers, Rhen Richard & Trevor Brazile

You have to start with Kaleb Driggers. I saw him years ago, and said, “That guy has to be the world champion before long. He just had it written all over him.” Kaleb’s aggressive, and he very seldom misses. He’s also a good horseman. 

Kaleb Driggers and Rhen Richard would be a good match-up. 

Rhen does things right, and knows he can do things right and still be fast. And he’s really careful about the way he handles cattle. The heelers are so good today that you don’t have to be so precise. But to me, Rhen goes at it as good as you can. 

You have to put Trevor (Brazile) in there, too, if you’re trying to build any kind of perfect cowboy. He’s so smart battle-wise. Trevor knows when to take a chance, he’s not afraid to go at ’em, and he just knows horses and cattle so good. If you had those three guys rolled together into one, you couldn’t beat him.

PRCA photo by Click Thompson
Miller saw the Driggers train coming a long time ago. He also loves how Richard (top) handles cattle, and can’t imagine leaving Brazile (bottom) out of any perfect-cowboy conversation. I Impulse Photography photo

Tee Woolman, 1980, ’82 & ’91 World Champion Header

Tee Woolman’s Big 3: Cody Snow, Dustin Egusquiza & Kaleb Driggers

If I was going to build the perfect header, I’d combine Cody Snow, Dustin Egusquiza and Kaleb Driggers. I just like the way Cody Snow ropes. His loops are sharp and crisp. I like Dustin’s range, and he’s got all the range in the world. Driggers is smart. He has the brain for it, and the capability of putting it all together and keeping it together. He sets the runs up, and makes them the same every time. Driggers doesn’t get out of his game plan. 

Woolman appreciates Egusquiza’s range in addition to Driggers’ talent and brain. | Hailey Rae photo

Clay Cooper, 1985-89, ’92 & ’94 World Champion Heeler

Clay Cooper’s Big 3: Jade Corkill, Junior Nogueira & Cory Petska

I’m a fan of good heeling, and my three favorite heelers that I admire are Jade (Corkill), Junior (Nogueira) and (Cory) Petska. I reference those three guys a lot at my roping schools. This is not to take away from all the great heelers out there today. I tell my students to study their favorite guys, and to watch for certain specific things they do, so they’ll benefit and learn from watching them. 

Jade has a way of making heeling look easy, which is kind of what Rich Skelton did in his career. Everything is smooth, and Jade is never in a hurry. He rides his horse into the corner, where he’s always in a good spot. I like how he sees his timing and his shot, and Jade just always sets a nice big gate down there every single time. The style with which Jade heels steers is special—he’s always had the “it” factor.

I respect Junior’s heeling, because it doesn’t always look easy and smooth at all. It doesn’t matter where the steer or horse is. Junior’s just all natural, raw ability, and he can make any shot there is—underneath him, two jumps away from him, on the first hop, over to the right. It doesn’t even matter where his horse is. Junior’s natural, raw ability is amazing, as is the physical aspect of his roping. He’s kind of a prototype of an athlete. I think he could have played any sport. That impresses me, and I’m a fan of watching him work. 

I’ve seen Petska come up since he was a kid, and he always just had a different style than anyone else. The way he rides and sets up his corner, and his ability to rope fast consistently are something to watch. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Petska ride his horse through the corner. He rides his horse to the corner, and as he’s approaching the corner he sees the shot coming and is able to see the shot, put a nice loop down and just hammer them right there. To me, nobody makes that shot day in, day out, time in and time out the way Cory can. 

In my career, I struggled with that line between the Helter-Skelter shot versus riding through the corner and roping the steer on the second jump shot. If I tried to be too much like Petska, I’d rope legs or miss a few. I couldn’t make myself stay with that to figure it out to the point he has. 

I’m more like Jade. I can rope one on the first hop, but it has to be set up right, and I have to be in the right spot. I wanted to rope two feet every time. I hold Petska’s style in high regard because he can rope two feet fast every single time. It’s almost impossible to make that shot as consistently fast as Petska can. 

According to The Champ, you can’t have a perfect heeler convo without mentioning Corkill (shown), Nogueira and Petska.

Bobby Harris, 1991 World Champion Heeler

Bobby Harris’s Big 3:  Junior Nogueira, Jade Corkill & Cory Petska

You’ve got to start with Junior. He reminds me a lot of Al Bach. He’s big and long, and he can rope in a lot of spots where no one else can. His range is wide open. Junior can rope a steer from anywhere. 

I’d love to combine Junior with Jade Corkill, because Jade seems to ride as good of position as anybody. That would be the perfect combination. Jade’s hardly ever out of position to heel a steer, and with Junior’s length and range, I don’t think there would be a steer they couldn’t rope. 

Cory Petska would be the next one. Cory can really handle his rope. He’s a little bit old school combined with new school. Cory can rope really fast, and just handles his rope fabulously. 

You could mix and match those three guys, and be pretty tickled with whatever you came up with. Using parts from the three of them, you’d be happy any way you did it. Because in my book, those are the best three guys. They took what we did in our day, and improved it.

Harris says the perfect heeler quest starts with Nogueira (shown heeling one for Driggers at The Daddy in Cheyenne, top), and also must include Corkill’s position (bottom) and Petska’s rope-handling skills.

Walt Woodard, 1981 & 2007 World Champion Heeler

Walt Woodard’s Big 2: Junior Nogueira & Jade Corkill

Junior and Jade would be my picks, in part because of their height, and the length of their arms and upper bodies. All my life, everyone has talked about body position, posture and that you can’t lean. No one has brought that up since Junior arrived. He’s a leaner, and he not only leans forward, but over to the left, to the right—he leans everywhere. 

Junior’s got to be the best heeler I’ve ever seen. Leo (Camarillo) invented a jet airplane when he had only seen Orville and Wilbur Wright’s airplane. He invented heeling when we’d never seen heeling before. 

Junior just won first and second in the US Open. He’s incredible, and he has the size. Jade’s the same way. They can see better, because they’re bigger. When you heel, there’s a blind spot when your horse crosses over. Those guys eliminate that because of their size. They’re amazing. TRJ

Hubbell Rodeo Photos
Woodard likes everything about Nogueira (top) and Corkill (bottom), starting with their physical stature, which he sees as a great advantage. | Jamie Arviso photo
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