Talent Isn’t Everything: How Martin Lucero Outworked the Rest

Lucero, the 2010 NFR Average Champion, has earned over $1.6 million in PRCA earnings since 1991 and has qualified for 16 NFRs.

Lucero now teaches roping lessons and rides outside horses for the public in Stephenville, Texas. His coaching is available in both English and Spanish on Roping.com. TRJ File Photo

Earlier this summer, we were talking about the numbers game in rodeo, because, back in the day, we always said that it took averaging $1,000 per rodeo to make the Finals. While I might be semiretired, I think that’s still the case.  

It breaks down like this: I wasn’t really all that talented, but I was disciplined. That’s how I was able to win: I couldn’t outrope everybody, but I didn’t beat myself. I don’t have Junior Nogueira talent and a lot of people don’t. But you can still win by not beating yourself. And that was my logic. There’s more than one money to be won at all of these rodeos. Team roping is not winner-takes-all. I learned to be content with winning what was easier to win. 

Rodeoing, I was comfortable in my own skin. You can still be successful and not be Junior. It takes a long time to buy into that. I was fortunate enough to rope with older guys early, and understand that it’s not a sprint—it’s more of a marathon. So as long as I did that, I didn’t beat myself. Ironically, I probably learned more about heeling from (header) Mark Simon than anybody. I used to ride to the end and throw fast and rope a lot of legs. He told me, “I’m the quarterback. I determine where we win, not you. Figure out when to get to the inside take a swing over the back and catch them. End up with two feet—if you can’t, I’ll find someone who can. You have two weeks.” I went into the Finals into the lead that year—so he knew what he was talking about.  

Now, headers really determine when we win. It’s the heeler’s job to not drop the ball. All we can do is rope them on the first hop heeling. Heading has evolved, but heeling is still the same. It doesn’t do you any good to rope them on the first hop two coils away, so riding to a good position and sticking to the fundamentals still wins good money. And, honestly, I think roping on the second hop wins more anyway. 

I won the average at the Finals without a tremendous amount of talent. A lot of kids should learn that—you don’t have to awe everybody. So many people get caught up in wondering what people think. But the reality is that everybody is fighting their own demons, and they’re not even thinking about you. Jade Corkill is worried about Jade Corkill. Junior is worried about Junior. They want to do their job. The best guys are worried about doing their job, and they want to do it right every time. And if you get good at doing your job, it’s almost always good enough. It honestly doesn’t matter what profession you’re in: People are fighting their own demons. 

I always believe if I do my job, they’re giving me a check that day. I know if I do that, it’s good enough and they’re going to pay me. Hoping to win is just hope—but that’s like trying to win the lottery. But when you put in the work and trust the preparation, you expect to win. Hoping to win something was never my mindset. If I did my job, I had faith in my partner, so I expected to win. If I didn’t, I’d figure out why I didn’t win and what I can do to fix it. And I think it’s the same mindset no matter what number you’re at. People will say, “Man that guy’s lucky.” No, he rides good, he has good fundamentals and he keeps good position. Yeah, you may draw a good steer now and then, but the guys who win the most over the season, when they draw the steer they can win on, they win. They stick to their gameplan. They don’t fall into any traps of anybody else. And because of that, they win more than everybody—look at Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins and Kaleb Driggers and Junior.

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