I had my shoulder fixed in May 2015. It took a full year—really a year and a half before I felt decent enough to rope. When doctors and friends told me I’d be good to go in six to eight months, they weren’t even close.
It was a slow process because my shoulder was hurt most of 2014, and I had injections to where they finally said ‘We can’t inject it anymore.’ That year Jim (Ross Cooper) and I had a great year. But by Clovis (California) in early 2015, I couldn’t pick up a rope. I finally tore my bicep completely apart, so I started throwing some loops that weren’t usually my loops.
When I knew I couldn’t rope and I had my arm in a sling it wasn’t so bad because I stayed away from it. When I first started back, I was so worried about it hurting again that I wouldn’t take those shots that I used to. It kind of made me a defensive roper instead of offensive like I’ve always been my whole life. I told my wife, which is horrible to say, but I wish I had done something else my whole life because now I can’t even do what I was good at. It was so hard to reach that I couldn’t even go a coil away like I used to with my normal shot. Then when I rode Tevo it made it really hard on me because he’s used to me roping a coil and a half away and widening at the same time.
You try to make up for it scoring, so I’d break barriers, then I’d miss the right horn—I did that like 10 times at rodeos. That’s not my patented miss. You get a certain way you usually miss and you know what you did. But I was throwing loops that I had no idea why I threw them or why they missed. You start thinking ‘Well, this is the new me, and I’m never going to be able to reach or I don’t have that snappy head loop anymore and my hands aren’t as fast as they used to be.’ That attitude made me miserable to be around. It took the wind out of my sail completely. It was just one of those things—time. People tried to make excuses, like the steer sucked or this and that—it had nothing to do with that. There were two issues going on: one, I couldn’t do it, and two, I had absolutely no confidence.
What helped me a lot was that I got to brand calves at a ranch here at home. They have about 3,000 head of mother cows, and I branded more calves in the last two years than I ever have. That has helped me more than anything. When you’re in a branding pen, it’s not like you’re in an arena where everything’s right in front of you. You have to throw in front of you, behind you, to the side, over the top, and being able to do that without having money up has let me know that my arm is good and I’m better. When you do 300 calves in a day, you’re going to throw 400 loops, and I don’t even do that in a week of practicing. There were days that it would be sore, but for the most part I think that’s what has helped me immensely.
I feel great now—if I’m at a jackpot and they give a fast-time away, I’m going to dang sure try it on, and it’s been working where a year and a half ago I couldn’t do that because of my arm. Finally, after three years, I’m 100-percent better where roping is fun again.
If I don’t ever make the Finals again, but I physically feel like I’m roping as good as I ever have—I’m good, I’m fine. If I don’t ever try to make the NFR again, if I don’t decide to do it next year, which is my plan, I am good because I feel like I rope the same or better now than I ever have, and I don’t hurt at all.