Unfortunately for Kaleb Driggers, the overall and team roping rookie-of-the year titles were a consolation prize.
Driggers, 19, might have qualified for the Wrangler NFR in his first year but was unable to count some of the late-season rodeos to his official earnings tally since he had already maxed out his official rodeo count.
"It was definitely a learning experience," Driggers said. "I didn't check with them (the PRCA) like I should have.
"I didn't necessarily want to end up 16th (in the 2009 PRCA World Standings), but I really didn't head like I should have in the latter half of the year," Driggers said. Despite finishing $1,197 outside the Top 15, Driggers is pleased and excited about his rookie honors and his future. "If I head like I am supposed to, I'm going to make the Finals," said Driggers, who finished the 2009 season with $61,446.
He and the other rookies of the year were recognized on Rookie Night, Dec. 8, at the Wrangler NFR and picked up their buckles on the arena floor of the Thomas & Mack Center.
In total, Driggers considers 2009 a learning experience. Roping with Brad Culpepper and going through the ups and downs of the past year will help Driggers down the road.
"I didn't really know what to expect, but now I feel like I'm prepared for next year," said Driggers.
Among the Rookies of the Year, there is a Canadian who became a first-time father in December and a young man following in his brother's footsteps. Bareback rider Steven Peebles is the lone Rookie of the Year to qualify for the Wrangler NFR. The Redmond, Ore., cowboy is 14th in the world standings with $59,925.
Chad Bouchard, from Rolling Hills, Alberta, finished first in the rookie steer wrestling standings ($14,011) and on top of the all-around standings by also competing in the tie-down roping. He earned a total of $17,495 in 2009.
Saddle Bronc Riding Rookie of the Year Jesse Wright, the younger brother of defending World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider Cody Wright, was able to watch his brother compete and receive his buckle.
"Cody helped me out a lot along the way," said Jesse, who finished with $50,684. "He helped with a little bit of everything, I guess, mostly entering (rodeos).
The other Rookies of the Year include team roping (heeling)-Justin Hendrick, Rosenberg, Texas, $29,699; tie-down roping-Shane Hanchey, Sulphur, La., $41,480; bull riding-Tyler Willis, Wheatland, Wyo., $54,825; steer roping-Spicer Lewis, Abilene, Texas, $3,025; and barrel racing-Kelli Tobert, Hinkley, Utah, $39,343.