I moved to Texas from South Carolina in 2007. My swing was too tight, my delivery was terrible, and my riding was terrible. I never thought I belonged with the best guys in the world. I’d pull up at the rodeo and there’s Tee Woolman and Speed Williams, and here I am trying to compete. I never figured I was capable of roping with them by any means. Just to be a part of it was good enough for me. At least I was there trying. That was the most important thing to me.
I moved in with Chad Masters, who had just won the world but who I knew from back in the Southeast. I got a job with Allen Bach, and I worked hard. Between the two of them and me, I put together a blueprint for my heading, and that helped get me to where I am today—to where I’ve got confidence to compete with anybody. If I didn’t make it, I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself because I was surrounded by the best.
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I needed to either change my fundamentals and my horses and everything I was doing, or I needed to figure out something else to do. What I had been doing wasn’t good enough. But I was in the right place, with the right people. I just needed to put in the work. And I liked to work. I saddled their horses, I roped whenever I could, and when I wasn’t doing anything, I was roping the dummy. I thought if I made it to the NFR one time, that would be more than I could ever ask for.
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The more I worked, the more my confidence came from roping with great heelers. For 12 years now, I’ve had the best you can get. I’m not afraid to take chances and reach, and I probably do it too much, but I know if I turn the steers, I’ll get paid. Martin (Lucero) never would say very much to me, but I’d ask him all the time to please help me. I wanted the magic words, but he’d say little things like ‘Man you can’t win if you don’t get a time.’ And that would be all he’d say, and I could take it any way I wanted to. That meant slow down and turn the cow most of the time, and let him take the chances. I know that if I slowed down and rode my horse better and threw a better loop, we’d get paid. If it was good we’d win a lot; if it wasn’t good, if I caught the steer, at least we’d win a little something. Going a whole week and getting your fees back means as much as winning $10,000 out here. Not losing money is huge. It comes from slowing down and getting back in the rhythm of turning steers and getting some checks.