Top guns

Trevor Brazile and Tuf Cooper are fierce competitors who rely on faith, family and friends in their quest for excellence


When it comes to rodeo, no one is better known than Trevor Brazile.

The 37 year-old Brazile has won 19 world championships, and a record 11 all-around titles. Brazile has won more money than any cowboy in PRCA history, and at an age when many cowboys have retired or are in the twilight of their careers, he is still at the top of his game.by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Trevor Brazile (right) and roping partner Travis Graves make a run during the Crooked River Roundup. Brazile won the all-around title at the Roundup, placing in tie-down roping, steer roping and team roping.

After his first tie-down run during Saturday morning’s slack at the Crooked River Roundup, Brazile was bombarded with requests to pose for photos or sign autographs. Brazile graciously took the time to talk to each individual asking for a piece of his time.

“When stuff’s not happening, I know that I’m not doing my job,” Brazile said of the demands on his time. “When people want your time that means everything’s going the way that it should be going. It would scare me if it wasn’t like that.”

When the dust settled on Saturday’s slack performance, a second cowboy was also posing for photos after most of the other cowboys had already retired to their trailers. By contrast to Brazile, Tuf Cooper is a relative newcomer to professional rodeo. However, the 24 year-old already has one world championship to his credit. A fan favorite, especially with young ladies, Cooper’s engaging smile and easy going attitude belies a fierce competitor.

“I don’t think I had a choice,” Cooper said of his rodeo career. “I’m the youngest brother in a big rodeo family. I mean, this is what I was designed to do — to be the best I can be.”

Both Brazile and Cooper call Decatur, Texas, home. Brazile, a family man with two young children, has been traveling most of his life.

“Travel is crazy,” Brazile said. “We were at Reno, Nevada, yesterday. We got on a plane last night at probably about 11:30 p.m. in Pecos, Texas, and then we got here about 2:30 this morning, but that’s rodeo. You know, it’s a great opportunity because you can hit a lot of good rodeos this week. The amount of really good paying rodeos is different this whole month, but especially the week of the Fourth of July.”

Cooper, who is still single, comes from a huge rodeo family, and although his career is just starting has also been traveling most of his life. His father, Roy, won a world all-around championship and seven individual titles, including six tie-down roping titles. Roy is in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, as is his father. His sister, Betty Gayle, is in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Tuff’s brothers Cliff and Clint are also professional cowboys. In 2010 and 2011 all three brothers made it to the NFR at the same time in the same event (tie-down roping) something that has never happened before.

“Travel is easy for me,” Cooper said. “We are gone six months out of the year from home, but I have 10 family members out here on the road competing in a couple different events so I?am always with my family and having a good time enjoying them.”

However, even though he enjoys the travel,the Fourth of July week is especially crazy. Brazile and Cooper have already competed in Ponoka, Alberta, and Window Rock, Ariz., this week. They were in Prescott, Ariz., on Wednesday signing autographs, and are scheduled to compete in St. Paul, Ore., this weekend.

Brazile, who is once again leading the world all-around standings, said that he has already accomplished every goal he has set for himself.

“I don’t have any milestones set anymore,” he said. “I’m just enjoying being a veteran. It’s a hard lifestyle, but I’ve been so blessed. I’m still healthy and I love to do it. My kids are at the right age where it’s fun for them. We get to go all over the world and see the best of what the U.S. has to offer.”

He added that he used to be so busy with travel that he would go from arena to arena without a break. Now he takes the time to stop and enjoy the locations he travels to.

“I’m taking more time to enjoy the destinations instead of just getting there, roping, and then on to the next one,” he said. “Take Prineville for example. I want to go fishing while we are up here and take my little boy and do stuff that we don’t get to do in Texas. The last few years my kids have really let me take that kind of time. Showing them stuff has made what I do for a living even more fun.”by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Tuf Cooper works to turn his calf during a tie-down run at the Roundup. Cooper won the first go round and the average in the event.

Cooper, on the other hand, still has some big goals that he plans on meeting.

“I have a lot to go,” he said. “You try to set the highest goals for yourself. Mine is to win the world championship in tie-down roping 10 consecutive times — that’s my goal.”

He added that his dad won five consecutive titles, which is the current record, while the record for most tie-down championships is eight.

“I have all of his knowledge to go behind me,” Cooper said of his father. “I have a better opportunity than he had.”

However, Cooper is quick to add that his goal is not going to be easy to meet.

“I’m sure that in my dad’s day it wasn’t a walk in the park,” he said. “Buy you do have guys like Trevor Brazile, the king of the cowboys. If I can get past my big brothers, then I know that I am going to be successful because they are some of the best ropers in the world.”

Although they are at opposite ends of their careers, Brazile and Cooper still have a lot in common. The two travel together much of the rodeo season, and at least on occasion even share horses.

“It’s an occasional thing, but quite often through the year we will share horses,” Cooper said, after Brazile struggled with the first round of tie-down roping at the Roundup while riding Cooper’s horse. “I’m like ‘I’m sorry that my horse didn’t work good.’ And he said ‘It’s not a big deal. If I would have done a better job at the start of the run it would have been fine.'”

Cooper added that one of the biggest things that he has learned from Brazile is to put poor runs behind him.

“Trevor is probably the very best at letting a bad run go,” he said. “I mean, he forgets about it and moves on and things positive all the time.”

The two also share advice.

“It’s really funny,” Cooper said. “Every time that I give him advice or that he asks for advice I’m like ‘what are you even asking for, man?’ Whenever he asks me, I’m really thinking about how I am going to answer that question as opposed to when my brothers ask me for advice and I might just shout out what I think. But I ask him for advice all the time.”

In addition to advice, horses, and encouragement, the two also share the same religious faith.

“My faith helps me keep everything in perspective,” Brazile said. “I’m a Christian and I’ve been able to reach a lot of people through this vehicle (rodeo). I don’t know how someone could go through life period, much less this way of life, without keeping everything balanced and in perspective. Just knowing whether the day goes great or bad in that arena, we have a great God and just how blessed we are to be able to do what we do for a living.”

Cooper, who wears a shirt that says Jesus on the collar every time he steps into an arena to compete, agrees.

“You know, we were created to give God the glory,” he said. “We weren’t created to contain it. Whenever I put my shirt on and I see Jesus on my collar, it reminds me of who I am and who my Lord and Savior is. Having Jesus’ name visually on my collar strikes up conversations that would never have happened any other way. And you know it’s about using my platform for what I’ve been given it for — and that’s for glorifying his name.”

With interviews out of the way, Cooper went back to posing for photos with fans while Brazile went back into the arena to help the Roundup's volunteers push cattle to the other end of the arena following the conclusion of Saturday’s slack.

Once in the arena, he saw a young kid who was helping move cattle and stopped to ask Rodeo Chair Shawn Connolly if it would be OK for him to make one more hot run.

After Connolly said sure, Cooper enlisted the kid's help in cutting out a steer and making one more run. A memory that the kid will never forget, and just one more act of kindness in a career that is filled with memorable moments.

“They are both just the nicest guys,” Connolly said following the Roundup’s conclusion on Sunday. “They are always polite and nice and are willing to take time for anyone who asks. They are just great guys, and great cowboys.”

They are also very successful. Brazile won the all-around title at the Crooked River Roundup, placing in team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. He also won the second go round of tie-down roping with a time of 7.6 seconds, the second fastest time in Roundup history.

Meanwhile, Cooper won the first go round of tie-down roping and also won the average in the event.

On the season, Brazile is leading the all-around standings with earnings of $117,546.19, while Cooper is in second place with $62,142.96. Cooper is leading the world standings in tie-down roping with $58,266.96 in earnings while Brazile is currently in seventh. Brazile is also leading the standings in steer roping, and is third in team roping.

With Prineville in the rear view mirror, it’s off to the next rodeo.

“There may be easier ways to make a living, but not many better ways to live,” Brazile said. “It’s a lifestyle not an occupation.”

“Rodeo is one big family,” Cooper added. “We compete against each other. We travel to the same rodeos all year long and when you see your fellow competitor broke down by the side of the road you stop and help. It doesn’t matter who it is, you stop and help and you just try to show each and every one the love that Jesus shows us. It doesn’t matter who it is.”




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