The top two rodeo cowboys in the world this season live a mile apart in Decatur, Texas.
“I married his sister,” 21-time world champion Trevor Brazile says in explanation.
So while Brazile and Tuf Cooper compete on an almost daily basis in arenas, they are family when they leave. They travel and train together with the 38-year-old Brazile serving as an idol/mentor to the 25-year-old Cooper.
Both competed Wednesday night in the 100th Snake River Stampede at the Idaho Center and expect to return for the finals on Saturday.
“He has made a mark for us and I respect every bit that he’s accomplished,” Cooper said. “I just want to follow in his footsteps. I’m after the same goals as him. I’m going down the same path that he did. He’s shown me the path to take.”
Cooper, who specializes in calf roping (or tie-down roping), has won three world titles in the past four years. He sometimes competes in team roping and steer roping and ranks second to Brazile in all-around earnings this season.
Brazile competed in calf roping and team roping at the Stampede. He also is a steer roper. His world titles have come in the all-around (12 of the past 13 years), calf roping (three), team roping (one) and steer roping (five).
He has been part of Cooper’s life since the younger cowboy was 6 years old.
“I’ve learned from the best in every situation,” Cooper said, “not just talent-wise but the person, the positive influence, the Christian. He’s been not just the greatest for me but the greatest for the sport of rodeo and the western industry.”
Brazile hasn’t slowed down despite his immense success, which includes more than $5.5 million in career earnings. He and Cooper competed Wednesday morning in Cheyenne, Wyo., and were headed back to Cheyenne on Wednesday night to compete Thursday morning. Then they’re headed to Salinas, Calif., on Thursday night, back to Nampa on Saturday and likely back to Salinas on Sunday.
“I get to do what I love to do and make a living at it and I just want to be able to do that as long as I’m successful,” Brazile said. “... It’s hard to slow down when you do three events.”
Cooper grew up in a rodeo family even before Brazile entered the picture. His dad, Roy Cooper, is an eight-time world champion and hall of famer. His two older brothers also have qualified for the National Finals Rodeo and his sister, Brazile’s wife Shada, competed in the NFR in barrel racing.
But Tuf might be the Cooper family’s most successful cowboy by the time he’s done. He surpassed $1 million in career earnings at 23, a record.
“Everybody’s known what he was going to do his whole life,” Brazile said. “He’s really talented and that shows by the calf-roping championships he’s already won. There’s more to come.”
Cooper has focused on calf roping, which was his dad’s specialty. But he expects to branch out more eventually.
Brazile ($123,617.03) has earned nearly twice as much money as Cooper ($65,943.84) this season despite their 1-2 ranking.
“He’s been the best at everything, not just one event,” Cooper said. “Hopefully someday I’ll do more than one event, but I won’t ever be able to do it the way he’s done it.”