The 2008 World All-Around Championships wasn't a dramatic race. It was Trevor Brazile's title-if not in fact, then in perception-since it became clear he'd be the only cowboy in Las Vegas in two events.
Brazile clinched his sixth world title, appropriately enough in the sixth round of the 50th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, to join Tom Ferguson and Larry Mahan. Brazile trails only Ty Murray, who has seven all-around championships.
"I really didn't know," said a surprised Brazile, who now has nine career world titles, upon learning about his all-around title. "I had cinched one before the Wrangler NFR was over in the past, and it's an awesome feeling. You've got Ty Murray, Larry Mahan and Tom Ferguson, (in this group) and that says enough right there. It's not the championships, it's the guys who've been there who make them special. That's an awesome, awesome deal."
But it only looks easy from the outside. To win the all-around, a cowboy must hang with and beat the best cowboys, specializing in individual events, for 12 months. What does that mean? For Brazile, it means a stable and farm league system of horses for three events: team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping. Not only that, he's got to find a top-flight heeler who can be flexible with Brazile's schedule. Finally, he's got a rodeo entry schedule to plan, organize and execute. Not to mention the sponsor obligations to maintain for perhaps the most endorsed cowboy in the PRCA.
One of the reasons Brazile is able to sport six versions of the PRCA's most coveted prize is his ability to juggle his unprecedented outside distractions and maintaining an incredible practice regimen while not letting it affect his natural athletic ability.
Brazile has said in order for him to reach his ultimate goal of an all-around, he shoots for world titles in each of his individual events. And his 2008 title might be the most successful manifestation of this plan yet.
Last year obviously brought more accolades, but consider that while winning the steer roping and tie-down titles, he finished fifth in the heading.
This year, he won the all-around with $419,868, nearly $200,000 ahead of second place cowboy Steven Dent. He finished second in the steer roping. He was third in the tie-down roping and wound up second in the team roping with $163,358. In each individual event, he was in legitimate contention for a world title on the last day of competition.
"It's been an awesome year, we've been blessed," Brazile said.
What's more, he was in contention with a grade two strain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered in the ninth round. He and team roping partner Patrick Smith stopped the clock in 4.7 seconds to split fifth in the round, and in the tie-down roping he tied his calf in 8.2.
"I knew I had to do the best I could and I did," he said. "It didn't work out, but I know I can leave here knowing that I didn't leave anything on the table.
"I was healthy longer than I've been healthy here in a long time. I didn't have a bad back and I only had to get by one round with a bad knee so I call it a win. It definitely hurt to do it. I just wanted to know that I had a chance for a world title if I was going to risk injuring my knee worse. It came down to that. I haven't had it checked out. I definitely felt it. I can't thank the Justin SportsMedicine team enough."
In the end, he won a total of $149,099 at the Wrangler NFR, with $90,144 of that coming in team roping.
Obviously, the team roping is where he made the most significant improvements.
"I've had 28 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications in the three events I compete in and that's my first average title," he said. "I've spent more time and resources on that event this last year learning and trying to improve on that than I have in any event. Just because you're an all-around, steer roping and calf roping champ, you can't take it for granted. You have to pay your dues in the heading and the heeling just like everybody else. You have to do it the hard way. There's no secret or magic mix to win the world title. We're spending the time sowing now so we can do a little reaping in a few years. The event titles along the way legitimize my career so to speak. I still want a team roping title before I'm done. We're going to start in January on my first team roping title."
Think for a minute about the competition he faces. At every rodeo he enters, he's got to face the likes of Speed Williams, Matt Sherwood, Clay Tryan, Travis Tryan and Chad Masters. Then, within a half hour, he's got to face Cody Ohl, Fred Whitfield, Stran Smith and Hunter Herrin.
Domination in an individual event is a rarity. (Making Speed Williams' and Rich Skelton's eight-year run of world titles even more remarkable as time passes.) But by being among the cowboys who could win a world title in every event he competes in allows him to utterly dominate the all-around race.
What's more, it's profitable. In just 12 years as a professional, Brazile became the first cowboy to pass the $3 million in PRCA earnings mark during the Finals. His new total standing at $3,027,539.
"If you would have told me I could have made $3 million doing what I love to do, I never would have believed you," he said. "I know there's been much more successful people than that, but they've never had as much fun or enjoyed doing what I did to get to $3 million as I have, that's for sure."
Despite an injury that will take a minimum of six weeks of recovery time if surgery isn't necessary, Brazile's run of dominance shows no signs of slowing down. At only 32, he's got plenty of competitive years ahead of him as a timed-event hand. Joe Beaver won his last all-around title at 35. Plus, no other cowboy has been able to qualify to the NFR consistently in two events in order to challenge him. (Although there are threats in Josh Peek, Cash Myers, Curtis Cassidy and possibly Trell Etbauer.) Still, he won't make predictions about how many he could win.
"Eight," he said. "That was my first goal. I'm going to stay there until I get it. We're going to get there first. I've still got two more buckles to win and it always sounds easier on paper than it is to put your shirt on and get in the truck and drive to those rodeos and win against the kind of competition we've got to win against. I'm going for number seven before we can get number eight."