Lots of young kids in Seba Delkai, Ariz., grow up watching the Professional Bull Riders World Finals, and iconic Navajo header Derrick Begay was no different.
Pretty quickly, Begay realized that bull riding wasn’t in his future. It turns out that he learned to be handy with a rope, though, and his ability to read livestock—honed in the deserts of the Navajo Nation chasing wild cattle—prepared him for a dream job in the arena with the bulls and bull riders of the PBR.
“The older I got I knew I wasn’t tough enough, and I was too scared to ride bulls,” Begay said. “I had a real love for the sport, so the next best thing would be the guy on the horse roping the bulls. It’s like being the ball boy for your favorite baseball team so you can be close to the action and not have to sit in the stands.”
Throughout 2016, with his PRCA career on hold for a stint with the Elite Rodeo Athletes, Begay roped bulls at some of the PBR’s Built Ford Tough events. His stellar performance in the regular season netted him a job at the 2016 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“When a bull rider gets bucked off or hung up, it’s the bull fighters’ job to save the cowboy,” Begay explained. “But they can only do so much, and that’s when we come in there and try to get control of the animal and the situation. It’s not just for the cowboys, it’s for the livestock too. If there’s an injury, we’re there for the bulls’ and cowboys’ safety. If a bull gets lost or confused, we can come out there and help him out too. Those bulls are the best in the business and they’re everybody’s pet and everybody’s family so you have to handle them with care.”
Begay worked the Finals with James DeBord, who he credits with showing him the ropes of the safety man job. For his efforts, the PBR presented Begay with this buckle, which replaced his long-coveted Pendleton Round-Up championship buckle.