Begay Rocking and Rolling with Champ

Derrick Begay roped at six straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos from 2008-13—he headed for Victor Aros in 2008, and for Cesar de la Cruz from 2009-13—before finishing 23rd in the world in 2014.
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Derrick Begay roped at six straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeos from 2008-13—he headed for Victor Aros in 2008, and for Cesar de la Cruz from 2009-13—before finishing 23rd in the world in 2014.
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Photo by Kirt Steinke 

Kendra Santos:

You roped with 2013 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year Will Woodfin last year. Why didn’t we see you guys in Vegas?

Derrick Begay: We just didn’t do good enough. When you’re out here rodeoing you have to get a break every now and then. It seems like we never could get one. Or two. Or three. I can’t come up with one single reason or thing that sticks out in my mind why we didn’t do it. It just didn’t happen.

KS: How’d you get hooked up with Champ this year?

DB: I finally got up the nerve to ask him. We talked about it, and he said, “Let’s do it.”

KS: You’re 31 now. Do you see yourself on NFR track a decade or two from now?

DB: No, but team ropers never really retire. That’s for roughstock riders and rich guys. I’ll be around forever, but I might slow down sooner than what everybody might expect. I like being home more and more.

KS: You were a little nervous roping with Champ at the start, weren’t you?

DB: Yes. Anybody who knows anything about team roping grew up watching him. Me being me, and having been to the Finals six times, I’m not supposed to be nervous. But I was. I still kind of am to this day. Clay’s somebody I’ve always watched and looked up to. I was so nervous the first steer we roped together—in the first round at Denver this year—that I roped myself. I can’t remember the last time I blew my spoke before that. But the story changes now. It’s not him—it’s us.

KS: What’s helped you get past those jitters?

DB: It’s just the way you think about it. I’ve been around Clay a lot more and have talked to him a lot more now, which helps a lot. Clay’s 53, which is the same age as my dad. And my dad’s the person I’m most comfortable around. So I look at it that way.

KS: I’ve never met a nicer person than Clay. Why do you think he’s so intimidating to so many people?

DB: Everybody has a lot of respect for who Clay is. He doesn’t try to intimidate people. And he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Clay’s a jokester.

KS: As we get ready to print this issue the first of April, you guys are second in the world. So far, so good, huh?

DB: Yes, so far, so good. I grew up watching Clay rope, I felt like I finally got good enough to ask him to rope with me, and so far this season we’re having success. It’s a pretty cool deal. The first time I got Clay’s number and put it in my phone I thought I was somebody then. Now I’m roping with him.

KS: What do you consider your 2015 highlight so far?

DB: There’s not really one thing. I didn’t do very good at Denver or Fort Worth. Then we went to San Angelo and San Antonio, and put a lot of clean runs together. We won second at both of those rodeos in the same weekend. So that weekend has to be the highlight. We had a pretty good winter, and I’ve never had one of those before. The most I’ve ever gone to Reno with in June was $18,000, and usually I have more like $12,000 or $15,000. We have about $24,000 won, and we still have the spring to go.

KS: It’s a tall order, but I’m going to ask you anyway. Tell me something about Clay O that I don’t already know.

DB: That’s a tough one. I’ll answer that after we’ve spent more time in the truck together or spent a night in a bunkhouse.

KS: I know how the cattle market’s been going. How’s the wild cattle business going for you?

DB: It’s good, but it’s getting hot here in Arizona already. I don’t want to talk about wild cattle again until I get Clay out here with me to chase a few across the desert.

KS: Do you have any yet unmet roping bucket list items?

DB: I really don’t think like that, but I’ve never won the BFI, the George Strait or the Wildfire. I came back high call with Cory Petska at the Strait the other day and missed. We had to be 4.1 to win it, I tried it on and missed. They say that roping changes your life if you win it. Maybe there’s a reason I missed. Maybe I didn’t want my life to change.