The End of an Era: Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith

A look back on the seven-year partnership of Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith
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A look back on the seven-year partnership of Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith

In their seven years as teammates, Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith have ridden rodeo’s roller coaster to its highest highs. They’ve also been there when the bottom dropped out, the wheels fell off and the whole ride was so far off the rails that it appeared almost beyond repair.

Credit: Patrick Smith Photo

Credit: Patrick Smith Photo

Lots of teams would have called it quits after they won just one check in one round at the 2009 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A $2,764 week at their Super Bowl was a disappointment that had to be downright deflating. But Trevor and Patrick stayed hooked. And 365 days later, their hard work, dedication and loyalty was rewarded with a $120,419 per man NFR (an NFR record for team ropers after winning or placing in eight of 10 rounds and finishing second only to Luke Brown and Martin Lucero in the average), and the 2010 world team roping title. 

Trevor and Patrick, who won the NFR average in 2008, also set the $201,392 and $202,189 PRCA team roping annual earnings record, in the heading and heeling, respectively, in 2010. Trevor set the all-time annual earnings standard of $507,921 in 2010, when he won the second Triple Crown of his career and their partnership. In 2007, Trevor won gold buckles in the tie-down roping, steer roping and all-around. In 2010, he tripled down at the highest level in the team roping, tie-down roping and all-around.

But the 2013 $6.25 million NFR, which rab Dec. 5-14 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, was the final stop on the Trevor and Patrick Show tour. Brazile rang in the new year heading for Travis Graves, and Smith is heeling for Kaleb Driggers in 2014. As Trevor and Patrick look back on their seven-year partnership, a few things are easy to see from the cheap seats. These two are truly great friends. And fierce competitors. And they have become so close that they’re comfortable talking about it all—the roping and the rat race that is one season of professional team roping, let alone seven. What’s also clear is that this union has brought out a lot of laughter and the fun-loving inner clown in each of them. 

“Most people think Trevor’s always serious, because that’s what he looks like when he backs in the box,” said Patrick, 33, who lives in Lipan, Texas, with his wife, Christi, and kids, Kylee, Kenzie and Eli. “But he’s always joking and cutting up. Once you get to know him you realize he’s joking and pulling pranks more than he’s got a straight face. That’s the true Trevor.”

“I have so many good memories from these last seven years,” said Trevor, who just turned 37 and lives in Decatur, Texas, with his 2013 NFR barrel racer wife, Shada, and their kids, Treston and Style. “Like kicking Patrick’s butt at basketball and paintball. He’s a better golfer than me, but I get sick of whipping on him in basketball and paintball. We’re going to quit roping, but I’m sure he’ll still do his part as a team player to keep my confidence up outside the arena.”

In fairness, Patrick was allowed a rebuttal to those remarks. “I will give Trevor credit for his basketball merits, all 5 foot 6 of him (for the record, Brazile is actually 5’ 11”),” Patrick said. “But if he’s honest with himself I think he’ll have to admit I’m his superior in every sport but basketball. The only time Trevor ever won at paintball was when we were on the same team. Early on in our paintball career, when we were getting the safety lecture, he shot me in the butt. That’s his idea of a paintball victory. The only other time he could possibly have won is when he climbed up a tree and waited for the battle to be over. Trevor’s a white-flag waver in that event.

”The good times first rolled for these two back in the winter of 2007. “It was around Tucson time in February, and I was roping with Brady Minor,” Trevor remembers. “We didn’t have a very good winter, and Patrick and Clay (Tryan) had split up. I just asked him to rope. When I roped with Al Bach, Patrick worked for Al. I knew he had a good work ethic and would make a good partner.” 

“I remember talking to Trevor at Tucson,” Patrick added. “He was walking by and heard I didn’t have a partner, because Clay and I had just split up. He told me to keep him in mind if I’d be interested. That’s where it all started. I decided to go with Trevor. I didn’t know him at all. I knew who he was, but that’s about it. It was obviously a good option for me. Trevor was getting really serious about his heading (remember, Trevor heeled for J.P. Wickett at his first NFR back in 1998), and I was wanting to get the best partner I could get, so I jumped in with both feet and we hit the trail.”

So, what did they learn about each other, on the header, heeler, horseman and human fronts in all those years in the truck?“It’s really hard to ever get Patrick out of position,” Trevor said. “He and Jade (Corkill) both don’t get enough accolades for their horsemanship. It might sometimes be a little unorthodox and not horseshow horsemanship, but you very rarely find Patrick out of position. He knows how to get what he wants out of his horses and how to get them into position every time. He has great heel-horse horsemanship. And he has one of the best deliveries in the heeling industry. He stays with his rope a long time, and part of that is his ability to keep his horses moving and in position every time.” 

And the secret to this team’s longevity? “Besides me being so easy to get along with, which is No. 1,” Trevor laughed. “We worked at it like a team. And we really looked at the big picture—as a whole season. We made a deal every year for the entire year. We made that commitment, then took inventory at the end of every year and made a decision about the following year. I know I perform better when I know my job isn’t on the line every week. And saying and doing that are two different things. A lot of people say it, but we truly trust each other. That’s a big plus.”

“Seven years might not seem like that long, but in the world of team roping partnerships, which should be more like dog years, it’s more like 50 years, just because there are so many ups and downs in rodeo,” Patrick said. “As corny as it may sound, team roping is like a marriage. You have to do business together, survive the ups and downs, the financial pressures, the slumps. The unwritten story in team roping is that when you mess up, you mess up for your partner and his family, too. Enduring all of that together is what makes the long-lasting partnerships, like (eight-time titlists) Speed (Williams) and Rich (Skelton), and (seven-time champs of the world) Jake (Barnes) and Clay (O’Brien Cooper) so awesome. Honestly, Trevor and I may have outdone them because we didn’t win seven or eight world championships. The more you win, the easier it is to stay the course.”

There were a lot of rocks in this year’s road. They were barely sniffing the leaders’ fumes at 50th in the world when they got to Reno in June. Their BFI win there was a serious pre-summer pick-me-up, but they still had to win big the rest of the season to factor into the Finals hunt. Patrick’s said he would not have gotten off of Trevor’s bus if they hadn’t made the NFR this year, because he could not have ended such a special ride on such a sour note. With this year in the books, Trevor has 42 overall National Finals appearances in his three events. This will be Patrick’s 10th NFR after qualifying for his first one (and winning it with Matt Tyler) as a rookie. 

“For any team to make the Finals seven years in a row, you have to be doing something right,” Patrick said. “There were times we struggled, but the bottom line was we put a good run together. When we made our good run it looked smooth and the same. Our goal was to stick to that run. We knew our run would win. And we’ve had good chemistry. I will always say you will never find a better partner than Trevor Brazile. Whether you’re winning or losing, he’s always positive. I never felt like my job was on the line or that he didn’t believe in me and what I could do. That’s a good feeling. 

“If I roped bad for a month, he was the first to tell me, ‘Man, I know how good you rope. Don’t worry about it, it’ll turn around. Don’t sweat it.’ A lot of guys roll their eyes and throw their heads back when you mess up. That takes a toll on your confidence. Trevor never did that to me. If I take anything away from our partnership, I hope it’s to be the best partner I can be to whoever I rope with. Because I know how important confidence is in this game.”

True to form, when Patrick decided to try a new path in 2014 he went straight to Trevor first. Trevor had just left church with his kids on a Sunday morning the week before the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, and they were sitting down to eat lunch at a BBQ place in Decatur. 

“He told me that he wanted to rope with somebody who all he does is head,” Trevor said. “It was so simple, really. I told him, ‘You don’t owe me anything. We roped year to year, and we had a great run. Kaleb’s one of the best headers in the game, and you guys’ll do great.’ ”

They walk away the best of friends and business partners in a new endeavor outside the arena. They call it Driven Services, and—alongside a couple other friends—they’ve started an oilfield service company that handles right-of-way maintenance, rents out everything from trailers to port-a-potties, and runs hydroexcavation trucks.

“We’ve got a great friendship, and our families are close,” Trevor said. “I walk away from seven good years with a succesful blueprint for a team of the future. I know the way we went about it works. And that it’s a blueprint for a successful team in and out of the arena. I can’t name two guys who team rope who’ve enjoyed rodeoing more than Patrick and I have over the last seven years, I don’t care if they’re switching partners every week. 

“I was a Patrick fan when he worked for Al. I’m a fan of hard work. I’m a fan of everybody who’s not a fan of entitlement. I get sick of seeing that with some people coming up in rodeo. It heartens me that there are still some kids who have enough respect for the game and the players to watch us and see how we do it. They want to learn, they have humility and they’re willing to work hard. I rodeo because I love it and I enjoy it. If you put your time in out here (in the practice pen) it’s going to come out out there (at the rodeos). You just have to work harder. It’s not a big deal. And it’s worth the trouble. Patrick might not have had enough money to pay for lessons with Al Bach, but he earned his. I watched him earn it. When I met Patrick, all he had to his name was a Bruton trailer, with his horse and a goat sharing one pen.”

OK, time to double back for a little Patrick Smith work-ethic detour. As a young man, the kid who would become the 2003 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year didn’t have much for money or means. But he was driven. So he took a job as Bach’s hired hand, riding 10-12 horses a day and handling chores around the place. That horse who shared the pen with the goat turned out to be a great one, a little sorrel horse with a long mane and tail he called Jaws. The goat, Nanny, was black with white flanks and worth twice her weight in gold.

“I had Nanny forever, and she’s literally how I learned to heel,” Patrick said. “I staked her in the backyard and chased her in circles so many times that grass has never grown there again. If I had a nickel for every time I chased Nanny I’d be rich, I’ll tell you that. You could not rope her out. When I got Nanny, I had no idea how to heel or time a steer. I chased her around, watched my Jake and Clay video, and put two-and-two together. Allen made me a deal that if I’d go work for him he’d help me with my heeling. Allen’s the one who made the call to Tee Woolman (who was Patrick’s first partner the year he cracked out with a card and was rookie of the year). 

“Jaws and Nanny were tight. When I loaded Jaws up in the trailer, if I forgot about Nanny she would chase me down the highway. She hauled underneath him or right next to him the whole way there, then when we got there she just hung out with him and ate what he didn’t eat. I put her in the trailer every time I went to rope, because wherever Jaws went she was going.”

Patrick paid just $6,000 for Jaws, which was an incredible deal—if you have $6,000. 

“Bobby Boyd helped me get a loan, because I had no credit at the bank,” Patrick remembers well. “Everybody was asking me to go to a jackpot in San Angelo, but I didn’t have the money for fees. So I went to a place called Credit World, and they said if I had something for collateral with a model and serial number they’d give me a loan. My sister (Lauren) was away at college (Patrick was still in high school), so I hocked her stereo to pay my fees at that roping. I got a couple hundred bucks out of it. Kids, don’t try this at home, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I didn’t steal, because I paid the money back, got her stereo and gave it back to her. It was just a little sibling love she didn’t know she was giving.”

Patrick’s extremely close to both of his siblings. But Richard and Gloria Smith raised their kids to be people of principle. 

“My brother, Rick, worked at an oilfield-based seismographic cable company, and hired me to help out,” Patrick said. “He went to lunch one day, and so did I. Only I’d found out some guys were breaking in some fresh steers, so my lunch hour lasted the rest of the afternoon. When I showed up the next morning like nothing had happened, Rick fired me. He told me I needed to stop roping and get a real job.

“After hocking my sister’s stereo and being fired by my own brother, I went to work as a waiter at Chili’s, because I still had that loan for Jaws to pay back. It’s funny now to think I only paid $6,000 for that horse. I remember saying I would never pay $10,000 for a horse, because that was just ridiculous. But we all used to say we wouldn’t pay $3 for gas, either. What I liked about waiting tables there was that I could work nights, so I could practice during the day. But that job ended up interfering more than I wanted it to with my team roping, so I shuffled jobs quite frequently. All’s well that ends well. Both my brother and my sister will be at this year’s NFR. They’ve both forgiven me and are now fans of what I do.”

Trevor’s a Patrick fan, too. “A lot of people want to try and make this bitter, or make bad assumptions about how it all went down,” Trevor said of their post-2013 split. “I hate that anyone would want to talk about my partnership with Patrick as anything but a really cool deal, because not very many guys have had this. And there is no bitterness in my heart. Patrick did everything he ever told me he would do. He always kept his word with me.”

Trevor’s ABCs don’t include the word complacency, and that’s never changed. 

“I always need to be working at it,” he said. “As long as I’m out here I’m not going to get comfortable and lazy. Patrick’s the same way. And I’ve been practicing some with Travis and he’s the same way, too. What I can already tell about him is that he tends to business, he ropes two feet and he’s a quiet guy. And that’s all I have to know to know that I’ll enjoy roping with him. His roping impresses me. At the end of the day, when you rope with one of the top five heelers in the world, if you do your job you’re going to have a chance at a world title.”

As this issue headed to press just before the 2013 National Finals Steer Roping at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., Trevor was taking aim at a record 18th world title, which would tie him in rodeo’s record books for the most of any cowboy ever with steer roping legend Guy Allen. And of course three gold buckles beyond that were on the table for Trevor in Vegas.

“It’s hard to ever beat winning a world championship together,” said Patrick, who won his first of two with Clay Tryan in 2005. “To get to be there with the guy who’d won everything there is to win—steer roping, calf roping and all-around championships—and be there with him when he won that team roping title was such an outstanding moment. I’ll never forget Trevor and I standing together in that tunnel waiting to get interviewed on TV after the 10th round (in 2010). We looked at each other and said, ‘We did it.’ “When you work so hard and chase something so hard, a moment like that means something. Trevor wanted to win a world title to silence his critics who tried to say he was a calf roper who headed. He stepped up and proved them wrong. We’ve had a lot of great moments and a lot of really tough times, too. I remember how great we felt at times and how terrible we felt at times. There’s just something about climbing out of a hole together that makes you really close. It’s so easy to jump ship.”

All paintball bruises in the butt aside, what I’ve noticed about these two over time is that the only fighting they do is in constantly trying to give the other guy all the credit. And I imagine it takes a pretty big man to not mind the occasional casual billing as “Trevor Brazile’s heeler.” 

“I could not possibly have more respect for Trevor,” Patrick said. “He’s one of my best friends, and we’ve been through it all together. When we started roping together, it was a table for four. Now we’re a table for nine. When you think about it like that, it shows just how much life has changed for us in the last seven years.

“The No. 1 thing about our team is that we decided to enjoy doing what we do. We love roping and rodeo. We’ve had common goals, and we’ve both always wanted to do the best we could. We’ve always said there may be teams that have won more, but there are no teams who’ve had more fun. To look back and have the memories of all the good times is more important to me than anything. We’ve won Salinas, Cheyenne, the NFR, the BFI, the world. We had a good run. There is a very small group of guys I feel like I’d try to make a living roping with. Trevor is one of those guys. It will never be out of the question that we’ll rope again sometime. It was just time to do something fresh. I’m excited to rope with Kaleb, but I’m not excited to spend less time with Trevor.”

Nothing lasts forever, and though he and Trevor only live about an hour and 20 minutes apart, Kaleb lives right up the road from Lipan in Stephenville. 

“We’ll get to practice every day,” Patrick said. “He’s hungry for his first world title. Of course, Trevor’s always hungry. I’ve got a friend in Trevor who will be a friend for life. We both have grown a lot together in every area of life. I’ve learned how to handle business from him. I like to be a positive person and have a good attitude, and you can’t make Trevor act any other way. He taught me how to move on and keep a happy mentality, even when things aren’t going good. He showed me that if you work hard and have a good work ethic, things will turn around. Trevor is so strong mentally.

“It is about winning, and you want to be the best you can be. But in the end, the good stories and the smile on your face is really what it’s all about. We’re going to go out there (to Vegas) and have a good time. We’re both grateful to be in contention to win another world title. We had a lot of struggles and horse problems this year. But we’ve been practicing hard, and we’re ready to take our best shot. In a perfect world, we’d win a world championship. What better ending to this chapter could you have than that? But no matter what happens on the next 10 steers, my partnership with Trevor has been a true blessing in my life. Trevor deserves everything he’s won, and he’ll win so much more.”

“I’ve had a blast roping with Patrick,” Trevor said. “Our partnership evolved into one of the best friendships I have. I truly enjoy it. Even though we won’t be roping partners anymore, we’ll always be friends.”