By: Kendra Santos
Rodeo Rockstar Tuf Cooper’s been busy making mighty waves since he made a tidal-wave-sized splash and his first National Finals as a professional rodeo rookie in 2008. Five years in, Cooper became the youngest cowboy millionaire in rodeo history when he crossed that magical milestone right after his 23rd birthday in 2013. Cooper’s competed in 14 National Finals, including 10 National Finals Rodeos and four trips to the National Finals Steer Roping the last four years straight. But Tuf made up his mind last fall to rededicate himself to tunnel vision for his main event of tie-down roping. And between that laser focus and a new gray horse he calls Bro, it’s been so far, so great and mission accomplished in the early going of 2021. Cooper’s currently camped out at Rodeo Corpus Christi, where he and Bro have advanced through the two qualifying rounds and will be headliners at American Bank Center later this week.
“This new mindset started last October, when I realized I was just really ready to minimize the amount of stuff on my plate,” said Cooper, who’s still only 31, so is showing wisdom beyond his young years here. “I made the decision then to focus on the calf roping, and my physical and mental health. I basically started eliminating all the stuff that wasn’t serving my purpose.
“I’d slowly let my mindset get weak over time. It’s time to focus my energy back where it needs to be, and to improve on that every day. Decisions like this always have to come from within. And this one did for me.”
Tuf bought Bro from friend and fellow NFR tie-down roper Cade Swor, who called him Blanco. With his eye on just one ball in 2021, what’s a guy who’s looking to build on his collection of gold buckles that for Cooper already includes three in the tie-down roping dated 2011-12 and 2014, and the 2017 world all-around crown doing down here in Corpus?
“I’m here because this is my job,” said the youngest son of “Super Looper” Roy Cooper. “I also think having some high school kids here competing (because they made it through the nominations process via the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s Division Youth DY Program) is a cool concept. Bottom line, I’m here because this is a really good rodeo.”