Veteran team roper Luke Brown isn’t far out of first place in the current Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rankings for headers, but one of his friends stands in the way.
Leader Kaleb Driggers recently had earned $87,906 compared to Brown’s $84,633.
Brown finished the 2015 campaign ranked second, when he had another talented veteran — two-time world champion heeler Kollin VonAhn — as his partner.
Brown noted that last year’s world champion header is ranked only about No. 15 now.
Although he knows it will require a strong finish, the 42-year-old could earn his first world title if he can edge past Driggers in 2016 prize money.
Driggers, who is 26, is also pursuing his first world championship.
Brown said he doesn’t think of it as a do-or-die situation, partly because of their friendly relationship as cowboys based in Erath County.
“There’s really not that much of a rivalry. He’s a good friend and a good guy,” Brown said of Driggers. “It’s everybody’s goal (to win a world title). I’m so thankful to do rodeo as a living. It would be cool to say you won it at some time.”
His partner this year is Jake Long, who lives near Brown’s ranch in the Morgan Mill area.
While making the rounds on the PRCA circuit, Brown travels with his wife, Lacy, and their 2-year-old daughter Libby. That makes long road trips a little more bearable, and contributes to the fact that Brown enjoys competing as much as he did when he started.
“My family gets to go with me, and they like it too,” Brown said. “Some of the all-night drives are a little tough.”
Brown indicated that the confidence factor, even for someone with as many years as he has spent on the pro circuit, is a key to team roping success.
“Even now, it comes and goes. That confidence factor is huge,” said Brown, a native of South Carolina.
In addition to the traveling, the practice it takes to remain at a high level also cuts into his family time.
“It’s a pretty time-consuming job,” Brown said, noting that he is able to practice with Long on a regular basis because their residences are so close. “When you’re home, it takes all day and half of the night for practice. It never stops.”
He said that practice keeps a cowboy sharp, and even helps to stay “in rhythm” with his horse.
“It’s more just reaction and having confidence, and practice is what helps do that,” Brown explained.
Brown said not only is Erath County “the best place in the world to live,” he eagerly looks forward to competing in Stephenville’s Cowboy Capital of the World Pro Rodeo every year.
“(It’s) my hometown rodeo,” he said. “They have done so good in making it one of the best rodeos to go to all year long. It’s unbelievable. It’s gotten better and better.”