Math favors Crawley in NFR saddle bronc test

Saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley from Boerne, Texas, dismounts Medicine Woman after riding to a second place score of 88.5 during the 5th go-round of the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Monday, Dec. 7, 2015. Josh Holmberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal

Todd Dewey
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Jacobs Crawley isn't your typical rodeo athlete. When he wasn't busy riding bucking horses at Texas A&M, Crawley earned his degree in industrial and systems engineering.

"It's a lot of numbers. I loved math and always enjoyed testing myself," said Crawley, 27. "It's better to be overeducated than undereducated."

Crawley doesn't need a college degree to calculate his odds of winning his first saddle bronc riding world title this year. Suffice it to say they're better than average.

The Texan placed second in the fifth round of the Nationals Finals Rodeo on Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center to maintain his lead in the world standings and in the NFR average.

Crawley, Wade Sundell and rookie CoBurn Bradshaw — who won the fifth round with a 90-point ride on Beutler & Sons' Wound Up — are the only saddle bronc riders to place in all five rounds. Crawley, who has taken second twice and fourth three times, turned in a 88.5-point ride on Frontier Rodeo's Medicine Woman to extend his world standings lead to more than $14,000 over Cody DeMoss, who lost the lead Friday for the first time since Feb. 9.

Crawley, who has $193,324 in earnings, leads the average with 418.5 points and has won $74,462 in Las Vegas at the NFR's midpoint. But he said he hasn't thought much about winning his first gold buckle.

"I won't think about that until the 10th night after getting done on that bucking horse," he said. "I just keep it simple. I try not to overthink it."

Crawley had to rack his brain during his first NFR appearance in 2011, when his final semester of college coincided with the Super Bowl of rodeo.

After the seventh round, Crawley gave his final presentation to his class at Texas A&M via Skype from his Aria hotel room, where he sat in a suit coat and shorts at his ironing board. He flew home the Sunday following the NFR, took two finals Monday and graduated Thursday.

Rather than following his father and grandfather into a career as an engineer, Crawley hit the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assocation trail with his younger brother, two-time NFR qualifier Sterling Crawley, and former PRCA saddle bronc rider Jeremy Melancon.

The Crawley brothers quickly became known as much for their mode of transportation — a modified black ambulance — as their riding. Alas, the ambulance has been retired as a rodeo rig. Melancon, who was the actual owner, sold it to a friend who bought it for sentimental reasons.

"It wasn't reliable enough to put 40,000 miles on it over the summer," Crawley said.

The Crawley brothers, traveling as a duo this year, have upgraded to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van.

"It's like a FedEx van," Crawley said.

More like a FedEx van on steroids, with two queen beds, a couch, TV and even a propane stove built into a wooden box that can fit a full-size frying pan for meals on the road.

"We do a lot of cooking in rodeos and going up and down the road," Crawley said. "It's a way to stay away from fast food and eating out all the time. We're real big into steak and asparagus and squash."

When the Crawley brothers aren't firing up the stove in the van, they're often sitting outside it around the campfire with Jacobs playing his guitar alongside other cowboys.

His favorite music is Americana, which includes elements of country, folk, bluegrass and blues. But Crawley hasn't had much cause to play the blues this year, getting married in May and excelling at the NFR.

"This is important, but this isn't the priority," Crawley said of the NFR. "My priorities are to my new wife and our future. This is just kind of something I love to do. If everything's great with her and we're great, life is good no matter what goes on in the arena."

That said, Crawley dearly wants to win his first gold buckle, which would leave five-time world runner-up DeMoss singing the blues.

"I think he deserves to be a world champion," Crawley said of "Hot Sauce." "I want to beat him really bad, but if he beat me it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all. He's a great bronc rider and has been for a long time."

* NOTES — Bradshaw had the first 90-point saddle bronc ride at the NFR since 2012. ... Bareback rider Kaycee Feild won the fifth round with a 91-point ride on Calgary Stampede's Reckless Margie. It tied for the second-highest NFR score ever in the event and extended Feild's world lead to more than $19,000 over Steven Peebles, who tied for third. ... Clay O'Brien Cooper of Gardnerville and Derrick Begay claimed their third round win with a 4.0-second run to take over the top spot in the team roping world standings. Jade Corkill of Fallon and Clay Tryan fell out of first place for the first time since February. ... Veteran steer wrestler K.C. Jones claimed his second round win with a run of 3.3 seconds, which tied Elko's Dakota Eldridge for the NFR's fastest run.

— Contact reporter Todd Dewey at or 702-383-0354. Follow him: 


Navajo headers on hot streak in team roping

Clay O‘Brien Cooper, left, and Derrick Begay, shown after tying for first in the fifth go-round of team roping at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. O‘Brien Cooper and Begay have three go-round wins this week and have taken the lead in the world standings. PATRICK EVERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

By Patrick Everson
Las Vegas Review-Journal

We're now halfway through the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and if there's one trend that's beginning to stand out, it's that Team Navajo Nation has dominated team roping.

That would be Derrick Begay, Aaron Tsinigine and Erich Rogers. The three Navajo are all team roping headers, and along with their heelers are having a huge impact on the chase for the world championship gold buckle.

The nightly go-round winner all five nights has been either Begay — with his heeler Clay O'Brien Cooper — or Tsinigine — with his teammate Ryan Motes. Meanwhile, Rogers and partner Cory Petska have been steadily cashing checks and lead the WNFR average, which pays out $67,269 in first-place money at week's end.

On Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, Begay and O'Brien Cooper roped their steer in 4 seconds flat to split first place with Coleman Proctor and Jake Long. It was the third winning effort of the week for Begay and O'Brien Cooper.

Begay was pretty intrigued with the Navajo success.

"It's pretty neat, just to look back at it and how we started," Begay said. "That's what's cool to look back on."

All three hail from northern Arizona — Begay from Seba Dalkai, Tsinigine from Tuba City and Rogers from Round Rock. Begay goes way back with Tsinigine.

"We grew up roping together, and he's dating my sister," Begay said. "We all competed against each other a whole lot, and we love to cheer each other on. But on the other hand, we love to beat each other too."

Begay and O'Brien Cooper, a seven-time world champion who at 54 is 22 years older than Begay, have had the best of it so far and are sitting first in the world standings. They've cleared $180,810 and $181,930, respectively, for the 2015 season, including nearly $76,000 apiece in just the last five days.

Begay humbly deferred the success to his partner.

"It's the guy I'm roping with," said Begay, who was then reminded of a photo circulating on Facebook of O'Brien Cooper — then 25 years old — carrying a 3-year-old Begay. "He's been carrying me every night at the rodeo, too."

O'Brien Cooper rolled his eyes a bit at that analysis, making the point that since it's the header's job to get things rolling in team roping, Begay has been the key.

"The header sets up the run. Without getting the steer turned, you can't make a good run," O'Brien Cooper said. "He's the quarterback of the team."

It's their first season together, and while O'Brien Cooper's lengthy WNFR resume — he's qualified 29 times — is no doubt a huge advantage, Begay — in his seventh WNFR — is bringing an important element to the table.

"He has the unique ability to be real fast. That's one of his strong points," O'Brien Cooper said. "When you've got a short set-up like this arena, and you've gotta be really fast, that's when he really shines. I'm the recipient of that ability. As a team, we can capitalize on that."

Still, there's five rounds left and a lot of money that can still be won. And Begay and Cooper are just ninth in the average, so keeping that winning tunnel vision will be vital, which is where O'Brien Cooper's expertise comes in.

"We want to win. At the same time, this is a long week," he said. "Experience shows you what works for you. What works for me is to try to stay on an even keel. I want us to stay focused all 10 nights."