His father was the first $2 million cowboy. His neighbor Trevor Brazile was the first $3 and then $4 million cowboy. Now 23-year-old Tuf Cooper of Decatur has made his own million-dollar mark on the rodeo world.
Cooper became the youngest cowboy to reach $1 million in career earnings this past weekend when he won the third round of tie-down roping at the San Angelo Rodeo. He reached the milestone in just 23 years and 22 days, breaking the previous record of 23 years and 9 months set by Ty Murray in 1993.
His blazing run of 7.4 seconds in the round propelled him past $1 million. He only needed $1,000, but he won more than $3,000 for the round. His Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association career earnings now total $1,008,168.
“It was pretty awesome to be able to do it in San Angelo,” Cooper said. “There is a lot of family history in San Angelo, and San Angelo is one of biggest roping towns. They are big calf roping fans there.”
Cooper, his dad Roy Cooper (a Rodeo Hall of Famer) and brothers Clint and Clif have been coming to San Angelo for years, both for the PRCA-sanctioned rodeo and the Roping Fiesta.
“It’s also great to break one of Ty Murray’s records, with everything he’s accomplished,” Cooper said. “To be on the same stage with him is pretty awesome. What a great guy to follow.”
“To become the youngest cowboy millionaire and just do it in one event is pretty impressive,” Murray told the PRCA. “I did it in three events (bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding), so I had three times the opportunity. Imagine if everywhere Tuf went he had three shots at it in the tie-down roping.
“When I was a kid, Roy Cooper was literally one of the guys who changed the game.” He said. “He was the biggest star at the NFR. Tuf’s one of the young guys who will further revolutionize the sport, and I’m proud to see young cowboys coming up and breaking records. I wish a money record would never stand for 20 years, but having young stars like Tuf Cooper come along is what helps the sport grow.”
Cooper can recall numbers from his rodeo beginnings like a computer. He knows it took him exactly five years and six days to break the $1-million mark.
“My first rodeo was Hattiesburg, Miss.,” he said. “I rode down there and my run was 9.1 seconds. I won $743. From that point on every dollar has been so important. I remember everything about my first couple rodeos. I can’t tell you details about what happened last year or before really last month but I can tell you everything about my first rodeos.”
He’s learned a lot since the first rodeo in Mississippi.
“I stepped into the game with expectations to do good but not really any knowledge of how it works,” Cooper said. “I think I have a better understanding five years later of how it works. I’m not just out here hoping to do my best. I kind of have a good game plan going in every year.
“Now I know how to prepare for each rodeo and what rodeos I’m best at and what rodeos I think I have good odds at. Instead of just showing up for a rodeo and being prepared for anything. I show up knowing how to game plan for each one.”
One of those game plans was to become the youngest $1 million cowboy.
“I wouldn’t be able to get to this point without all the hard work from all the rodeo committees that put on all the good rodeos I get to compete in,” Cooper said. “I’ve had a lot of great opportunities early in my career, a lot of help my last five years. I’m really thankful and blessed to have this opportunity and experience where I’m at right now … I want to thank everybody who supports me. I couldn’t do it without y’all.”
There has also been one special horse that’s helped him win a huge chunk of his total earnings.
Roaney, a 20-year-old mare, belongs to C.R. Bradley Horses of Collinsville. Cooper has only ridden her in three rodeos – the Omaha Rodeo and twice at National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas – but he’s pocketed a quarter of his earning on her.
“She’s just an amazing horse,” he said. “She fits me perfect and does everything perfect. I wish we could ride her all year long, but we keep her for Vegas.”
Cooper never stops setting goals. His goal this year is to win a third world championship in calf roping. He also hopes to break another record: the single-season mark in calf roping is $297,000.