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Rodeo roper Trevor Brazile has earned more than $6 million in earnings and won 23 world championships.

Associated Press— Isaac Brekken

You’d think someone who owns nearly as many gold belt buckles as there are days in the month would make a racket wherever he goes. But Trevor Brazile is actually pretty sneaky.

Case in point: This past Thursday night, Brazile was with some of his rodeo buddies at his ranch near Decatur. Sometime before 10 p.m., Brazile retired to presumably go to bed, as he had a flight to Denver the next morning.

Soon thereafter, a couple of his friends headed to their truck on a late-night snack run to the convenience store. Yet before they ever made it to the store, an arm reached out from the back seat and grabbed the driver, startling him into a panic.

Sneak attack, courtesy of Trevor Brazile.

To say Brazile enjoys his life and his career would be an understatement of the grandest degree. He takes his craft of rodeo seriously and spends most of his waking hours honing his skills, but trust anyone who knows him — he wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t fun.

“I was caught up in the romance of rodeo at a very early age,” Brazile said. “But I was careful not to set too lofty of goals as a kid. I just wanted to be able to make a living at this sport I loved. That’s why I’m kind of overwhelmed by the success, because I never set out to do that. I just didn’t want to have to get a real job.”

Brazile retreats behind a cloak of “aw, shucks” humility when asked about his rodeo achievements. But his success speaks loudly enough by itself.

He’s been called the “Michael Jordan of rodeo,” and even that description might not fully encompass his U-haul trailer full of accolades. He has won 23 world championships as well as 13 PRCA all-around cowboy world titles, the most in the sport’s history. His $6 million-plus in career earnings also ranks No. 1 all-time among all PRCA competitors.

Already a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, Brazile will join the Texas Sports Hall of Fame at its annual banquet Feb. 2.

“This is a whole other level,” Brazile said. “To be represented not just by rodeo but by all the mainstream sports, all the sports in Texas, it’s a complete honor.”

Born Nov. 16, 1976 in Amarillo, Brazile seemingly entered the world with arena dirt in his blood. His father Jimmy was a four-time national finalist in steer roping. From about the time he could walk, Trevor was taught how to ride and rope.

Yet Jimmy didn’t want to push Trevor into rodeo, either.

“I didn’t really go to my first rodeo until I was 11 years old,” Trevor Brazile said. “My dad would go off traveling somewhere, to Oklahoma or wherever, and when he came back he always said, ‘Man, those kids up there are practicing X amount of hours a day.’ He always made it sound like they were working so hard and doing all these amazing things, that it made me work harder.”

Many sons and daughters of rodeo stars get their first taste of the life at ages 5 or 6, on the junior rodeo circuit. Brazile’s introduction came later, as a preteen, and he’s grateful for that.

“When I found out the competition wasn’t the Goliath my dad made it out to be, that it was even fictitious, I was glad,” he said. “I think if I would have started when I was 5 and I would have seen what it was like, I might have leveled off. Instead, he made me work hard for it. I was really so much more prepared.”

Brazile participated in other sports, too. He ran track and played basketball at Class 2A Krum, near Denton. No football, only because Krum was one of the few 2A schools in the state at the time that didn’t field a football team. But the hoops thing worked out just fine, as Brazile played on a state championship team in 1994.

By the time he graduated high school, Brazile knew he wanted to make a career out of rodeo. He also knew who he wanted to bring along for the ride. From the time they first met as 9-year-olds, Brazile and Shada Cooper were linked.

“When we were young, they used to tease us about having a crush on the other, so we steered clear of each other,” Brazile said. “We didn’t want the ridicule. But we’ve known each other for a long time. My senior year of high school we started dating, and we’ve been together ever since.”

Shada and Trevor married, and embarked on their journey into rodeo together. Shada is a world-class barrel racer who has also done some modeling. The couple has two children – Treston, 7, and Style, 5. The kids travel with mom and dad throughout the year, which is important to Trevor. In fact, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The day my family can’t come along anymore, that’s when I’ll know it’s time to go,” Brazile said.

Over the years, Brazile has displayed a preternatural ability to fling a rope over anything that moves. He regularly competes in steer roping, tie-down roping and team roping, and has never felt the urge to specialize in just one area.

“I didn’t want to ever focus on just one discipline,” he said. “I always wanted to be an all-around cowboy. Anything to do with roping, I wanted to do it.”

Pretty sage thinking. All the Las Vegas tourists in a given year couldn’t match the jackpots that Brazile has hit on his annual trips to the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas. His 13 all-around titles at the NFR are six more than any other cowboy in history, as fellow Texas Sports Hall of Famer Ty Murray held the record before Brazile broke it.

In 2007, Brazile became the first cowboy since 1983 to win the PRCA’s triple crown, winning world titles in steer roping, tie-down roping and all-around. He has since added two more triple crowns to go with the first.

All of those shiny, gold buckles are special to Brazile, but they’re not like his kids either. He is willing to play favorites.

“There are a few that stand out,” he said. “The first one (in 2002) was important, because I feel like it changed my career, changed my life, really. It opened the door for endorsements and stuff like that. And when I broke Ty Murray’s (all-around) record, that was pretty memorable, too.”

Life on the road can get bumpy sometimes. Brazile said his Christian faith helps him stay grounded and gives him a sense of perspective. “It helps you realize that rodeo doesn’t define you,” Brazile said.

“He’s not a preacher, but he’ll sure stand up for his faith and his relationship with the Lord,” Brazile’s team-roping partner Patrick Smith told American Cowboy magazine last year. “I think success changes a lot of people for the worse, but he’s used it to make his family and career stronger.”

Brazile has no idea how long he’ll continue to chase gold buckles. At 39, he hasn’t really slowed down. At the most recent NFR in December, he tied Cody Ohl’s 12-year-old arena record with a blazing time of 6.5 seconds in tie-down roping.

Besides, he’s still enjoying himself so much.

“I never take rodeo for granted,” Brazile said. “If I did something else tomorrow, I’d still do this in my free time. To be able to make your passion your work, it really is a dream come true.”

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