Imagine a blunt-horned, 600-pound steer hurtling out of a metal chute. You’re on horseback in a small pen alongside the behemoth. As pounding hooves churn up the loose dirt, you realize all that’s between you and the animal is a rope, your horse, your partner and your wits.
For Marana-based team roper Colter Todd, it’s simply another day at the office.
Todd is a “header” — aptly-named, as his contest responsibility is to throw a lasso over the head and horns of a speeding steer to turn it so his teammate, the “heeler,” can rope the animal’s legs. The faster this happens, the better the score.
To the average citizen, this might seem like an impossibly tall order to fill, but for Todd, it is old (cowboy) hat.
“I grew up on a ranch with my parents and family who rodeo,” said Todd, “so it is just a lifestyle.”
That lifestyle brought Todd a lot in 2008.
Along with teammate Cesar de la Cruz of Tucson, the 24-year-old Todd won the Wrangler ProRodeo Tour Championship in Dallas earlier this year, tying the world record with a 3.5-second run in the semifinals. Todd and Cruz also walked away with championship times at the Puyallup Pro Rodeo and the Wild Wild West Pro Rodeo, helping give the team a #5 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world ranking heading in to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in early December.
The team went on to beat the odds in Vegas. Todd and de la Cruz overcame slow early-round times to win the 10th and final round, earning the duo an 11th-place overall NFR finish in a contest that is the pro rodeo equivalent of the Super Bowl.
“Just getting to be there is special — it makes up for a long, hard year,” said Todd. “Winning the 10th round was definitely a blessing.”
For a man who grew up on a horse, living the life of a professional cowboy is a blessing as well, but being successful is even more rewarding.
“(I’ve been able to) accomplish all of my dreams with my partner - who has also been my best friend since we were little kids roping goats in the backyard, dreaming of rodeo-ing together,” said Todd.
Those little kids had some help learning “the ropes”: Todd’s dad Larrie and mom Lori were both involved in pro rodeo, Larrie in the PRCA and Lori in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
While that lifelong association with the pro rodeo world has helped Todd, he also cites a belief in God as a reason for his success, along with “family, hard work and determination” and of course, “lots of hours practicing.”
The long hours of practice in 2008 won’t be there in 2009. Todd plans to take the year off to be with his 4-year-old daughter Madilyn and 6-month-old son Colter Junior.
“I’m (going to take) time off from the road,” said Todd. “I am going to spend some time at home with my family, do some ranching and ride lots of colts.”
While Todd’s riding in 2009 will be for enjoyment only, he’s not likely to forget the good times that his rodeo career has given him so far.
“I want to thank all of the people who helped me along the way with places to stay,” said Todd. “(The people that helped) whenever I had truck and trailer breakdowns, everyone who let me drop in and practice when I was out on the road and needed to tune up.”
His own faith, and the faith that others had in him, won’t be far from Todd’s mind in the new year.
“I would also like to thank everyone for their prayers and encouragement,” he added.