Tuf Cooper has never shied away from being Roy Cooper's son and the expectations that come with it. He's always embraced it.
“It is the biggest advantage that is out there, to be the legend Roy Cooper's son,” said the 22-year-old Texas cowboy. “The best expectations to have are the expectations to be great.”
Greatness is what Oklahoma cowboy Roy Cooper of Durant was with a rope. Tuf Cooper's father won eight world championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association: six calf roping gold buckles, one steer roping title and one all-around championship.
Tuf wasn't alive when his dad was the dominant roper on the planet. The youngest of Roy Cooper's three sons, Tuf was born in 1990, six years after his dad won his last gold buckle.
At age 18, Tuf became the youngest cowboy ever to qualify to the National Finals Rodeo in calf roping.
In December, Tuf claimed his first world championship in calf roping. He was just 21 at the time, the same age as his dad when he won his first world title.
“I have learned how to win from my dad,” Tuf said. “That is the biggest thing that he's taught me. That's something that's hard to learn. Not very many people can teach how to win and he's the very best at it.”
Tuf said he started thinking about winning a gold buckle the first time a serious thought came into in his head. He admits his father's success has always motivated him.
“That pushed me in the practice pen to be better every day and it still continues to push me because he's got eight (world championships). I only have one. I got a lot of work to do, a whole lot of work to do.”
Tuf ropes between 200 and 300 calves each year for money. Before and after each calf roping run, he calls his dad.
“I try to seek advice from him before the run and try to learn something from him after the run. He's already been through everything that I am going through. Who better to ask advice from than him? And whenever I can't get a hold of Roy, Trevor is at the rodeo.”
Trevor is Trevor Brazile, a 16-time world roping champion who also is a member of the family. Brazile is married to Roy Cooper's stepdaughter.
At last year's NFR, Tuf's horse was injured. Brazile had two top horses there and sold one to Tuf.
“I didn't have anything to ride,” Tuf said. “He let me buy one from him so I could have the very best chance I could.”
Tuf won the world title and was seeking to become a national champion in the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, but took a no time Saturday afternoon when his calf ran through the loop and didn't qualify for Sunday's final round, which begins at 1 p.m.
The National Circuit Finals Rodeo marked only the second time that Tuf had roped in State Fair Arena. He has never lived in Oklahoma. Roy Cooper moved the family to Texas before he was born.
Still, Tuf was nostalgic about competing in the arena that once was the home of the NFR and the place where his father won all eight of his world championships.
“It's like playing in them old ballparks,” Tuf said “This is the arena where all that used to happen. It's where all those guys who we look up to, this is where they became who they are, this arena right here. It's something special to be able to rope in the same arena.”