There are so many things that set the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) apart from other events – one of those is the locker rooms.
Throughout the year, bareback, saddle bronc and bull riders pack their gear, travel, unpack, ride, repack and travel some more. There are a few rodeos where they ride twice and stay overnight, but most of those see them preparing behind the chutes and spreading their equipment out on the ground.
While they are here for 10 days, each event has their own locker room. They get to unpack and leave their gear in one place for 10 nights. It’s an unusual circumstance for these vagabond athletes and one that they look forward to all year long.
“The locker room here is the best,” said saddle bronc rider CoBurn Bradshaw. “This is the rodeo that you want to get to early so you can hang out in the locker room. There’s a lot of joking going on and it’s just fun.”
If there is a neat freak in the saddle bronc riding room it would have to be CoBurn’s brother-in-law Cody Wright and his son Rusty according to Clay Elliott. “They are always picking up their stuff, organizing it and stacking it in the corner,” he said.
Sterling Crawley has been accused of being the most spread out. He said that Heith DeMoss has the most tape, but for the most part everyone has their own space and uses it.
“There’s not a lot of room,” he said. “I think we keep it pretty organized even though we have a lot of fun.”
If the bronc riders’ locker room is organized, the bareback riders is chaotic and that has become a tradition. After the first performance NFR rookie R.C. Landinham was packing up his gear and zipping up his bag.
“Caleb Bennett said ‘don’t zip it up, because the other guys will start messing with your stuff.’ Our locker room has definitely gotten messier as the week has gone on.” He said. “We get here, listen to music and have a lot of fun while we are getting ready.”
Years ago, that fun included gluing Cimarron Gerke’s boots to the ceiling. And while there haven’t been any pranks like that this year, there have been some misplaced items.
“I think we have the most fun,” said Richmond Champion who is making his second appearance n the bareback riding. “We jam out leading up to and after the competition. It’s kind of a free for all in the locker room. We might have some neat freaks outside, but definitely not in the locker room.”
The bull riders’ room is set up with portable panels so they can hang their ropes and probably has the least amount of room.
“Scottie Knapp does some major stretching,” said Cody Rostockyj. “That guy will do the splits and stretch from one side of the room to the other. Rorey Maier likes to have everything in its place and looking pretty.”
The 2011 world champion bull rider, Shane Proctor said he was probably the messiest of all of the guys. “I take up a lot of room,” he said. “I really like to spread out.” Whatever he is doing is working. He has ridden seven out of eight bulls with two nights to go.
Just down the hall from the rough stock rider’s is the biggest room of all. It is allocated to the 21 women who appear in the arena carrying sponsor and event flags. There is a distinctly different air here, and one that is highly tainted with the smell of hairspray.
These women appear in the Thomas and Mack Center nightly in matching outfits adorned with sequins, fringe and bling. Their cubby holes are a kaleidoscope of color. The room has all the necessary accoutrements like curling irons and makeup to go with the hairspray. These women take a lot of pride in how they look in the arena and are known for their horsemanship. They consider it an honor to ride in the Thomas and Mack Center and take it all very seriously.
There’s not much tape or baby powder in the girl’s room. And no matter what kind of fun is had in the other locker rooms, I’m relatively sure there has never been an iron present in any of them.