With Clif Cooper’s family background, handling pressure is commonplace. So when he needed to win on the final weekend of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season for another trip to the finals, he did just that.
His victory in San Bernandino, Calif. earned the former Weatherford College roper his third consecutive berth in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Dec. 6-15.
“I got lucky and called upon my faith,” said Cooper. “I learned a lot about myself digging down deep. If I’d gotten second, I would’ve finished 16th by about 20 dollars.”
The top 15 in the final regular-season standings earned a spot in Las Vegas. For a third straight year Cooper got there under the wire, having placed 13th in 2010 and 14th in 2011.
A lot of pressure comes with taking it down to the wire to qualify. But then, handling pressure has been a family habit for the Coopers for a long time.
Clif’s brother Tuf is the reigning world calf roping champion and is currently second in the world standings. His brother-in-law is eight-time all-around world champion cowboy Trevor Brazile.
And his father, Roy Cooper, was an eight-time world champion roper.
“My dad is the Michael Jordan of calf roping,” Cooper said. “That puts it in perspective. There’s tremendous pressure to perform in my family. I put a lot of pressure on myself because of what my family has accomplished.”
Cooper, 24, found immediate success when he began competing full-time on the PRCA circuit. Before that, he enjoyed a good run at Weatherford College, winning the Southwest Region in tie-down roping and representing the school at the College National Finals Rodeo in 2008 and 2009.
He was one of only a few freshmen to win the region - and performed the rarity of duplicating the feat as a sophomore.
And he found the love of his life at Weatherford College. He met and married former WC cowgirl Terryn Moss, and they now have a daughter, 15-month-old Ceattle Rose.
The 2007 Decatur High graduate says he knew all his life he wanted to be a professional cowboy. But when the opportunity came to first go to college, he accepted a scholarship to WC.
He calls it one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“Weatherford gave me time to grow a little bit. It helped me learn who I wanted to be,” he said. “I can’t thank everyone enough looking back the advantage I got from going to Weatherford College.”
Just as he experienced while growing up, Clif likes to take his family on the road with him. He remembers traveling with his dad when he was little.
“I do better when my family’s with me,” he said. “It was always special being with my dad, and I could tell it was something special to him.
“Rodeo is a very different lifestyle. You’re not guaranteed money - and you’ve got to put up money to compete. My dad says it’s an easy way to make a hard living.
“It’s very comforting to have your family there by your side.”
Looking ahead to Las Vegas, Clif is hoping the third time is a charm.
“In 2010 I did pretty good for my first time. Being nervous and not knowing how I’d do, I handled it well,” he said. “But in 2011. I did not meet my goals. This year I’m going to go rope like I know I can.”
As to whether Ceattle will follow in her father’s footsteps, Clif chuckles and says, “Ceattle can do whatever she wants. I’m thinking maybe golf or tennis.”