Top NFR Moments: Tuff Hedeman’s Tribute, Mary Walker’s Triumph over Tragedy, Joe Beaver’s Rookie Win, and Trevor Brazile’s Second Triple Crown
Looking ahead to another NFR (before he passed away in March of last year) Luke Perry helped us highlight some of the top moments in the history of the National Finals.
Three stories that stand out are those of bull rider Tuff Hedeman, who won his second gold buckle following the death of his best friend Lane Frost; barrel racer Mary Walker, who earned a world championship title at the age of 53 after coming back to the sport from loss and major injury; and tie-down roper Joe Beaver, who kicked off his career with a world title win in his rookie year.
Tuff Hedeman had the crowd on their feet with tears in their eyes during the tenth round at the 1989 NFR. Earlier that year, legendary bull rider Lane Frost passed away at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, and so in the final performance, Hedeman not only rode for a second gold buckle but also in memory of his friend. When the buzzer sounded, Hedeman held on, riding 8 seconds for himself, and then another 10 for Lane.
As Perry points out, 2011 was a tough year for Mary Walker. She lost her son in a car accident and then later that year broke her hip, nearly ending her career. But the following year, Walker “I want to thank my son Reagan,” she said, “for making this dream come true.”
Joe Beaver competed in 19 NFRs and won 8 world titles. But there’s nothing quite like the first. Beaver qualified for his first NFR in 1985, and as the youngest tie-down roper at the finals, he won it all. Eventually the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas became known as “the house that Joe built,” a tagline coined by legendary announcer Bob Tallman. “We laugh about it now,” Beaver says, “You know, there’s quite a few guys who’ve remodeled it.”
One of those guys is Trevor Brazile, King of the Cowboys. He’s the winningest cowboy in NFR history, having accrued 25 world titles throughout his career.But 2010 is particularly significant as Brazile accomplished, for a second time, what only two others —(ProRodeo Hall of Famers Jim Shoulders (1956-58) and Everett Bowman (1935, 1937) — have been able to do. He won his second Triple Crown, taking three world titles in a single year — tie-down roping, team roping, and the all-round.
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