To say that Tuf Cooper is a true cowboy would be an understatement. As a five-time NFR qualifier and world champion in tie-down roping, his accomplishments in the rodeo world have earned him fame and acclaim, but his humility and passion for his sport have earned him respect.
In an exclusive interview with Panhandle brands, Tuf lets us in on everything from his goals to who he’d like to meet on the dance floor!
For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about what you do for a living?
I am a professional model. No, no, just kidding. I am a fourth-generation rodeo cowboy. I get to travel all over the country, really the world, and wake up every day and do what I love. Which is compete in rodeos and live the western lifestyle.
What do you love most about the Western lifestyle?
I think one thing that is very cool is that we are all connected. In this western world, we are one big family. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are in the industry than you are part of our big family.
Have you made a lot of friends by being a part of that family?
Oh yeah! All over the country. I have met so many people from the rodeo world, the ranching world, the everyday cowboy, in the western market, the rodeo committee… really everybody! You make so many connections everywhere you go and you get to go back and see how people have grown and you get to keep building on your relationship as they do. That’s what is so cool. You get to have so many relationships and meet so many different people. You get the opportunity to see into other people’s lives and get help from others along the road.
Who is the most interesting person you have met through all your travels?
I met a kid the other day in Lewis Town, Montana. He has down syndrome. And he drove 2 and a half hours just to meet me! He loves roping. He was a big fan. We got to spend some great time together and rope. I really got to know him. Carson Patten, he is 14 years old, and he ropes every single day. It was so cool getting to spend some time with him. It really made a big impact on me, he will always stand out in my mind.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the opportunity that it brings every day. You never really know what a day will hold. And I love being able to compete for a living. It is so cool to me! It gets me up early and keeps me out late and just keeps my mind going on. I am always trying to think about how to improve and how to win. All day, every day. And you know, some days you don’t win. You just have to stay open minded and stay in the moment. Because you just have to make the most of whatever God brings you. You can’t let disappointment, a bad run or a blow out on the side of the road, or really any struggling, hold you back from pursuing all the opportunities in front of you. I mean, at the end of the day I get to wake up in the morning and do what I love to do. It’s truly a blessing. Not many people get to do what they love to do. I took a year off last year and it made me realize that I truly love this through and through.
I think that’s really awesome. I feel like living the lifestyle you do, you always have to be in a great mental spot or it’ll get old really fast.
Yeah! If I want to reach my goals and I want to get the outcome that I’m after then I need to be present and in the moment. Sure, sometimes you get angry but if you turn that anger into energy that becomes a positive it’s so much better. Like, sure, get angry. But get over it! Find the positive in every situation! That’s what gets me through.
Was there a specific moment that you knew this is what you wanted to do?
Yeah! I realized when I was 12 that I had an amazing opportunity because of my family. I was born into it. I had such an advantage and I saw that opportunity in front of me and I wanted to make the most of it. I wanted to be just like my brothers, my brother in law, my uncle, my cousins, my dad, my grandfather… I wanted to follow in their footsteps. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity that those guys worked so hard to give me.
What do you credit towards your success?
I give all my credit and glory to God. I give it all back to Jesus. But of course, my family was such a huge part of everything to. We are a big lovey family, we love each other so much. We grew up on the core principle of loving each other and loving others. So when you do that, you always want the best for everybody. So yes, they always wanted the best for me. And being able to practice with my dad, the best calf roper that ever walked, that was so amazing. I believe I was born to do this. I didn’t have a choice. I’ve just been trying to make him proud ever since.
So, would you say you are you inspired by your family?
Yes! I wanted to be them. And even more so, I wanted to beat them. We are all so competitive, we want to be the best in all we do and we want to win. Especially when we are all practicing together! We always are trying to one up one another. And when we rodeo, I want them to win. But that’s not stopping me from wanting to win first or second. You know, when I was 16 years old one day I came home from school and just instantly all I wanted to do was start practicing. And after that practice, he sat me down and talked to me about my future. I told him my dreams and goals and he told me I could do it if I kept practicing. So, when I was just 16 years old, we had a game plan. So the next day, he enrolled me into homeschooling or what I like to call, rodeo schooling. And I think from that day we have been on a mission. We agreed that every day I was going to practice as hard as I can until I got to where I wanted to be. He wanted me to succeed in my future and my career. My goal was to win more and to be better than him. And he supported that. He wanted that for me.
So, what are some of those goals? Have you reached them?
Oh yes! I have seen a lot of success and reached a lot of them. Not all of them. I want to win the world every year. I haven’t done that yet but I have definitely reached some smaller goals too. Like being the youngest guy to ever go to the NFR, the youngest guy to win a million dollars in rodeo…
So, what is your greatest accomplishment?
Every day is a chance for a new greatest accomplishment! But honestly, my biggest accomplishment is waking up every day with breath in my lungs and being able to get out of bed and do what I love to do. I am very thankful for that, it is a huge accomplishment. I mean obviously, winning the world was awesome!
All money aside, would you still do what you do or what job would you have?
I think I’m just gonna have to find out when I am about 45 years old! I mean when I took one year off rodeo-ing last year it gave me a lot of time to think. Rodeo has been my one and only job since I was about 13 years old. Stepping back away from that at age 26 helped me to see how fortunate I am and how much I do love it. I just want to do the best I can every day and do it for as long as I can because I truly, truly love what I get to do.
How would you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as honest and loving. Love your neighbor as you do yourself. Love God. Love others. That’s it.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
Hungry, happy, and sleepy! All jokes aside, I would definitely describe myself as motivated.
You talked a lot about how close you are with your family, what is your favorite childhood memory?
My entire childhood was rodeo. It was never ending. 24/7, 365 days a year. Rodeoing with the family and watching them compete was just so much fun. Loading up the truck and getting to see the people I love do what I love, its humbling.
What makes you wildly happy?
Finding pure enjoyment in the little things. You can be unhappy so easily, being happy is a choice. Seeing other people happy always makes me happy.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
Bad drivers! I am driving right now and have seen so many bad drivers today. I also hate when people waste perfectly good water.
What is the number one thing on your bucket list?
Really, I don’t know. And that’s what is so cool about my job! I get to live my bucket list. If I think of something I want to do, I can reach out to all these people that I have met along the road, and I can make it happen. Because they are all my family. And family does anything for each other. I work as hard as I can so I can accomplish everything I could possibly dream of.
What do you feel most grateful for?
What is your favorite piece of clothing that you own and why?
Everything that is Tuf Cooper Performance is amazing. The first time I saw my logo on those shirts it was the greatest feeling in the world. Every time I see a new shirt come out I get so excited like… that is so cool! Because that’s me! Every shirt I see is my new favorite one, honestly. Also, the reflex denim is amazing. I am in love. I wear it every day. Especially on days like this where I am traveling! I never want to take them off.
If you could two step with anyone dead or alive who would it be?
Man, that’s hard. But I am going to go with Dolly Parton. She is the woman of all women.
What is the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned?
Keep fighting, every day. Keep pushing towards what you want to be. Don’t settle. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. No matter what. No matter how bad the situation is, just keep fighting. Trust God.