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NFR 2017 live stream – Cooper Martin ready for his first National Finals Rodeo

Cooper Martin finally found his payday and he’s riding it all the way to Las Vegas — literally and figuratively. NFR 2017 live stream – Cooper Martin ready for his first National Finals Rodeo

The 20-year-old Alma native had essentially given up on rodeo this past summer, deciding to compete close to his home in Texas where he lives with his girlfriend. He didn’t have the right horse, a horse trailer or the money required to do what he needed.

That is, until he found his new horse, Payday, in May, and in many ways the perfect horse to help take him to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, where he’ll open the tie-down roping competition Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Watch NFR 2017 live stream on CBS Network

“I really wasn’t planning on rodeoing because I didn’t have the horse power,” said Martin, who will be competing in the NFR for the first time. The competition will be televised nightly on CBS Sports Network. “Once I got the horse in May, I called my travel partner and we left,” Martin said. “I only had $12,000 in the world standings on June 1.”

By the end of June, Martin had earned $20,000. In July alone, Martin racked up $52,000, aided by a monster July 4 weekend when he competed in four rodeos and earned $13,000. By summer’s end, Martin had won more than $85,000 — good enough for 14th in the world heading into this year’s NFR.

The top 15 cowboys in the world standings in each event — based on earnings — qualify for the NFR, a 10-day rodeo and the sport’s Super Bowl of sorts, which has been held in Las Vegas since 1985.

“It’s just unbelievable,” said Martin, who is sponsored by Wrangler. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 8 years old. And (now) that it’s finally come true, I don’t think it has set in quite yet.”

Martin is in elite company, as only 120 cowboys and cowgirls make the NFR each year in the seven events. He’ll be roping along side some of the greatest cowboys in the sport’s history — guys like 23-time world champion Trevor Brazile, who is sixth in the world and has won more money in his career than any cowboy in history.

“I’ve looked up to guys like Trevor Brazile a lot, Cody Ohl and Tyson Durfey,” said Martin, who finished 33rd in the world standings as a rookie last year. “It’s funny, all those guys I rope with now, I’ve watched them on TV forever.

“Last year, being a rookie, I really didn’t know anybody, but this summer has opened up a lot for me. I got to know a lot of guys. I go from seeing these guys at one or two events a year to now every week. It’s pretty awesome.”

Martin got to Vegas thanks to his consistency.

While he won his share of rodeos this year — including the Columbia River Circuit Finals (Yakima, Wash.), Corn Palace Stampede (Mitchell, S.D.), Laramie (Wyo.) Jubilee Days, Jerome (Idaho) County Fair and Rodeo, Eagle (Idaho) Rodeo and the American Royal Rodeo (Kansas City, Mo.) — he found that the best road to the NFR was about placing, not always winning.

“I finally realized that I had to place to be with those guys,” said Martin, who will be wearing No. 81 on his back in Vegas. “All those guys that are doing this, it is about consistency. You go at it thinking you have to win everything, but you aren’t going to beat all those guys all the time. They’re going for first, too, but it’s the guys who place more often that make it to this level.”

Martin did that, placing in 17 of the 22 rodeos he entered in July alone. Though Martin didn’t win a rodeo during the successful July 4 weekend, he placed third or fourth in all of them.

“I got on a roll — and it can be good roll or a bad roll — but I got on a good roll,” said Martin, who briefly attended Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas. “I’m doing it every day and you just get into a groove when everything is going right for you.

“After last summer, I came home and had a rough winter. Then I left this summer and it was completely different.”

And now with the start of the NFR only a day away, Martin has tried to play it cool, like the next 10 days are just any other rodeo.

But it’s not, exactly. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, especially for a first-timer.

“I’ve been practicing this fall and getting ready,” said Martin, who won high school nationals as a junior in 2014. “And I’m not really nervous about the roping. That’s the same as anywhere I guess, but you’re going up against the top 15 in the world, so you want to prepare yourself the best you can.

“I’m just looking at it like another rodeo. I think if you let that stuff get to you, you’re there for other reasons. I just like to rope and if I can make a living at it, it’s the best job in the world.”

While the roping part of the NFR 2017 live stream is nearly the same as any other rodeo — other than being under the lights with 20,000 people in attendance for 10 straight days — it’s all the other hoopla that surrounds the event that makes Martin nervous. It’s a week of celebrations, ceremonies, autograph signings and special appearances.

“I think I’m more nervous for stuff like that than I am about the actual roping,” he said. “I haven’t really been in front of a TV that much.”

Martin aims to make this an annual visit to Las Vegas.

“I’d like to think it’s just the start for me, but it’s my first one and I want to make it count, so I just want to go rope and have fun,” he said. “I had a lot of fun this summer, got to rope every day, big rodeos. That’s just what I like to do and hopefully I can keep doing it.” Sources