Countless cowboys have been crowned world champions in Las Vegas since the city started hosting the National Finals Rodeo in 1985, but only four Nevada natives have won world titles in the 77-year history of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Last year, Fallon’s Jade Corkill joined the select group, which includes Logandale’s Randon Adams, the 2008 team roping heeler world champion; Battle Mountain’s Joe Marvel, the 1978 saddle bronc riding champion; and Las Vegas’ Dave Campbell, the 1946 steer wrestling champion.
Corkill, 26, captured his team roping heeler crown in dramatic fashion — winning the final round of the NFR to edge Gardnerville resident Clay O’Brien Cooper by $1,131 — and is poised to become Nevada’s only two-time world champion this year despite injuring his left hand in the first go-round of the NFR at the Thomas &Mack Center.
Corkill’s hand was crushed against the saddle horn by the rope coils, cutting three of his fingers and forcing him to alter his technique.
But the injury didn’t appear to affect him in the seventh go-round Wednesday, when he and partner Clay Tryan tied for first place with a time of 4.1 seconds before a crowd of 17,416.
“It’s getting better when I rope,” said Corkill, who has received daily treatment on his hand shortly before he competes. “They wrap like a heat pack around my hand, and it lasts about 30 to 40 minutes after I take it off — the swelling being down and being able to move my hand better.”
Despite the injury, Corkill — who entered the NFR with a lead of $519 over Travis Graves in the world standings — has increased his advantage to more than $28,000 over Brady Minor with three rounds left.
Corkill would like nothing more than to be able to celebrate the team roping world title with Tryan, the 2005 team roping header world champion.
Corkill couldn’t entirely enjoy his championship last year, when his teammate, Kaleb Driggers, fell short to Chad Masters in his quest for the header title — ending a season in which Driggers’ best horse died and Corkill’s best horse was injured.
“We had to battle through all that stuff, and I crossed the finish line, and he didn’t. It was a dream and a nightmare all in the same night,” Corkill said. “I hate saying that, too, because that’s literally all I’ve ever worked for. I feel like I sound ungrateful or unappreciative, but it’s the complete opposite. I’m also a team player, and it should’ve been both of us.
“It is my dream come true, but I had a hard time celebrating when he didn’t get it.”
Needing to win the final round last year and finish at least fifth in the average, that’s exactly what Corkill and Driggers did, turning in a winning time of 4.0 seconds.
“It kind of seems like every year, that’s the kicker for a lot of guys — being able to place in the last-day money and get the average check,” said Corkill, who has won the NFR’s 10th round in each of the past three years. “That sends a lot of guys over the top.”
Corkill, who is fifth in the average, expects the title race to go to the wire again this year.
“I’m sure it will,” he said. “It seems like it usually does.”
Corkill won $114,848 in the regular season to surpass $1 million in PRCA career earnings and has pocketed $55,000 at the NFR to climb to second in the all-around standings, behind 19-time world champion Trevor Brazile. He also competed this season in steer roping.
“He’s a great heeler and a great horseman,” Brazile said. “I knew he was going to be elite the first time I saw him rope. He’s just got a certain style and competitiveness in him that’s hard to find.”
The PRCA team roping heeler Rookie of the Year in 2006, Corkill has finished in the top five in the world the past five years, placing second to Adams in 2008.
Married with a 2-year-old son, Colby, Corkill also has helped mentor Elko’s Dakota Eldridge, a steer wrestler who has climbed from 15th to ninth place in the world standings and is fourth in the average at his first NFR.
“Jade is the best heeler there is,” said Eldridge, who competed in Nevada high school rodeo with Corkill’s sister, Bailey, a former UNLV rodeo athlete. “I think he’s the best there ever will be.”
Corkill said his ultimate goal is perfection.
“They say nobody’s perfect, which means we all have work to do,” he said. “My long-term goal is to figure out a way to catch every steer that gets turned for me by two feet.
“Is it a realistic goal? Probably not. But as long as you set them high, you’ve always got something to work for.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.