When the National Finals Rodeo wraps up on Saturday night at the Thomas &Mack Center, Kaleb Driggers and Travis Graves will head their separate ways, which is not uncommon in team roping, even among the best duos.
But until then, both of them will keep trying to help each other grab a first world championship gold buckle.
“We’re good buddies,” said Driggers, from Albana, Ga. “It’s kind of like any other business deal. You finish one job, and move onto the next job. I’ve never lost sight of trying to win a world title this year.”
Driggers entered the NFR second among team roping headers, and Graves was second among heelers, which is where both remained through Monday’s fifth round. Driggers has earned $127,981 and Graves $132,603, including $14,724 apiece for taking second in the fourth round and another $7,813 each for taking fourth in the fifth round.
Driggers nearly got a world title in 2012, taking second while helping Jade Corkill of Fallon win the heeler world championship. Corkill moved on to rope with Clay Tryan this year, and those are the two that Driggers and Graves are trying to catch.
“The first couple of nights, we didn’t draw worth a darn,” Driggers said. “Now we’ve made (some) clean runs, we cashed two nights in a row. We just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. This is what we do for business, to make money. If we keep doing that, the world title will take care itself.”
Graves of Morgan Mill, Texas, acknowledges the impending team switch enters his mind, but not so much that it’s affected his focus.
“It makes it hard, I’m not gonna lie,” Graves said. “But Kaleb and I have worked together all year long, and these 10 days at the NFR are the most important time. I’ll do my job and do the best I can do, and let the rest take care of itself.
“I feel really good. I’ve just got to worry about my job and do my part.”
Driggers and Graves surely will be quite competitive again next year, because their new partners are also among the best in the world. Graves will join 10-time all-around world champion Trevor Brazile, and Brazile’s longtime teammate, Patrick Smith, will pair up with Driggers.
“Sometimes you just need to change it up,” Graves said. “Team roping is complicated. There aren’t too many people that do team roping together for very long. Trevor and Patrick have roped together for seven years. That’s a long time.”
Regardless of how the week finishes out for these teammates, it won’t taint Graves opinion of the NFR. This is his fifth trip to the season-ending event.
“I enjoy all of it,” he said. “Sure, when you don’t do good, you’re disappointed. But with the money you can win, you can’t beat that. And all the fans. These are huge rodeo fans, and it’s loud. It’s the best place in the world you could ever rope.”
Driggers is on his third trip to the NFR. He and Graves have pocketed $22,536 apiece through five rounds of roping, but Driggers knows there’s a pile of cash yet to be won, and that’s his prime motivation at this rodeo.
“This rodeo is about the money. It’s gotta be the money,” he said. “We can make more this week than we make all year. It’s nice to come and rope for that kind of money.”