Five years ago, Stran Smith wasn't too worried about calf roping. He was more concerned about simply staying alive.
Doctors detected a heart defect after Smith suffered a mild stroke midway through 2003.
But he was back competing in rodeos two months after a surgical procedure to repair his heart.
Smith missed the National Finals Rodeo that year, but the 38-year-old's 10th trip to the Thomas & Mack Center for the event's 50th anniversary this year produced his first calf roping world title.
"What I want to say to people is never give up," he said. "My mom has a saying 'Keep going as you're going, and you're going to get to where you're going.' It's kind of a cheesy little old saying ... I've said it to myself thousands of times."
Smith, needing to protect his No. 1 position in the NFR standings Saturday night, placed second in the last of 10 go-rounds to earn $13,251 along with a $42,999 NFR bonus to push his season total to $181,400.
He edged Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla., by about $2,200.
"I just needed to go as fast as I could," Smith said of his title-clinching run. "I had the (aggregate title) out there, but, at the same time, I would gamble that $43,000 for a gold buckle."
Saturday night's attendance of 17,879 brought the unofficial 10-day total to 172,747 -- the event's lowest since 2001.
Trevor Brazile, the only NFR contestant competing in two events, clinched the world all-around title Tuesday. He finished the year with total earnings of $419,868.
He became the first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competitor to win more than $3 million in his career with $3,027,539.
Justin McDaniel of Porum, Okla., used a dominating NFR to pass regular-season money leader Steve Dent for the world championship.
McDaniel, 22, started the Finals ranked third in the world but finished first in the Finals standings and won a 10-day total of $126,292 for a season total of $216,967. He topped Dent by $6,100.
McDaniel set an NFR record by scoring 859 points on 10 head.
"It takes a dancing partner, and I drew a great one every round," he said.
Go-round winner: Tilden Hooper of Carthage, Texas; 90 points on Classic Pro Rodeo's Scarlet's Web
NFR titlist: McDaniel
World champion: McDaniel
Luke Banquinho of Los Alamos, Calif., won the NFR title and his second world championship to finish the season with $242,018.
Placing second in the final go-round helped him win the championship by $71,000.
"I didn't sleep very good last night, wondering what would happen," Branquinho said. "I knew I had a good steer, and I knew I had a chance to win good money on him which would have taken care of everything."
Go-round winner: Todd Suhn of North Platte, Neb.; 3.4 seconds
NFR titlist: Branquinho
World champion: Branquinho
Logandale's Randon Adams teamed with Arizona's Matt Sherwood to become the first Nevadan to win a team roping world championship and the first from Southern Nevada to win any rodeo world title since 1946.
Go-round winners: Header Colter Todd of Marana, Ariz., and Cesar de la Cruz, Tucson; 4.0 seconds
NFR titlists: Matt Sherwood (header), Randon Adams (heeler)
World champions: Sherwood and Adams
SADDLE BRONC RIDING
Cody Wright of Milford, Utah, had the world championship clinched before being bucked off in the last round. He still placed third in the NFR standings.
Go-round winner: Rod Hay of Wildwood, Alberta; 89 points on Powder River's Miss Congeniality
NFR titlist: Cody Taton, Newell, S.D.
World champion: Wright
Go-round winner: Jeff Chapman of Athens, Texas; 7.1 seconds
NFR titlist: Smith
World champion: Smith
"I'm very honored and very proud to be Canadian today, and it means a lot to get the first barrel racing world championship that we get to take home to Canada," said Lindsay Sears, who clinched her first world title Friday.
Go-round winner: Terra Bynum of Colorado City, Texas; 13.7 seconds
NFR titlist: Moody
World champion: Lindsay Sears
J.W. Harris covered six of his 10 bulls to win the NFR title and $96,364, pushing him past regular-season money leader Chance Smart of Philadelphia, Miss.
Harris finished with $208,437 to beat Smart by $16,000.
Go-round winner: Shawn Proctor of Tooele, Utah; 82.5 points on Burch Rodeo's Magic Man.
NFR titlist: Harris
World champion: Harris
JEFF WOLF/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL