After last year’s National Finals Rodeo, when Tuf Cooper went home to Decatur, Texas, with a second straight gold buckle as the world’s best tie-down roper, some fans got the idea that Cooper needed to up his social media presence.
Never mind that he already had one of the largest fanbases among rodeo cowboys. It was time to expand deeper into the Twitterverse.
So a tweet was sent out with a picture of the 23-year-old. Cooper retweeted it. And before long, those tweets evolved into a trend, which evolved into what is now called Tuf Cooper Tuesday.
“My fans on Twitter created it,” Cooper said. “They send pictures of me to my Twitter feed, and I would retweet them. They had messages like ‘Happy Tuf Cooper Tuesday.’ Sometimes they’d tweet single pictures, sometimes collages, and they’d think it was pretty cool that I would retweet them.
“It’s really cool that my fans want to get together like that. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I don’t know who it was that started it. I just started retweeting, and after that, it just caught on. They’re sending them left and right. It just shows how great rodeo fans are and how blessed I am to have them.”
Such social media savvy goes a long way toward explaining Cooper’s popularity. He has a whopping 26,030 Twitter followers, and he’s approaching 70,000 “likes” on his Facebook fan page. Cooper said both those numbers are among the largest for cowboys. And Tuf Cooper Tuesday has even expanded to satellite radio, with Cooper doing a weekly segment at 3:40 p.m. Pacific on Sirius XM’s Rural Radio.
“We are working on it every day,” Cooper said of reaching out to his fan base, noting he is aided by manager Shawn Wiese. “Without fans, what I get to do is not possible. Without them, it would just be a sport in a pasture.”
Instead, Cooper is a rising star in rodeo, making his sixth NFR appearance as he goes after his third world title. Entering this year’s 10-day event, he led tie-down roping with 2013 earnings of $135,164, more than $37,000 ahead of second-place Tyson Durfey. Despite that lead, he’s keeping a level head, understanding there’s a lot of money on the line at the NFR, and he could easily be caught.
“It’s the same as before, the same plan as it’s always been. Show up and do the best job I can every night, win as much money as I can every time I nod my head,” Cooper said. “Just because you have that cushion doesn’t mean you change anything.”
The two-month break following the regular season worked out well, giving Cooper a chance to rest a bit, then get after finding ways to improve.
“That’s the only time we really get a break. That’s our offseason, but we’re also getting ready for our Super Bowl at the same time,” he said. “It’s kind of like a bow and arrow. You pull the arrow back before you let it fly, take a step back before you go forward.”
Much of Cooper’s effort came in the weight room, as he added 10 pounds of muscle over the past two months.
“And I’m trying to get more strength, more control,” he said.
That work ethic allows him to be more at peace in what can be a nerve-racking atmosphere at the Thomas &Mack Center, with 17,000-plus fans on hand 10 nights in a row.
“I get zoned in on doing my job. I don’t get nervous because I know I’ve prepared myself. I give God all my worries,” he said.
But he’s not so in the zone that he’s oblivious to the arena’s energy.
“The atmosphere is amazing,” he said. “I enjoy the Grand Entry every night. And throughout the whole week, all of Las Vegas is amazing. If you’re a fan of rodeo, for the first two weeks of December, Las Vegas is the place to be.”
And if you can’t get to the arena, well, you can certainly connect with Cooper in the social media sphere. He and his manager set a goal of reaching 75,000 Facebook “likes” before the NFR started. He certainly appreciates the input from fans on both Facebook and Twitter, although sometimes people get a little carried away.
“For the most part, it’s all good, solid feedback,” Cooper said. “But there’s daily marriage proposals, that’s for sure. Those are awesome.”