Updated December 13, 2019 - 8:57 pm
His voice is deep and gruff. Yet warm and welcoming. With a touch of Texas twang that’s oh so familiar at the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center.
But Boyd Polhamus isn’t announcing the NFR anymore.
He’s overseeing it instead.
Polhamus, the longtime announcer who called the NFR 28 times, transitioned into a new role this year as the rodeo’s general manager and supervises the production of the 10-day event. He was officially appointed general manager by Las Vegas Events in November 2017, but announced the NFR that year and apprenticed last year under former general manager Shawn Davis.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who could come close to handling the transition like he has,” Davis said. “He’s brilliant. He’s had experience here for 28 years. He’s a lot like me, only smarter.”
Polhamus, 54, says he’s intimidated by the production of the NFR and all the nuance that goes with it. But he speaks with a sense of calm and confidence cultivated by a life tailored around rodeo. The Brenham, Texas, native once aspired to become a professional cowboy, only to become an announcer after his coaches heard him jokingly announcing college rodeos with his friends at Southwest Texas Junior College.
He connected with PRCA producers in 1985 and in 1991 became the youngest announcer to call the NFR at age 26. He called every NFR in some capacity until 2017, when he was encouraged to apply for the impending general manager vacancy.
“It was so flattering that people thought that I might even slightly possess the skill set,” Polhamus said. “I remember going to Shawn and going, ‘Shawn, I know what I don’t know, but I’ve got people telling me that I should apply.’ And he said, ‘You should, and if they select you, I’ll help you.’”
So Polhamus applied and was selected from a pool of four finalists to succeed Davis, who helped bring the NFR from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas in 1985 and built it into the spectacle that it is today.
He worked for a year under Davis, seeking to learn about the unglamorous aspects of the NFR.
“I knew a lot of what happened in front of the paying public,” Polhamus said. “But operationally, the functionality of everything that it takes so the public sees what they see, I was as green as grass.”
Polhamus has since learned all about the NFR and its minutiae. Like the transportation of the dirt to and from the arena. The construction of the stables and bullpens. The pyrotechnics. The promotions. The quality of the hay. The biomedical maintenance of the livestock.
Davis is still employed as a consultant, and his staff stayed in place to work under Polhamus. But it’s Polhamus’s rodeo this year. He’s beefed up the prerodeo show and engaged younger spectators with an NFR application for smartphones.
He’s not ready to celebrate, though. Not after nine flawless go-rounds.
Not until it’s over Saturday night.
“I’ve almost made it. I don’t take anything for granted. At any given moment chaos can depart upon us,” he said with a touch of that trademark Texas twang. “The thing I do know, if chaos does depart upon us, I’ve got the most professional team ready to handle it. But so far so good.”
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What: National Finals Rodeo
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
TV: CBS Sports Network