Unflinching Peek targets summit

Josh Peek seems to be one of those cowboys who believes that timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. He’s big on faith, on a higher being guiding our destiny.

In the meantime, he works like crazy to do his part.

This is what it must have felt like being Andre Phillips chasing Edwin Moses. Or how Wilt Chamberlain viewed yet another playoff series against Bill Russell. Or how one of America’s rising chefs reacts when tasting Bobby Flay’s chili con carne.

Tracking greatness can be maddening for those closest to the top.

The 30-year-old Peek, though, is as confident in his pursuit of an all-around title in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association as he is respectful of the man who has dominated the sport for years. He is as certain about his ability as he is the excellence of Trevor Brazile.

"He has been an idol of mine forever," Peek said. "But all eras eventually end. His time will also come. I’m just working as hard as I can to be the cowboy who steps up and takes that title when it happens. I’ll be there. You just keep working. The time will come."

It probably won’t over the next eight days.

Or maybe the next five years.

Or, for Peek, maybe ever.

Brazile is 33 and drowning in gold buckles, here at the National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center to match the seven all-around titles of Ty Murray. The only question most have is during which go-around will Brazile clinch, which could be later than first thought.

He hasn’t won a dime in team roping and calf roping after two nights of the NFR, but his all-around lead still stands at nearly $124,000 over Clint Robinson. Peek is third, more than $135,000 behind Brazile.

Here’s the deal: Brazile is annually the best cowboy because he is expertly gifted at three disciplines, because he spends the year racking up money in calf roping, team roping and steer roping. He doesn’t compete in the latter full time but usually finishes in the top three when he does.

There is a pretty straightforward strategy for beating Brazile. It’s just that no one seems capable of mastering it.

"You can’t beat Trevor Brazile being mediocre or coming to (the NFR) in 15th place in an event," said Joe Beaver, a three-time all-around champion who spent much of his career competing in the immense shadow of Murray. "To beat him, someone like Josh Peek or a young kid is going to have to dedicate themselves in three events and be willing to practice five days a week for seven to nine hours a day in each.

"They have to buy the horses and spend the money and make the commitment. Josh isn’t 21. He’s got some age on him. He’s getting better. He’s coming along. But Trevor will buy the good horses. He will get to the rodeos and beat you."

Can anyone overcome Brazile in the near future?

"Not," Beaver said, "unless he stubs his toe."

Peek knows this position well. He was a high school sophomore competing on the Little Britches circuit in Colorado when he also dreamed of an all-around title, when he knew that it would take adding a discipline (steer wrestling) to be the best among his peers.

He knows the dedication it takes to be a multi-event cowboy, knows the luck and wealth one needs to identify and purchase the right horses, knows how lonely the road can be hauling five to seven animals from city to city and to between 70 to 80 rodeos a year, knows he is chasing one of the most dominant athletes in any sport’s history.

He also knows the fire that burns inside.

"The all-around champion is the best cowboy, the most well-rounded athlete, the most glorified of positions," Peek said. "I want that. I’ve dreamed about it my entire life. Lord willing, it will happen.

"But I’ve also achieved my most important goals. I’m a great husband (to wife Kori). I’m a great father (to 51/2-month-old twins, son Keagan and daughter Emry). When it comes to striving for that (all-around title), I’ll be the happiest person around if I win it. But when it comes to true happiness, I already know what it is."

This: Not a few hours before the NFR’s first go-around Thursday, the cowboy who wants more than anything to stop the supremacy of a six-time champion, who is competing here in steer wrestling and calf roping and just recently took up steer roping, was bathing two infants and warming bottles.

Josh Peek wouldn’t trade that for all the gold buckles in the world.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He also can be heard weeknights from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on "The Sports Scribes" on KDWN-AM (720) and www.kdwn.com.

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