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Wiser and now Mr. Mom, team roper Kyle Lockett returns to NFR

Updated December 5, 2019 - 8:59 pm

The lyrics make it sound all exciting and untamed, wearing faded Levi’s and a belt buckle with pride, running wild through life and relishing being free, spending nights in an ol’ crowded bar room drinking with the guys.

It has been a minute since Kyle Lockett existed in the unlatched world of a rodeo cowboy, where folks tell you there might be better ways to make a living but no better way to live.

He last qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2005, but somewhere between continuing to travel those long, dark stretches of road littered with trailers hooked to unfilled dreams, Lockett directed his horse on another, more stable journey.

Lockett has returned to the NFR, the team roping heeler and partner Erich Rogers finishing in the money in the first go-round Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The cowboy who entered the media room with his two sons, ages 6 and 9, is now 42 with a much different perspective on things than the last time he qualified.

Lockett and his wife, Leigh, also have two daughters, 13 and 11.

The lyrics also talk about the time when all the rovin’ days are finally over, where you can picture a little home down beside a stream.

I’m not sure how many water sources are within a stone’s throw of where the Locketts reside in Visalia, California, but the part about falling in love and settling down to raise a family sure did seize him many years ago.

He chose being Mr. Mom over running wild through life while Leigh worked as a labor-and-delivery nurse.

“No regrets at all,” Lockett said. “I’m just one who never wanted to be gone from home, and rodeo is one of those deals where you think you will be gone for two weeks and wind up being gone for a month. That’s the lifestyle and travel that I didn’t want to do.

“I love being a Dad and home with (the family). You know, at first, I missed the (rodeo life), especially being here at the nationals. It’s so special. It got easier over time, but you always miss the finals.”

Which makes how he qualified for his eighth appearance all the more remarkable.

A friend needed a fill-in partner for the San Angelo (Texas) Rodeo in February and — what do you know? — Lockett and Aaron Tsinigine won the event by roping three head in 13.2 seconds.

That meant a trip to RodeoHouston, where — what do you really know? — Lockett then teamed with Ty Blasingame to capture first place and a check for $55,750 each.

It put Lockett back on that road headed to the NFR, where he arrived to the 10 richest and most prestigious days of rodeo having earned more than $108,000 this year.

A Hollywood ending?

“It’s a fairy tale that I’m even here, something they make a movie about,” Lockett said. “I wasn’t even planning on going to San Angelo. I’m pretty lucky the way things worked out. Once in a lifetime deal. I’m riding on cloud nine.”

You would think those supposedly important sports traits such as chemistry and continuity would be essential between header and heeler in team roping, a timed event in which the mounted riders rope a steer around its horns and hind feet.

But such familiarity isn’t always needed.

Lockett and Rogers have never roped together before now, practicing as a tandem for two days before heading to Las Vegas. It didn’t seem to bother them Thursday, as they finished third in 4.3 seconds.

Each won $15,653.85 to begin their NFR experience.

“It’s not like it has to be (Joe) Montana and (Jerry) Rice,” Lockett said. “All the guys at this level know what they’re doing. We’re all shooting for the same thing. I still practice roping and have done enough circuit rodeos to keep my skills up pretty good.

“This is the path I chose. I’m older now. I’m married. I have kids. I probably won’t be staying out near as late as the last time here, when I was single, but I appreciate it more now. I have a much bigger support system behind me this time, and they’re all just as stoked as I am to be here.”

The lyrics are from “Rodeo Life.”

Kyle Lockett knew it once and then embraced another.

No regrets.

Not a dang one.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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