By BRAD KEITH
Photos by DUDLEY BARKER, dudleydoright.com
(December 11, 2014) — Now in his third appearance at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Huckabay team roping heeler Paul Eaves has a different perspective than during his first two trips to what amounts to the Super Bowl of his sport.
“I have a little better perspective on it now and on what I want to get done while I’m here,” said Eaves in a Thursday afternoon phone interview with The Flash Today. “That’s what you have to do on a big stage like this is keep everything in perspective and keep looking at the big picture.”
That mentality has helped Eaves and header Dustin Bird to wins in round three and Wednesday night’s round seven at the 2014 WNFR, where they were also second in round four. They have doubled their career go-round victories in their third finals together, and have earned more than $53,000 each with three rounds left.
The eighth go-round is Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Eaves, 24, and Bird, 34, won nine rodeos and were co-champs at three others leading up to the WNFR, and each have season earnings exceeding $140,000. Eaves has pushed his career earnings to almost half a million, and at second in the current world standings, is still eyeing the biggest of prizes.
Eaves trails only fellow Huckabay heeler and world leader Jade Corkill by a mere $355.01 in the world standings. But Corkill and Lipan header Clay Tryan are the only team to rope all seven head at the finals, putting them in the best position to win the average and an additional $48,732. Eaves and Bird are virtually out of the average with three misses.
“I want to win the gold buckle,” said Eaves. “I know we’re a long shot and we’re going to have to do really good these next three nights, but as long as we’re in the running that’s still the goal.”
Eaves says he and Bird are the perfect fit as partners.
“We’re both so easy going and that makes it nice. We don’t break it down and make it hard on each other,” Eaves said. “We both know our jobs, and if we mess up we don’t point fingers. That means a lot.”
Living in the Erath County area has also helped Eaves.
“From all the help and stuff I’ve gotten from all my friends living there to being around the best guys in the world when we’re practicing at home, it’s helped a lot,” Eaves said. “There are so many good ropers in Erath county, and we’re a tight group. That helps, too.”
Eaves said whether he’s practicing in Huckabay or competing in the WNFR in Las Vegas, he tries to treat every steer the same.
“I don’t really have much of a set routine, but I try to treat them all like a normal steer in the practice pen at home and do as good as I can on them,” Eaves said. “It’s the same mentality, take every steer for what it is and get on him as fast I can.”
Even when there’s a world championship on the line.