By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (January 29, 2015) — Like so many other cowboys, for Chase Williams, rodeo is just the way of life. And for Williams, life has never been better.
With a strong January coming to an end and an eventful February ahead, Williams is off to a fast start in pursuit of his first career National Finals Rodeo appearance.
“Get to the NFR and win the gold buckle,” Williams said of his dreams. “That’s always the goal.”
It’s a goal only truly world-class competitors ever achieve, the pursuit of which has brought many trials the young cowboy’s way.
“It’s been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be,” said Williams. “I’ve practiced at this and competed in rodeos my whole life, but competing in college and now as a pro, it’s not easy. You’re gone all summer, and it’s a real grind.”
Perhaps the start of the 2015 season is a sign the former Tarleton State University competitor is about to turn the corner.
Williams was second in the opening round of the tie-down roping at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, and finished sixth in the average at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo that concluded last weekend in Denver. He has won more than $9,600 in the month of January, and if Fort Worth results were already added, he would currently be sitting atop the world standings.
“It’s more than I’ve ever won in the winter months, and it’s nice to have it in January,” said Williams, who turns 24 on Saturday, February 7, which happens to be the date of the short go in Fort Worth. “Really, the rush for us kicks off in June, so everything right now is kind of a big bonus.”
A bonus he certainly isn’t arguing with, and trying to increase.
Williams will have his second run in Fort Worth on Tuesday before the short go on his birthday the following Saturday. He’s already won more than $5,000 for his second-place time of 8.5 seconds in the first round of the 29-performance event.
“It’s unreal, really, how long and how big (the Forth Worth Stock Show and Rodeo) is. I roped with 150 guys in the first round but don’t rope again until (next Tuesday),” explained Williams. “But events like that are why we moved here (from New Mexico). We used to drive six hours for little rodeos; here I can drive an hour-and-a-half to Fort Worth and it has $30,000 addd money.”
That, and because Stephenville and the surrounding area have become a haven for world-class competitors.
“Some of the best ropers and best cowboys are right here, we’re neighbors,” said Williams. “Not all of us are from here, but we’ve decided to come here because it’s the best place in the world to live, especially if you’re a roper.”
The success of the young cowboy comes as no surprise to those who have followed his budding career. While competing for Tarleton, Williams set the Casper Events Center arena record when he snared and tied his calf in 7.3 seconds at the 2013 College National Finals Rodeo.
Those who know him also know the example he follows – that of his odds-defeating grandfather, former calf roper Phil Fifer. More than 40 years ago, Fifer, then a mid-20s professional roper with world title aspirations, lost three fingers in a roping accident. Setting aside discouragement and tackling the odds head on, Fifer found a way to rope again. Within months, he had roped his first calf since the incident, and then he continued to compete and win.
The family’s rodeo torch has now been passed down to Chase and brother Chad Williams, 25, a PRCA team roper. Chase said it’s a blessing to have a family so invested in the sport.
“I couldn’t ask for a better family, I have the best in the world,” said Chase. “When you’re on the road, you’re leaving horses behind and calves, and we never have to worry about that because we know our family will step in and take care of everything for us while we’re chasing our dreams.”
Those dreams don’t stop with the NFR. The American, an RFD-TV sponsored event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, is the boasts the highest single-day payday in all of rodeo, and while it doesn’t count toward the PRCA standings, it’s big dollars produce a field of the world’s very best. The previous year’s world top 10 in each event earn automatic invitations while others go through qualifying to challenge them.
Competitors can earn two spots in The American, which this year is slated for March 1, and Williams already has one secured.
“I’m trying to get a second, but I know I’m in there, that’s the main thing,” he said.
First, he focuses on finishing strong at Fort Worth Tuesday and Saturday – his birthday.
“I just have to go out Tuesday and get the rope on him as fast as he’ll let me on Tuesday, and then do it again in the finals,” he said, adding that a good payday, “would be a good birthday present. I wouldn’t argue with it for sure.”