During his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, steer wrestler Cody Devers was just trying to hold everything together.
He’d suffered a partially torn pectoral ligament in his right shoulder a month before the finale in Las Vegas. He was excited to finally play on ProRodeo’s biggest stage, and he wasn’t going to let a little pain derail him. As he lowered himself onto his first-round steer, that all changed.
He toughed it out for four more nights, throwing down each steer until the fifth round. He was unable to finish that run, which took him out of a chance to earn an average payout and ultimately ended his first NFR and the remainder of the 2021 season
“I’m looking forward to going back to the NFR again and proving the first time wasn’t a fluke,” said Devers, 28, of Perryton in the northeastern Texas Panhandle. “I’m really looking forward to winning my first go-round buckle the most. I just want to prove that I belong.”
He’s done that over the last five years, even after missing most of the 2022 campaign while on injured reserve. He didn’t start competing until July, wrestling steers for just the final three months of the regular season, and still finished 33rd in the final world standings. All that did was help build confidence, which he capitalized on this year.
“I won quite a few rodeos last year,” he said. “There were seven or eight that I’d never won before. It was a tough situation. If I would have capitalized on a few different rodeos, I might have still made the finals, but it’s not an easy thing to do.”
No it is not. He concluded this year’s regular season with $104,132 and will head to Sin City ninth on the money list. How did he collect so much cash this year? He placed a lot. He is credited with three key victories: Sundre, Alberta; Omaha, Nebraska; and Stephenville, Texas.
Rodeo offers no guaranteed salaries. In order to get paid, cowboys must beat most of the contestants in their field. Only the top few at each rodeo earn money, and the competitors must pay a fee in order to make a run. It takes something special to earn six figures in rodeo.
“The little mare I bulldogged on and the hazing horse made it a lot easier,” he said.
Sassy is a 15-year-old sorrel that Devers and his traveling partners rode when they were competing. Cinch is a 16-year-old palomino gelding haze horse. Having the bulldogging and hazing horses teamed helps them work better together.
“Sassy was a barrel horse the first few years of her life, but she proved to be a little to strong and wanted to run more than turn, so I gave her an opportunity to try steer wrestling,” he said. “She has loved racing the steers ever since. She can still get a little anxious in the (timed-event) box, but she still fits me really well; when I nod my head, she knows exactly what to do to give me the perfect go on every steer.”
That’s an important trait to have in a mount.
“Horsepower is everything in our event,” said Devers, who was the runner-up to the college champion in 2018 while competing at Northwestern Oklahoma State University; he also attended Garden City (Kansas) Community College on a rodeo scholarship prior to finishing in Alva, Oklahoma. “In other events, you don’t have to pass the steer. There is no ability to throw a rope 30 feet to catch something. You and your horse have to physically outrun the steer. If you’re not mounted well, you’re going to run the steers too far and not win near as much as you should.”
He’s hoping his tandem will be a guiding force to success in Las Vegas. He will have one of his traveling partners, Marc Joiner, be his hazer at the Thomas & Mack Center, the NFR’s home since 1985. The two have been a strong team all season, so there’s no reason to break up that partnership. He also had Travis Munro in the rig with him through the campaign, and Joe Nelson was part of the squad early in 2023.
“They were crucial to me making the NFR,” said Devers, who is sponsored by Cinch, Usher Brand Custom Saddlery, Old 32 Ranch, Devers Performance Horses, Protech Technologies, 100x Equine, Best Ever Pads, Revita CBD, Koolspeed Feed, Vetline Equine and Hyer Boots. “They are a great group of guys, and we had a bunch of comradery in our rig.
“We all had different goals in mind for the season. Marc hauled a young horse all year and focused on getting him ready for the years to come while getting his qualifications up for next year. Joe’s horse got sick, so he had to go home and heal him. Travis did a great job of learning and winning at a bunch of new rodeos and almost made his first NFR. We were all good at pushing each other to do better all the time and never dwell on a bad run.”
Devers comes from a rodeo family. His father, Marty, was a standout steer wrestler. He won national titles in high school and college and just missed the NFR twice. Sabrina Devers is a barrel racer, and the family has a multi-million dollar horse-selling business that specializes in rodeo and barrel horses.
Cody Devers, though, is expanding on that family side of things. He and Brecklyn Stump became engaged this fall while on the East Coast at a rodeo.
“I was really nervous, and I had it all planned out,” he said. “We went to North Carolina for a rodeo, and I was going to propose the day before I actually did. We got busy with the rodeo, so it didn’t happen. We were at a lake house, and that’s when I actually asked her. It worked out good, because we didn’t have a competition that day, so we had the day to ourselves.”
It was a special time. They’ve made some preliminary wedding plans, but most of the big stuff will wait until the NFR comes to a close. There’s no rush; a good marriage will last a lifetime. Until then, though, Devers has a chance to run at big money in Las Vegas.
“I think it’s going to be like a little bit of a seasoned vet going in there, but I’m going to get the first-time celebrations and the firsts of winning something,” Devers said. “I already know what I need to do, so that’s nice, but I’m just excited to give myself a chance at winning.”
Courtesy of twisTEDrodeo.com