Haylee Naylor is a contestant in the Kansas Junior High Rodeo Association. The thirteen year old cowgirl competes in the pole bending, barrel racing, goat […]
Roper Review: Cody Russell
Written by: Teri Edwards< Back to Articles
Growing up in West Monroe, Louisiana, Cody Russell never gave much thought to becoming a team roper like his dad. A natural athlete, Cody started playing T-Ball at six, and football in the fourth grade. Those two sports remained his passion until he incurred a major injury during a football game during his freshman year.
Complete separation in his ACL and MCL ligaments required surgery and a lengthy recuperation. Months of going to physical rehab and waiting to mend caused Russell to miss baseball tryouts that spring.
“I was just sitting around,” says Cody, “My dad wasn’t a big fan of that and said we needed to find something for me to do. When I told him I wanted to team rope…. he told me it would not be a fleeting decision and I would have to work at it.”
So, in a sport that most kids start about the time they’re able to stay on a horse, Cody took up roping at fifteen years old. His dad would sit on a 5-gallon bucket and watch him rope the dummy. Before he would be allowed to rope off a horse, he would have to be able to catch the dummy 100 times in a row.
“I had messed around with a rope but never really worked at it or roped with other kids at the ropings. It took weeks before I was able to rope the dummy 100 times in a row. My dad has always been a worker and had the philosophy of ‘we’ll work through it until we figure it out.’ He also told me he would not give me a horse, but I could buy one from him.”
That work ethic and philosophy has served Cody well. He’s never been to a clinic or taken a lesson. He invested in training videos and watched YouTube videos. He also describes watching a Rich Skelton video where he studied Speed’s hand position and delivery in slow motion. He would film himself roping the dummy and study that as well.
“My dad said if I did what he said for a year, he guaranteed I would win a roping.”
One year after starting his team roping journey, Cody and his dad entered a USTRC roping in Kinder, Louisiana. The father and son team won the Incentive and came back second high call, where Cody missed. Though it was his first roping, it was also his first taste of defeat and he was crushed.
“Even though my dad told me it was okay, I was devastated. Even today if I miss an important steer I need a few minutes to get over it. Winning is important to me and I would rather not enter than not win.”
In 2015 Russell got the opportunity to move to Texas where he stayed and worked at Chad Masters’ in Lipan.
“That was the year they were going to the ERA rodeos, so Chad was home quite a bit,” says Cody. “I feel the opportunity and timing was a blessing from God. It allowed me to spend quite a bit of time with Chad and learn so much. He’s very much like my dad in that he works hard and would never ask you to do something he wouldn’t do.”
This move, plus a new horse, took Cody’s roping to a new level and he was quickly moved to a #7 header. He has since sold his good horse and feels the loss.
“This year I took a break and it’s helped me mentally. When I had my good horse, I felt like if I was entered I should win something. When I sold him, I felt I didn’t have an advantage anymore and had to re-evaluate my roping. Now I’m heading as well as I ever have. I believe it’s important to be positive and I don’t like to hear people talk negatively about themselves or anyone else.”
Currently Cody rooms with fellow ropers, Andrew Wong and Dustin Searcy in Weatherford, TX, and has built a profitable shoeing business in north Texas.
“When I was younger I thought my dad was just working, and now after all these years I realize he was preparing me to receive blessings. The harder I work, the more I receive.”
How much do you practice?
A couple of times a week.
Do you make your own horses?
Who have been your roping heroes?
Chad Masters. He had no idea who I was and took me in and gave me a chance.
Who do you respect most in the world?
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
If you had a day off what would you like to do?
What’s the last thing you read?
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Kind, hard working, passionate.
What makes you happy?
Seeing people happy.
What makes you angry?
When I feel I didn’t do my best.
If you were given 1 million dollars, how would you spend it?
Tithe first, then I would buy some horses, a place, and invest the rest.
What is your best quality – your worst?
My best quality is being nice to people. My worst quality is I can be too quiet.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Making a living roping.