Chance Schuknecht was raised and graduated high school in Iowa Falls, Iowa. His love for horses and a rodeo scholarship took him to Rapid City, […]
Roper Review : Craig Branham
Written by: Teri Edwards< Back to Articles
Craig Branham, 58, grew up, the eldest of three boys, in Tombstone, Arizona. When he was six, his mom, Sue, married Jack Branham, and the family moved to Oakdale, California. Jack was a roper and Reserve World Champion to Ken Luman, in 1966, before Heading and Heeling were recognized as two events.
Craig and his brothers, Chris and Daryl, started roping the dummy and the entire family would go rodeos and ropings. The boys would find a kid and pay him .25 to be their “steer” so they would have something to rope.
“My mom loves to tell the story of finding us at a rodeo eating snow cones with our pockets full of candy,” laughs Branham. “When she asked where we got it, we told her we won it.”
An avid athlete, Craig was a four event state champion in track and field; and a first team all state basketball player his junior and senior year. Craig received a scholarship and played basketball for Eastern Arizona College before transferring to Pima where he excelled in track.
In the spring semester he was second in the nation in the Decathlon and fifth in the Triple Jump. The following year Branham won the National Decathlon and set a national record. After graduating from Pima, Craig received a full ride at the University of Arizona.
There, he met modeling agent, Pam Grissom, who talked him into going to New York City for a modeling convention. After winning the male model competition, Branham found himself in demand by modeling agencies.
“At the time I was living with my grandparents in Tucson,” recalls Craig. “I went home and told them I was going back to New York to model. They weren’t too happy about that.”
Branham signed with Legends agency and quickly received a contract in Milan, Italy. Soon after, he was booked for a spread with GQ magazine and also worked with the Italian version of men’s Vogue. A flourishing modeling career found Branham living in Milan, Paris, Manhattan, and Dallas, TX.
While in Dallas, Craig booked some acting jobs where he realized what he wanted to do with his life. At 25 he bought his first home in Dallas, which he leased the following year before moving to Hollywood.
Soon after relocating, Craig was enjoying steady work with jobs on shows like “Cheers,” and “Murder She Wrote.” He was able to study with renown acting coaches and started booking national commercials, in addition to his modeling.
After seeing the television show, American Gladiators, Craig tried out for the second season and ultimately won the 1990-1991 American Gladiators Grand Championship. Craig recalls this as “one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.”
Shortly after the win, People magazine included Branham in their “50 Most Beautiful People” issue. Branham also got married that year and celebrated the birth of his daughter, Sarah, in July.
“At some point I started roping again,” says Craig. “I hadn’t roped in a long time and though I was originally a header, I wanted to heel. I worked hard at it and eventually got to where I thought I could rodeo.”
“In 1998, I got to rope with David Motes and ended up finishing 20th in the world on my permit. In 1999, I bought my card and won the PRCA Heeling Rookie of the Year. I was 40 years old and am still the oldest Heeling Rookie ever.”
Branham came close to qualifying for the NFR several times with year-end finishes in 20th, 22nd, and 25th place.
Not long after returning home from rodeo, Craig was contacted by his friend and stunt coordinator, Charlie Croughwell, about a stunt job. Craig got the job to double for Josh Lucas, on the show the “Hulk.” This was the beginning of a successful career as a stunt man.
“I quickly realized this is what I need to be doing. It’s a fun job that I really enjoy. I’ve gotten to double Robert Redford. In 2005 I got to double Pierce Brosnan for three months on a movie call “Seraphim Falls.”
“About ten years ago, I met Robert Patrick on a show where I doubled him and I’ve been his stunt double ever since. I’ve been working with him on the show “Scorpion” for four years now. I also got to play the Headless Horseman on “Sleepy Hollow” for four years and that show just ended last January.”
Branham lives with his wife of three years, Nathalie, in Canyon Country, California. Craig strives for a balance between work and team roping. As a #8, Craig often competes at the World Series ropings and won $26,000 in the #15 with Andy Holcomb at the 2016 WSTR Finals in Las Vegas.
Who were your roping (rodeo) heroes?
My dad and probably Jake and Clay.
Who do you respect most in the world?
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My grandfather, Roscoe Christopher. I still think of so many things he taught me.
If you had a day off what would you like to do?
I’d love to work on my place and plan my next build. I’m studying an architectural program now. I really love that.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Friendly and outgoing, compassionate, understanding.
What makes you happy?
My wife. I’m a happy person overall. I wake up happy.
What makes you angry?
Bad or aggressive drivers.
If you were given 1 million dollars, how would you spend it?
I would try and find a cause, probably to do with the heroin epidemic and try and support an organization that could put those kids in the western way of life. I would travel.
What is your best quality – your worst?
My best quality is a good heart. My worst is sometimes I feel I may be selfish, by doing what I want when I want.