It took 10 gold heading buckles to win the inaugural BFI Legends Roping, and Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood were the over-40 guys who brought their best game to the world-famous Lazy E Arena on April 1 to get it done. Eight-time champ of the world Williams, 54, headed for two-time world heading titlist Sherwood, 52, as one of 34 teams entered that treated the crowd to a sweet real-time walk down memory lane.
“Are you kidding me, I won $20,000 for roping with Speed Williams?” Sherwood grinned at roping’s end. “I’ve never run a steer with the best header in the world ever to live. To be able to keep my composure and do my job is very rewarding to me personally. What a fun situation to find myself in.”
Speed’s first-round draft picks for the BFI Legends Roping were his partner in eight-gold-buckle crime, Rich Skelton, and seven-time champ, Clay Cooper.
Williams and Sherwood won $40,000, Texas Saddlery Briefcases, Gist Buckles, YETI Roadies, Justin Boots, Cactus Ropes and HATPACS for winning the inaugural BFI Legends Roping.
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“I called Clay and asked him if he was coming to rope with me,” said Williams, who lives in Comanche, Texas. “He said he wasn’t coming. I said, ‘What? It’s the Legends Roping. They can’t have it without you and Jake (Barnes). That’s just not right.’ But they’d already booked a roping school.”
Then came the timely text.
“I texted Speed and said, ‘Hey, do you want to rope at the BFI and the Legends Roping?’ Sherwood said. “He texted me back and said, ‘Clay’s not coming, so I’ll rope with you in the Legends. But I’ve already got one in the BFI.”
Williams doesn’t just “have one” in today’s BFI—he’s heading for Speed and Jennifer’s baby boy and 15-year-old son, Gabe, thanks to the Legends Roping luring him to the Lazy E.
“There was no way around it if I came and roped in this Legends roping,” Speed smiled. “So at dinner that night, I said, ‘Buddy, they’re having an over-40 Legends Roping at the BFI this year.’ His eyes lit up. He said, ‘Does that mean we’re going to rope in the BFI, Dad?’ I said, ‘It sounds like it, buddy.’
“What I was really concerned about was whether or not my body was going to stay healthy for all the practice getting ready to come here, because my son is worse than Rich. Back in the day, I could go to Rich’s house, run 40 or 50 and leave. I’m all day doing lessons, and my son wants to rope all day and all night. About a month ago, I got some big, stout, hard-running steers, so we could prepare. My son is truly excited to rope in the BFI. I’m about worn out.”
What a wonderful reunion the BFI Legends roping was. Rounding out the top four teams were Jeff Hilton and Zane Bruce, Tyler Magnus and double-dipping Bruce, and Tee Woolman and Walt Woodard.
Speed Williams and Matt Sherwood roped five steers in 40.9 seconds to take the 2022 BFI Legends title.
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“I’ve seen guys here that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Speed said. “We got to visit and shake a lot of hands with a lot of guys we haven’t gotten to see. Getting to see peers you haven’t seen in a lot of years is pretty cool. And it’s been a long time since I’ve stood on stage for winning something. So that’s kind of special.”
“I love the concept of the BFI Legends Roping,” added Sherwood, who’s heading for Utah’s Kycen Winn in the 2022 BFI. “I got to see a lot of people here that I haven’t seen in quite a while, like Kevin Stewart, Chris Lawson and George Aros. It was so great to see so many of these people I haven’t seen rope in a long time.”
Speed rode a 9-year-old he calls Green Light that he bought from Dustin Egusquiza, in part because he was a little bit green to be going out on the rodeo road.
“He’s kind of special, and has some personality to him,” said Williams, who noted that his name is because daughter Hali has a horse they call Red Light, who has some similar traits. “He’s a little bit like Viper (Speed’s rodeo-career signature horse), because he’s so broke. I’m kind of excited about him.”
Sherwood rode a 7-year-old mare he raised that his family calls Cory.
“She’s out of a mare that went blind as a baby,” Sherwood said. “I gave the mare to a buddy of mine in Utah, and Cory is her first colt. Cory got her name because whenever we were breaking her, my boy was riding her around without a tie-down. And it was right after Cory Petska won the world (in 2017) with no tie-down.”
Williams has won the BFI with Skelton three times, in 1998, 2001 and 2002. His favorite memory is winning it the first time. The worst was the year he was sick as three dogs on BFI day.
What sets the BFI apart from all the rest of the ropings in the world?
“Horsemanship,” Speed said. “There are a lot of guys who can rope now. This roping separates the guys who can ride and control a horse, and set the run up for their heelers.
“My best advice to headers at their first BFI is when you think you’ve seen ’em enough, hold your horse in there just a little longer. And the bottom line is, the BFI is a marathon.”
“The BFI has just gotten bigger and bigger,” Sherwood said. “BFI Week now has something for everybody—the youth, the old guys, the best guys in the world, the girls—and it pays so good.
“I think the Lazy E is a great place to have BFI Week. Reno’s so far for the guys in the Southeast, but almost everyone can get here in 20 hours or less. This facility is amazing, and with this big arena, the BFI is back to a longer barrier. I think this is a phenomenal place for this phenomenal event.”