Unfamiliar sight in Reno
“I figured, I’ve watched the best guys in the world throw it in the dirt here, so if I go throw it in the dirt I won’t be much different,” chuckled Daniel Green, recalling how nervous he was to heel for the first time at the BFI, which he considers “the daddy of ’em all” in terms of team roping. The guy is only 46 but earned a million dollars with his head rope and turned steers at 10 straight NFRs before hanging it up 14 years ago. Still, he has always known how to heel. “I come from a family of heelers. My dad was a state champion in 1976 in California and never really went hard. My cousin is Rickey Green, 11-time NFR heeler. My brother is a four-time NFR heeler. And my uncle is a two-time world champion. I’m not going to be the only guy that doesn’t know how to
That knowledge served him well in high school. He wasn’t partnered up his senior year, and the best heeler (Brent Lockett) was already paired. Daniel figured he knew how to heel, so why not? He heeled for Tammy West. They won the state championship. A few years ago, he entered California Rodeo Salinas with Cody Cowden on opposite ends. “People were probably saying, ‘Man, these guys – who was higher when they entered this thing? They’re getting in the wrong boxes.’ But we placed in the first round and placed in the average with 109 teams. It made Salinas completely new, after winning it heading (20 years ago) and after all these years, to go there and heel just made the whole rodeo new and exciting.” That’s exactly the way the BFI felt this year to Daniel, an all-around legend who’s also a three-time winner of the Timed Event Championship of the World and former winner of the Wrangler World’s Greatest Roper. That’s not to say he wasn’t nervous for his first BFI on the heel end. “I was thinking, ‘Man, what are you doing? You’ve done all your stuff heading. This is completely different!’”
Green didn’t even have a 2018 PRCA card. His summer was crazy busy with the family, and in fact this week, he was in Oklahoma dropping off his daughter, Grace, to play softball for the Sooners. But a friend had called and asked if he’d heel for Joe Hub Baker at “the Feist.” The friend even helped line up a sponsor and a horse, though in the end, Daniel borrowed the bay horse from his friend Joe McCurley. Not only did he not miss a steer, but Daniel and Joe Hub were near-perfect, closing in on the top of the pack after three steers. Then heartbreak – Joe Hub broke out and missed the fourth, and they were clean on a fifth runner.
“I told my family I felt like I had the day off! I usually get there early and watch the start, and then after the first one, go back and watch the start again and see if the steers are leaving better or if it starts changing. This year, I just heeled and went and sat with my family. It was a completely different ball game.”
To Daniel, the BFI is the one that started it all; the classic. “It’s the biggest match roping and the most prestigious, in my eyes. Headers need a good horse and they have to ride it, and they have to handle cattle and control the run. Heelers can’t let steers run all over the arena, and they need to rope aggressive. At the BFI, you have a lot of speed built up, so the header needs a lot of control, and then the heeler can make the money for you. It’s classic. It’s the best roping.” Daniel won’t say he’ll never heel at the BFI again, even though heading will always be his first choice. With two more kids at home (Kyndall is 16 and Eli is 13), nor is he planning on hitting the road soon at either end. But he plans to pass the value of roping both ends on to his son.
“My goal for my son is that he has a horse he can head and heel on, so he can show up and say, there’s a good header who needs a heeler, or this guy needs a heeler and we can win a lot.”