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Rodeo champion Trevor Knowles and his father, Jeff, a Vietnam War veteran, recently spoke with The American Legion Magazine about their love for the sport and support of the Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors program.
How did you get involved in rodeo?
Trevor Knowles: I was born and raised in a ranching family. My dad rodeoed, my uncle rodeoed ... it was just kind of one of those things that was always around. I played baseball and wrestled. I did everything. It wasn't until I got to college that I focused on rodeo and made a career out of it. I've been doing it ever since. Ten years now.
Why bulldogging? That's one of the hardest events.
Trevor: I like challenges, and I like contact sports. And you get the best of both worlds there.
How did growing up with a veteran father in a rodeo environment lead you to support Operation Comfort Warriors?
Trevor: Just growing up with a rodeo family, for one, is tougher than most families, I'd say. And then you have a veteran on top of that, so you just double down. So you get to see the ups and downs of life in general and learn how to deal with it. And you can see how difficult that can be, which is why I decided to get involved – to see if I can help in some way.
Jeff, how has your military service affected you personally?
Jeff Knowles: It's hard to explain. I've got my share of illnesses because of it. And I'm still struggling with it 40 years out. If I think about it a lot, it makes me bitter sometimes. But other than that, I was proud to go ... but glad to get home.
How important is it to raise awareness for OCW, as Trevor is doing?
Jeff: I think Operation Comfort Warriors is great, and the rodeo is a great venue to promote it because you have a lot of people who are behind the military 100 percent.
What was your competitive rodeo background?
Jeff: I roped calves, and I bulldogged – steer wrestled and rode bulls, bareback horses.
What has it been like watching Trevor succeed in this sport?
Jeff: It's been fun. I started teaching him how to do this stuff when he was little. I consider myself a good teacher. I must have taught him something half-right to have him here (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas) nine times in a row.
It's phenomenal to be here nine straight times. That doesn't happen very often, I believe. You look at the list, and I think there's four guys here that have been here as much as that or more. There's just a certain level. There's a pinnacle, and if you get close to the pinnacle then you show up here. When you rodeo, you rodeo on your own dime. It's not like a sports team, where (players) get on the team plane and they fly you to Frisco .... (Even those who don't play) still get their money. (Those who) rodeo on their own dime pay their own expenses, so it's not a cheap sport.
What should Legionnaires know about the rodeo circuit?
Jeff: It's probably one of the toughest jobs that you could ever get into. I personally feel that the athletes that get into this arena are as good as any athlete walking on this planet, in any sport.
Trevor, how many days are you on the road?
Trevor: Quite a few. I go to 75 rodeos a year, give or take a few. Traveling nonstop. We're on the road 260-something days a year. Once you get started, there's really no quitting ...and then all of a sudden you get a couple of weeks off here and then it's right back out. It's a full-time job.
Why did you pursue a career in professional rodeo?
Trevor: It's more a way of life. I was born into it, I guess. If you do your job, great. There's big paydays. There are just no guarantees. So if I go out there and stub my toe and don't perform well, I don't make any money. I think that's why you see so much heart and grit in every cowboy. If they don't win, they don't eat. That's why guys compete with injuries. A severe injury to us is a bone sticking through the skin. A lot of guys (in other sports) twist an ankle and they're out for six months making a million. If we twist an ankle, we just get some tape and go with it.
View photos of Trevor Knowles from the Wrangler National Rodeo.