ProRodeo Hall of Fame Induction
Seven people were inducted in the Colorado Springs ceremony.
August 10, 2003 -- World champions Steve Duhon of Sonora, Texas, Dennis Reiners of Cave Creek, Ariz., and Dee Pickett of Caldwell, Idaho, headlined the seven who were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame, located at the headquarters of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), this morning in Colorado Springs, Colo. A record crowd of 1,200 witnessed the ceremony, which completes three straight weekends of sports' Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.
In addition to Duhon, a three-time world steer wrestling champion, Reiners, the 1970 world saddle bronc champion, and Pickett, the 1984 world all-around champion, the 2003 class included: stock contracting legend Mike Cervi of Greeley, Colo.; contract performers Nancy Sheppard of Globe, Ariz., and Cecil Cornish of Enid, Okla.; and the late Todd Whatley of Hugo, Okla., the 1947 world all-around champion. The ProRodeo Hall of Fame also recognized the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo for its continuing tradition of professional rodeo.
"We think we're stronger because of our family," said Commissioner Hatchell. "These inductees today were outstanding members of rodeo's family. It's a joy to be with them here today."
The Hall's inductees are selected annually by a committee of former contestants, rodeo notables, PRCA officials and rodeo experts. Selection is based on contributions to the sport of professional rodeo. More than 150 individuals are nominated each year, but only a few are selected. Including this year's inductees, 167 people and 22 animals have been inducted.
The 2003 induction kicks off the Hall of Fame's 25th anniversary. The ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy opened its doors in 1979. The facility features many treasures from the inductees and regalia dating back to the sport's beginnings in the Old West. The complex has a courtyard that features bronze sculptures that recognize each of the seven rodeo events and an entertainment pavilion. More than 40,000 visit the complex annually.
About the inductees
* Duhon -- Steer wrestlers young and old have long admired Duhon's greatness, and consistency was a driving force behind his success. From 1986-93, Duhon won three world titles and two National Finals Rodeo (NFR) aggregate buckles. In 1986, he set the NFR record for fastest steer wrestling run at 3.0 seconds, a mark that no one equaled for 14 years until Bryan Fields of Conroe, Texas, managed a 3.0 run in 2001.
"This is the highlight of my career. It doesn't get much better than this," Duhon said. "The thing that stands out most to me is the friends I've made during my rodeo career. I can go anywhere from Texas to Canada and always have a place to stay because of the friends I've made in this sport."
Duhon credits his father, Billy, and close family friend Jimmy Powers, with helping him during his career. While he still competes on occasion, Duhon retired from full-time competition in 2001 to watch his sons play sports.
* Pickett -- Pickett, considered one of the most athletic competitors in the PRCA, decided to forgo a chance to play professional football after college and pursue a career in rodeo. Football's loss was ProRodeo's gain. Pickett was named the PRCA's Rookie of the Year in 1978, and in 1984 he won the world all-around title and the world team roping title (with Mike Beers). During his career, he qualified for the NFR a total of 20 times in tie-down roping and team roping.
"The best thing about doing something is sharing it with your friends along the way," Pickett said. "I'm thankful I've got my family and many of our friends here today to celebrate this great honor."
Going into his senior year at Boise State University, Pickett had been the starting quarterback for the past two seasons. His son Cody has truly followed in his footsteps. Cody, who has achieved success in rodeo, is the starting quarterback for the University of Washington.
* Cervi -- For more than three decades, Cervi has produced many of the country's biggest rodeos, including the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show and Rodeo and RodeoHouston. His trademark has always been his work ethic and attention to detail. The Coloradoan has twice been named PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year.
"Rodeo has been a major part of who I am," Cervi said. "The people I've dealt with in rodeo have had the most impeccable credentials and are some of the finest human beings I've ever met. The support I received and still receive after the death of my son was the one thing that made my life bearable."
Cervi's sons, Binion and Chase, are an integral part of his company. World champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi is his daughter in-law. Her husband was the late Mike Cervi Jr., a top team roper who died in a plane crash in September 2001.
* Cornish -- One of ProRodeo's premier performers, Cornish traveled across the United States and Canada entertaining fans for nearly three decades. Cornish's acts included his trick horse, Smokey; a trained Brahma bull, Danger, who jumped cars; six matched palomino liberty horses; and his Roman jumping team. Liberty horses and Roman jumping are forms of trick riding used at rodeos.
"We were thrilled to get the call that dad was voted into the hall of greats," said Cornish's son, Wayne, who spoke on behalf of his father. "God gave my father the patience and the ability to train animals and he did it well."
* Sheppard -- Sheppard's career as a rodeo trick rider and roper started when she was 8 years old. During her career that spanned from 1938-61, she performed at every large and important rodeo in the country. Sheppard was only 17 years old when she was a part of the rodeo at Madison Square Garden.
"The power of positive thinking will take you wherever you want to go," said Sheppard's son, Lex, who spoke for his mother after she became ill the night before the ceremony. "The wishbone will never replace the backbone."
Her father, a famous tie-down roping expert, raised her on the rodeo road where she learned her first three tricks from a retired trick rider.
* Whatley -- In 1947, Whatley won the first Rodeo Cowboy Association world all-around title. Prior to 1947, the RCA crowned champions in only the seven events. He also captured world titles in steer wrestling (1947) and bull riding (1953). The RCA later became known as the PRCA.
Whatley entered his first rodeo at 17. In 1945, he won bull riding titles in Houston and Cheyenne, Wyo., two of the nation's top rodeos. He was the bull riding director on the RCA's Board of Directors from 1952-55 and the steer wrestling director from 1956-57.
He died on June 17, 1966. Whatley's daughter, Trula Mullin, accepted the award on his behalf.
* Reiners -- Dennis Reiners grew up on a farm in Minnesota. He started his rodeo career after watching the flamboyant Casey Tibbs ride in Clear Lake, S.D., in 1950. Reiners went home, built some bucking chutes and started riding.
Reiners joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA) in 1959 and went on to qualify for nine National Finals Rodeos. Reiners won the world saddle bornc riding title in 1970. He is the only man to have won the NFR aggregate title in both bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, capturing the bareback riding aggregate title in 1965 and the saddle bronc riding aggregate title in 1973. Reiners continued to compete in rodeos as late as 1990.
* San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo -- The San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo is one of the city's most popular sporting events on an annual basis. This year, the event moved from the 9,700-seat Freeman Coliseum into the new state-of-the-art SBC Center, which seats 16,500 for rodeo.
A Scarborough Research report showed that one in five people in San Antonio are interested in ProRodeo, which ranks the city behind only Tulsa, Okla., and the Wichita-Hutchinson, Kan., area in rodeo popularity.
Many credit the rodeo's popularity in San Antonio to Executive Director Keith Martin, who has guided the event for 14 years and accepted the award.
"I humbly accept this honor on behalf of the 4,000 dedicated volunteers who work on the rodeo each year," Martin said.