With the 2004 ProRodeo campaign winding down, steer roping great Guy Allen finds himself in his usual position atop the Jack Daniel's World Standings.
Allen, who has won a PRCA record 17 world steer roping titles, tops the standings with $58,950 about $5,500 ahead of two-time world all-around champion Trevor Brazile (Decatur, Texas). Scott Snedecor (Uvalde, Texas) sits third with $46,946. They are the only three who have a realistic chance of winning the world title when the National Finals Steer Roping gets under way on Nov. 19.
Despite his accomplishments, Allen, 46, (Abilene, Texas) is as nervous today as he was his rookie year.
"Hopefully, if I can get to practice, I can go in there with a positive attitude," Allen said. "Hopefully, you feel like you're ready."
As long as Allen maintains that nervousness that hunger he will be tough to beat.
It's a fact that his competition readily acknowledges.
"It's amazing to watch him," said Buster Record (Buffalo, Kan.). "No person has mastered anything the way he has mastered steer roping. People ask me how he can be that way, and I don't have a clue. It's amazing day-in and day-out. He just ropes better than most of us."
Record is in a unique position to analyze Allen. In 2002, Record won the world steer roping title, ending Allen's record streak of consecutive world titles at 11.
"I just happened to come along at the right time," Record said. "That was the one year he had a bad year."
Record is just one of many top-notch ropers, like Brazile, Snedecor and two-time NFSR aggregate champion Rocky Patterson (Pratt, Kan.), who have chased Allen over the years.
None of them begrudge Allen's success. Instead, they laud him. Allen has long been known as "The Legend." Yet, to them, he's more than a steer roping juggernaut.
"He's probably as good a person as you'll ever meet," Record said. "He's a pretty humble person."
Where will Allen rank in the annals of ProRodeo?
"He's the best there ever will be," Record said matter-of-factly.
Allen has been great over a long period of time, winning his first world title in 1977 and adding titles in 1980, '82, '84, '89, '91-'01 and '03.
It's an accomplishment that still staggers Allen when he stops to think about it.
"I hoped to win one," Allen said. "To win 17, you never think about that, really."
One of the keys to Allen's success is that he's been able to adapt to the times. The event has changed over the years. About the only thing that hasn't is Allen's ability to win.
"It's changed a lot," Allen said. "It's a lot faster now. I wouldn't say there are better athletes, but they're more knowledgeable. You've got to do the same steps and the same motion, but they do it faster. The guys back then, they would still win today, I believe. They were that good athletically."
Winning world titles has never grown old for Allen. Each one is special to him. But the ones that stand out most are the first one he captured in 1979 and the 2000 title when Allen set a steer roping single-season earnings mark of $98,578 locking up the world title before the NFSR had started.
"That year was just phenomenal," Allen said. "When I backed in there, I won. I think I was second in the aggregate at the Finals."
Allen's goal that year was to try to top $100,000. Heading into the last round, he had a shot.
"It was like, I could go fast and break $100,000," Allen said. "But if I tied him down, I was guaranteed $7,000. They weren't going to pay me anything to win $100,000, so I tied him down."
This year has been typical Allen. Riding his great steer roping horse Jeremiah (a three-time AQHA steer roping horse of the year), Allen has climbed to his familiar perch in the world standings, thanks to performances like the one in Junction, Texas, where he swept every round en route to a resounding victory in the aggregate. He also purchased a horse, Bailey, last January that gives him a solid backup. Even so, the competition isn't lurking too far behind.
"Trevor is close enough," Record said. "It's going to be between Guy and Trevor, whoever has the best Finals. But anything can happen there. Really, it's just who has the best two days. Scott has an outside chance if he would have a really good week and Guy and Trevor have a not very good week."
One factor that may play into the equation this year is a change in the NFSR's setup. Instead of roping five steers Day 1 and another five on Day 2, the event will be held in four performances over three days, with competitors roping two head twice and three head twice.
Allen has no idea how that will play into the competition, but his experience tells him to approach this year's championship just like the 27 others he has been in.
"All you can do is take one steer at a time," Allen said.
That approach, plus his attitude, may give Allen an edge.
"Yeah, I still get nervous," Allen said. "If I feel ready, that's all I can do. I've got to do it myself. It isn't going to happen unless I go do it. I could stay here, lie in bed and watch TV. But if I want to do what I want to go do, I've got to work at it.
"Coming down to it, to be champion of the world, I don't get tired of that," Allen said.