In early April, eight-time World Champion Team Roping Header Speed Williams announced his retirement from active rodeo competition to focus on a new team roping concept called Speed's Match Roping.
Williams' said he doesn't miss the sport, but those still in the business say the sport doesn't feel the same. His retirement was relatively sudden and came while he is in his prime. Still, according to Williams' roping partner, Rich Skelton, who heeled during the duo's stretch of eight consecutive world championships, Williams' legacy is beyond question.
"I know everybody's got their own style, but I think Speed is the best. He revolutionized the sport with the way he roped," Skelton said. "His style that he used in the championships of going out fast everybody does that now; they all use it."
Clay O'Brien Cooper, with whom Williams had planned to rope during 2009 (and to whom Williams apologized upon announcing his retirement), also spoke highly of Williams' abilities, and hinted that Williams may one day return to professional competition.
"I can see him maybe getting the itch to come back after a while," he said, "maybe after a few years."
Kendra Santos, Director of Communications for the PRCA, who chronicled Williams' rodeo career with the PRCA, expressed sadness at Williams' leaving, but tempered it with warm sentiments, good wishes for Williams, and a hope that Williams may yet be seen again, roping in the rodeo arena.
"It's always a mixed bag of emotions when a legend leaves his sport at the top of his game," she said.
Some people will always want to speculate about just how many more records he could have broken if he'd stuck around a little longer. But it makes for a pretty cool exit when you go out on top."
"Luckily," Santos said, "Speed hasn't said he'll never rope another steer."
Read about Speed Williams' new business, Speed's Match Roping: 'The Money Shot'