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Profile: Denard Butler
Written by: Ruth Nicolaus< Back to Articles
When Denard Butler closes his eyes, he’s thinking about one of two things: either steer wrestling, or making money.
The Checotah, Okla. cowboy, a roper-turned-steer wrestler, steer wrestles, owns two businesses, and models for Wrangler.
He didn’t grow up in a rodeo family.
The son of Floyd and Yvonne Butler, he was raised in Stockbridge, Georgia. In school, he and Brent Walden, the nephew of PRCA roper Walt Walden, were friends. Brent “was nerdy and had glasses, like me,” Denard said, “so we became friends.” When he spent time at Brent’s house, he was around Walt and Walt’s rodeo friends: Manny Egusquiza, Brad Culpepper, Casey Cox, Jimmy Tanner, Joe Beaver, and others.
After they taught him how to rope, he competed in high school rodeo.
It was something that Walt told him that turned the course of his rodeo career.
Walt had said, “you can be great in Georgia, but the best cowboys are in Texas and Oklahoma. If you can win in Texas and Oklahoma, you can win anywhere.”
So he headed to Muskogee, Okla., with the goal of rodeo, but while there, attended Bacone College, graduating with a psychology degree.
It was another friend connection that turned Denard into a steer wrestler.
In college, his roommate was team roper Frank Williams. Frank was neighbors with Victor Deck, a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo steer wrestling qualifier who taught several Wrangler NFR steer wrestlers the sport.
Victor looked at Denard and said, “you’re a stout kid. Do you want to bulldog?” So he learned the discipline from Victor.
Along the way, people helped him with his horsemanship and his rodeo. Eldon Day, a former steer wrestler, hazer and successful businessman, was one of his mentors, and still is. Denard lived with Eldon, rodeoing with him and learning how to drive semi trucks. “He’s a very successful man,” Denard said. From Eldon, “I learned about semis and how to drive them and the business side of them.”
Before he became a PRCA member in 2009, he competed at open and amateur rodeos.
Along the way, he knew he needed the money to buy what was needed: a good horse, a truck and trailer, and to pay the bills. “I knew what I needed to do, and what I needed to produce, to be successful in the rodeo world. I knew I needed more businesses off the ground and to make and purchase some horsepower, to work on my craft.”
Denard has trained horses, selling them and making his own, too. He owns semis and a box truck, with a contract with Darren Braun, Tiger Logistics, for the semis to haul frack sand.
And he counsels people, especially those with mental and physical disabilities.
Denard believes in positive thinking. He encourages his clients to set specific goals and write them down. He believes that if a person dreams it, it is achievable, through hard work. “There’s work involved,” he said.
He has his goals posted in several places: in the bathroom, where he can see them first thing in the morning, in his weight room, and in his truck.
Making the Wrangler NFR hasn’t been his goal – yet. But the time is right to write it on the “vision board.” “Next year I’m going to make it my goal,” he said. “It’s taken me this long to get everything set up exactly the way I want it: the trailer, the arena, a couple of barns, a facility, and the right people to help you and be around.”
He knew he needed to create the atmosphere to succeed in rodeo. “I had to figure out how to create that for myself, because no one else was going to create it for me. I don’t come from a rich family.”
And if the NFR doesn’t happen, he knows he still has a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
“It might not be in God’s plan for me to be a world champion. It might be in God’s plan for me to help someone be a world champion. If I can help people along the way, I’ll still be happy. I was created to serve and help people and to express love and kindness.”
Between his businesses, the horse training is what he loves the most. “That’s where I want to be,” he said. “That’s what gets the majority of my time. I just love being in the arena.”
He has a message for anyone who didn’t grow up in rodeo. “I want to represent possibility. You don’t need a special background, you don’t need to be a trust fund baby, you don’t need to be a certain race. As long as you put in the effort and work at it, believe in yourself and have faith, you can accomplish anything you want.”
He knows rodeo is where he’s supposed to be. “I have a natural ability to steer wrestle, to rope, and to train horses.”
His friend Dean Stermer narrowed it down for him.
Dean told him, “If you can wake up every day, whether it’s hot or cold, and you can do your job and not complain, then that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.
“I can wake up every day, it doesn’t matter the weather, and saddle and ride. It’s what I love to do.”