ProFile: Jeff Todd

by Siri Stevens

Jeff and family – courtesy of the family

In 1990 Jeff Todd graduated from high school in northwest Kansas. “I was second in my class, but that didn’t make the top ten percent since there were only 10 of us that graduated.”He went to Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Oklahoma on an academic and rodeo scholarship, roping calves and team roping. He fell in with a group of rodeo kids from Wyoming, including Jhett and Justin Johnson. “All I wanted to do was rope – that was my goal. My plan as a college kid was to get a teaching degree so I could have my summers off and rodeo. My fall back plan was to go home and ranch on the family ranch.” He met Nancy Hainzinger on the rodeo team and they got married in 1992, Jeff was just 20, right after his sophomore year. The next summer his dad offered to let them run the ranch in eastern Colorado. It was a great opportunity for the young couple as they got to work together with few distractions those 90 days for there were no neighbors in sight. “We checked cattle or farmed every day, but also made it to 30 rodeos. One weekend they went to 5 rodeos in 3 days stretching from Nebraska to Texas. “We started out in Benkleman, Nebraska and roped in the Friday night slack. We left at midnight and had to be in Dalhart, Texas for the 7:30am slack. We barely made it and both made the short round at the XIT rodeo (amateur at the time). We were up at Elkhart, Kansas that night and Springfield, Colorado the next day before driving back to Dalhart.” It was great fun and for me, that was my opportunity to really rodeo.” Jeff was a history major, and was heading towards being a teacher, but decided after that summer that he wanted more. Spending hours on the tractor, Jeff made plans for the future. It didn’t involve the Colorado farm and ranch but did include kids, horses and rodeo. “I knew I was smart enough, and I started preparing myself to go to law school.” He set his goals so that he could make a living for his family, Nancy could stay home and work with horses and they could take their kids to rodeos. “I still wanted the lifestyle, but didn’t think running down the road was for me.”
After a couple more years of college rodeo, Jeff and Nancy graduated from Northwestern in 1994, and got ready for Jeff to start law school that fall. “We lived with Nancy’s mom and dad in Ponca City, Oklahoma and I shod horses. They were saving money for the transition and entry fees were not in the budget. But, Jeff’s mom loaned him $250 to enter the local open rodeos. “Actually, that was the best summer I ever had. I was just so happy to be able to enter and knew things were getting ready to change soon with law school that I didn’t worry about anything. I rodeoed on that $250 all summer and had money left over in August when I pulled up and sold my good calf horse. “The pull of the rodeo deal was tough to turn from; it was a whole different life where they were headed.”
They moved into an apartment in Norman, across from OU law school. Nancy taught school while Jeff went to law school. “I treated law school like a job, when she went to work, I would start studying. If they’d have told me how much I had to read, I would have never done it.” After that first tough year of law school they eased back into horses. “We would go home on the weekends and ride. Riding today is still how I get rid of stress.” He graduated 9th in his class out of 220 in 1997 and got a job at McAfee & Taft a large law firm in downtown Oklahoma City. “I’ve been here for 20 years.”
Right after he took the bar exam, they signed a contract on 15 acres and a contract to build a house. “We didn’t even know if I’d passed the bar,” he recalls. “The place was perfect – 26 miles from downtown, the best of both worlds for us.” They moved in with their two-year-old son, Haines, and started building their place. “I worked all day at the office and rushed home so Nancy and I could build fence and Haines helped.”
McAfee & Taft is now the largest law firm in the state, and a perfect fit for Todd. One of his first cases involved a patent owned by horse trailer manufacturer. “My main job was to be the interpreter between the owners and the complicated legal process. Early on I figured out that ag clients liked working with me because I could talk their language. McAfee was a full service business firm so I figured why not develop a full service agriculture practice. I got hired by Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association and pretty soon other ag-based clients started calling.” Today, he spends most days working on agriculture and equine cases and even rodeo matters. He represents many businesses and people that he rodeoed with. “I went to Little Britches rodeos with KC Jones, and now I represent ProFantasy Rodeo and Rodeo Vegas. Another college buddy owns a feed mill and trucking company.”
He still had to put in his 10,000 hours, and let rodeo go for awhile. “I didn’t have time and family came first. We messed with a couple colts, and my son went with me once a week to a little calf roping jackpot. One summer that was the only place I entered, but that was just fine. Our goal was to get our kids around it and our dream was to take our kids to junior rodeos and we did that.” They have three children, and they all grew up in the arena. That is until six years ago. “On April 16, 2011 we found out my wife had a golfball size tumor on her brain. Life stopped for us. By that time, I was a shareholder in the firm and we were doing junior rodeos.” Nancy had major surgery May 9 and by the grace of God, she was back riding horses for her kids less than a month later. Everyone in the family had a life change from that experience. Haines quit rodeo all together, deciding to focus on his schooling, and the 21-year-old junior at Oklahoma State University is majoring in Electrical Engineering, carrying a 3.98 GPA.
Kathryn (17) coped by practicing more and that dedication paid off. She went to the NJHSFR in Gallup, N.M. a couple summers later and came back to Oklahoma as the 2013 National Champion pole bender as well as the National Champion All Around Cowgirl. Gretchen, who was five at the time, is now 11 and rodeos right along with her sister. Jeff credits Nancy for his kids’ rodeo success. “My girls are blessed that their mom is pretty handy with horses and takes the time to make, finish and fine tune their rodeo horses.”

Jeff and Gretchen Todd – courtesy of the family

Coming full circle, Jeff has been able to keep his identity as a cowboy and farm kid. “I told my wife I never wanted to have soft hands. I still shoe horses and I have cattle with my brother in law.” They ride and practice a lot on that same 15 acre place they built. Most evenings someone is coming over to rope. He is the president of the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Associationj. “I’m a product of Kansas High School rodeo, and everything I do relates back to that. For me, we made the decision to try something different – but we still wanted our kids to have what we had.”
After Nancy’s life-threatening operation, he decided to slow down a bit and pick the rope up more often. “Life is unexpected and it refocused things. I was 40 and figured I’d use these young horses. We rope a lot at home, but I didn’t go much.” Practice paid off, and in 2014 he left Vegas and the World Series Finale splitting $180,000 with his partner, David Mize. “That was unexpected but a lot of fun. Nancy told me I should quit while I was ahead but I told her I would probably just keep roping till it was all gone.”
A teacher at heart, Jeff likes to mentor along his rodeo kids. He tells them “Whatever you do, make sure you’re passionate about it and be the very best you can be at it. When you’re 20, and you think all you want to do is rodeo, it’s ok to take a break and come back to it later – It doesn’t matter what you do, what the world lacks are people putting in the hard work to be the best they can be at it.”
“We go pretty hard and get spread a little thin sometimes, but life is too fun to let it slide by. We are blessed and been put in the right situation when we didn’t know what the heck we were doing. God’s guided all this, we don’t take credit for any of it.”

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