PENDLETON — Clayton Morrison has already made a name for himself in the world of steer wrestling.
The Pendleton cowboy finished last season at No. 12 in the Columbia River Circuit standings, earning $7,040.67. He’s also toured alongside nine-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier K.C. Jones. He’s gathered $98,790 in career earnings.
Now, Morrison is ready to branch out.
Morrison could be seen at Hermiston’s Farm-City Pro Rodeo finale on Saturday night, but this time he wasn’t solo. He and his partner Sean Santucci tried their hand in team roping, and while they received no time, the pairing is one that is sure to last quite some time.
“I steer wrestle, mainly,” said Morrison, 36, “but I’ve been team roping on the side. It’s been going alright so far. We just started roping together a few months ago.”
This year isn’t Morrison’s team roping debut, however — he competed in the event as a college cowboy at the University of Wyoming, where he also dabbled in tie-down roping.
His switch over to team roping didn’t just come from the allure of all-around money. In the past few years, he’s since settled down with two daughters — Mesa, 4, and Monroe, 1. He and his wife Stephanie have another on the way.
“Steer wrestling is dangerous,” Morrison said. “You can’t steer wrestle forever, but you can rope until you’re 70.”
A history in rodeo
Like many cowboys, Morrison’s family history is steeped in rodeo tradition. His father Al roped and rode bulls, and now works as a supervisor at Chevron on an oil rig off the southwestern African coast. His mother Marla used to barrel race, but is now a second grade teacher in Cavalier, North Dakota — their home state.
As a high schooler in Killdeer, North Dakota, Morrison was a well-versed athlete. He was a quarterback and a defensive back on the varsity football team, where he was an all-region defensive selection. He also spent some time on the basketball court.
After finishing school, he spent a year as a civil engineer at a geotechnology firm out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, but couldn’t stay away from the rodeo lifestyle for long.
“I’ve been around the rodeo my whole life,” he said. “Everyone in my family did it — my parents, uncles, aunts, everybody.”
Morrison got his professional career started over a decade ago, at a 2007 performance in his hometown of Killdeer. He became a full-time rodeo cowboy in 2009, and has stuck with it ever since.
A new partnership
Morrison and Santucci’s team roping partnership might be new, but their friendship isn’t.
The two crossed paths years ago, and they quickly found they had plenty in common. Santucci also competes in both steer wrestling and team roping. He’s ranked No. 35 in the CRC team roping standings and No. 4 in steer wrestling.
“We’re having fun,” said Santucci, a Prineville resident. “We’re going to keep at it for as long as we want.”
Santucci also flexed his steer wrestling skills to cap off last week’s Farm-City installment. It was their first local showing of the season so far.
“It’s a great rodeo,” Santucci said of Farm-City. “They have a great committee who built all this new stuff (for the arena), and the fans are amazing.”
A new arena
Morrison has yet to qualify for the NFR or win any world titles, but he and Santucci haven’t lost sight of those goals.
After their Farm-City run, their next target is the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up.
“It’s one of the best rodeos there is,” Morrison said. “I’ve had some pretty good luck there in the past — I’ve won quite a bit on the go-rounds before.”