‘Living the dream’ | CraigDailyPress.com

‘Living the dream’

Craig resident to compete in rodeo's 'Super Bowl'

John Vandelinder

— More than $200,000 for less than 60 seconds of work.

This is what Craig resident and rodeo professional Casey McMillen is seeking at the National Finals Rodeo, which began Thursday in Las Vegas.

As a child, McMillen always wanted to be a professional cowboy.

He grew up in Craig, captured a state championship his senior year at Moffat County High School and then wrestled steer in college.

He turned into a full-time pro in 2004, traveling the country competing in 70 events on the rodeo circuit throughout the nine-month season.

He’s feels as though he’s paid his dues, and now he’s ready to be crowned world’s best.

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McMillen’ chosen specialty is steer wrestling. The 205-pound former high school football player takes on steer weighing anywhere from 500 to 600 pounds.

He chases the steer with his horse at full gallop, and then jumps onto the steer attempting to wrestle the animal down by grabbing its horns and twisting its head to the ground.

McMillen has earned more than $82,000 this season, qualifying for the year-end event as a No. 8 seed.

The rodeo is a 10-day event, with McMillen participating in the steer wrestling each day, for a total of 10 runs.

Each cowboy who places first in his run for that day claims a check for $16,000. The highest average after the 10 days are completed earns a $42,000 bonus.

“I’m shooting to be No. 1 out there,” McMillen said. “I don’t care how I get there, I’m going to make a run at the title.”

McMillen arrived on rodeo’s biggest stage by hard work and dedication to what he calls his “childhood dream.”

He and three crewmembers travel the country in a truck while pulling a trailer that doubles as their home. They eat on the road, sleep on the road and live to get off it.

“I feel like all I do is travel,” McMillen said. “For nine months, all I do is drive. I drive hours on end to have the chance to be in the ring with a steer for four to four and a half seconds.”

Depending on the steer, five seconds can feel like an eternity to McMillen.

His paycheck varies thousands of dollars for a slippage of a fraction of a second in his playground.

Time is of the essence in McMillen’s world.

“I’m thinking four seconds will win in one pen, while three and a half will win in the other,” he said. “All told, I can win about 200 grand in 40 seconds of work. You can’t beat that.”

This is the biggest event in professional rodeo, what McMillen calls “the Super Bowl.”

The estimated 20,000 spectators have their eyes fixated on McMillen for what he hopes will be for a very short period of time.

About four seconds, to be exact.

“I’m nervous some,” he said. “But whatever happens, I’m still living the dream.”