Growing up on the East Coast in Florida - three hours later than Las Vegas - Dustin Egusquiza would stay up all night to catch National Finals Rodeo competition on television. The event was a magical time every December.
“The NFR is what I dreamed of doing since I was a little kid,” says Egusquiza, who is competing in the NFR this week with partner Travis Graves. “I waited for it all year.”
Coming into the NFR at No. 1 in the world, the 26-year-old header has been preparing for rodeo’s center stage most of his life.
Egusquiza, whose father Manny Sr. was his teacher, competed in junior rodeos before and during high school both in team roping and tie-down roping, He qualified for the NHSFR three years and won the state title in team roping in Alabama his senior year.
“I don’t really have any earliest memories of roping because I’ve been roping as far back as I can remember,” he says. “My parents took me to all of those and that’s where I learned to compete.”
In 2015, four-time IPRA World Champion Stephen Britnell asked Dustin to head for him. The following year, Egusquiza finished 18th in the world standings and was named the PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year for Team Roping.
The four-time NFR qualifier is still in awe of competing in the Las Vegas event. Sin City provides the right combination of enthusiasm and excitement to make it special, Egusquiza says.
“It’s an awesome environment,” he says. “It’s like the whole city’s there for the rodeo. When you’re walking around with your back number on - I wouldn’t say it’s like you’re the cool kid but - it’s like you’re the center of attention.”
Thanks to the guidance of his parents, Egusquiza says that despite all the attention athletes like him get at the NFR, he keeps his feet solidly on the ground.
“Growing up, I was taught that being humble is important,” he says. “My parents taught me to respect everyone.”
Still, no one can fault the kid who stayed up watching his NFR heroes for being awed by his dream literally coming true.
“It’s like nothing else. I’ve always dreamed of what it would be like out there. It’s just unbelievable - better than I could have ever imagined when I was kid.”