Jun 19, 2020
The Family Lockett
Roper Kyle Lockett loves his family and rodeo, in that order
By Brian Hurlburt, Las Vegas Events
Unexpected surprises are usually the most enjoyed.
There’s no doubt that is the case for the Lockett family when it comes to the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Team Roper Kyle Lockett (heeler) was a regular at the Wrangler NFR in the late nineties and early 2000s, qualifying seven times in nine years, but following an 8th-place finish in 2005, Lockett stopped twirling his rope full time to focus on wife, Leigh, a Labor and Delivery Nurse, and a growing family.
With their first child on the way (Shayla, now 14), Lockett decided to focus only on weekend circuit rodeos close to his Visalia, Calif. home so he could stay home and be a dad instead of a rodeo star. The family has now grown to include Georgia, 12, Sutton, 10, and Blevins, 7, and a fifth Lockett is on the way in October.
It seemed a foregone conclusion that he had made his final NFR appearance—and he was plenty OK with that—but the stars aligned and he was back in the NFR saddle literally and figurately in 2019.
Lockett, 42, won RodeoHouston with Ty Blasingame, the San Angelo (Texas) Rodeo with Aaron Tsinigine and the Santa Maria (Calif.) Elks Rodeo with Lane Santos-Karney and it was off to Vegas and the yellow chutes and red seats of the historic Thomas & Mack Center.
Lockett placed in three rounds to rank 11th in the average with 60.8 seconds on seven head at the Wrangler NFR with Erich Rogers, and also finished ninth in the world rankings. The action on the dirt was just part of an amazing week of family and rodeo.
“The first thing I think about last year’s NFR is the family being there and that my kids got to see me compete,” says Lockett. “They were old enough to understand what it is all about and what an honor it is to get to compete there. It was a blast to have all of them there with me.”
In his time away from the NFR, Lockett would joke with friends and family that maybe when the kids got older, he would give qualifying for the NFR a serious go, but he never looked back when it came to stepping away.
“It really wasn’t a big decision for me, at all,” Lockett says. “I knew that when I was going to have a family, I wasn’t going to be gone for seven, eight months out of the year and not be a part of the family, like I should be. So, it really wasn’t a hard decision for me at all. It was just something that I wanted to do and planned on doing. I wouldn’t go back and change it, for sure.”
Obviously, Leigh was happy with the decision, but it still took some time for her to understand and embrace it. She felt some guilt, but Kyle was committed to the decision, so watching his successful summer of 2019 unfold was a blessing for everyone. And getting to experience the bright lights of Las Vegas with the whole family was a worthy reward for Kyle after so many years away.
“We had never experienced the NFR together because the last year that he competed in Vegas, I was in nursing school and I couldn’t step away to go watch him,” Leigh says. “So, for him to go back, 14 years later, was amazing. He told me that so many things were different than 2005 and he laughed at how things had changed and it was such a huge event. It’s just totally taken on a different level.”
The entire two weeks was truly a Lockett family affair.
“We rented a house and our parents stayed with us and we cooked meals every night,” Leigh says. “We didn’t go out like we would have probably liked to, but it was just a normal two weeks. We home-schooled each day and every night the kids went to the rodeo and watched their dad. People were surprised because you have to buy the tickets, but they had signs and got on TV every night. It was an amazing experience.”
In 2020, Lockett got off to a solid start and as of June 18, was 14th in the world standings. He won the San Angelo (Texas) Rodeo with Aaron Tsinigine and was having a good event at RodeoHouston when it was halted before round three due to COVID-19. The top 15 qualify for the NFR and now Lockett is in a wait-and-see mode like everyone else as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out and rodeos are cancelled or postponed across the country.
Selfishly, Lockett hopes that rest of the schedule is canceled so he can remain at home and then show up again in Vegas later this year. Should rodeos start taking place, he plans to hit the road in hopes of earning his ninth trip to the NFR.
If he doesn’t make it back to Vegas, that will just fine and dandy for Lockett. He’ll be happy at home with the family and Leigh will continue making a difference as a nurse. COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the baby-making business and Leigh looks forward to a busy time in seven to nine months when quarantine babies begin coming into the world.
“The pandemic hasn’t really impacted me at work because women still have to have babies,” Leigh says. They can’t just stop being pregnant because of COVID-19. They still come in in rip-roaring labor, pre-term labor, for scheduled inductions of labor and C-Sections. Where I work, we do on average about 400 deliveries a month. COVID-19 had slowed the influx of triage patients who used to come in for every little thing because they were scared that they would contract COVID-19 at the hospital, but that has started to shift. Patients are starting to come in to be seen more, and just imagine all the patients that we’ll see on account of people being quarantined for months!”
For the Locketts rodeo is family time, whether it is in Vegas, at a circuit rodeo or during a friendly session at home.
“We just enjoy it and enjoy going to them even though we kind of enjoy being home more, I guess,” Kyle says. “We have a big crew and we just enjoy going to the rodeos. We just like to go hang out, watch the perfs and enjoy the rodeo lifestyle.”