PORUM, Okla. – D.V. Fennell sees a bright horizon for himself in the world of rodeo.
Fennell, a two-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, knows true champions face adversity and overcome challenges en route to gold buckles. Fennell has overcome plenty of hardships to remain one of the best bareback riders in the game; this season is no different.
Last weekend while competing in Lufkin, Texas, Fennell matched moves with Smith, Harper & Morgan Rodeo’s Flaming Desire for 84 points to share the event victory with Steven Peebles, one of Fennell’s traveling partners. Each cowboy earned $1,873. More importantly, the ride gave Fennell his first victory of the 2011 season and strengthened the Porum cowboy’s building confidence.
“It sure feels good to get that win,” said Fennell, who has teamed with Eric Norris State Farm Insurance of Neosho, Mo., and James Hodge Ford of Muskogee, Okla., in sponsorship agreements. “Eric Norris and Jack Hodge have been awesome to work with, and they’ve been right with me, pushing me along the way.
“I’ve been able to win a little along the way. I feel like I’m riding well, and it’s just coming together.”
Fennell has collected $7,786 this season, about $40,000 behind standings leader Tilden Hooper. But Fennell’s earnings in Lufkin moved him into the top 30 in the standings with the busiest time of the rodeo season fast approaching – the top 15 cowboys at the end of the regular season qualify for the NFR, the season-ending championship that will take place in December in Las Vegas.
“The great thing about Eric is that he’s not only a great sponsor, a great partner in this deal, he’s also a great friend,” said Fennell, who grew up in the southeastern Oklahoma community of Valliant; attended college in Vernon, Texas, and Weatherford, Okla.; and has lived in Stroud, Okla., and Neosho, while competing in ProRodeo. “He’s pointed me toward some great investments. State Farm has one of the best life insurance/retirement portfolios out there on the market.”
Of course, Norris realizes the relationship with Fennell is great for business.
“When you own a small business like I do, sponsorship opportunities are a dime a dozen,” Norris said. “I always try to sponsor people with high morals and dedication to living life the right way and giving 100 percent. D.V. is that exact sponsorship opportunity for me. D.V. is a perfect fit to carry my State Farm agency patch on his shirt while out on the rodeo trail.”
Fennell provides exposure for Norris’ agency, from the local level in extreme southwest Missouri to the Midwest to the national scene – it doesn’t hurt that Fennell has performed at the NFR, which is broadcast nationally 10 nights each December.
“More important than that, D.V. brings friendship to the table,” Norris said. “D.V. is a true friend, and we have a friendship that can only develop between two people that love the Western lifestyle. Those friendships are true, honest and deep.
“I am not a sponsor of D.V.; I am a fan. Just like any fan of anything, you love to see your favorites winning. In rodeo, if you don’t win, you don’t get paid. D.V. is a great guy, and you naturally find yourself just wanting the best for him. When I’m on the road with him, I’m more nervous than he is before his ride. I want nothing but the most success for him; I want him to win that gold buckle.”