Kendra Santos: Tell me about your life before 2006.
Matt Sherwood: I was a typical small business owner (of Sherwood Flooring). I got up every day, picked up supplies, met my guys and worked my jobs. I roped a couple days a week, and went to the circuit rodeos and the bigger ropings. Trying to make the Dodge (National Circuit) Finals (Rodeo) was the big deal (he's not about to mention it, but Sherwood won the 2005 DNCFR in Pocatello heeling for Rube Woolsey). It was a big deal to get to go to a big rodeo. I was a circuit cowboy, so I went to all the circuit rodeos. Being a husband and father of seven is impossible to explain. I have great kids, and there are kids everywhere. I have a great wife and a great life, but it does get interesting. At any given time, there are kids who need help with homework, some who want to play catch, others who want to go ride, and one who wants to be read to. You come home and all the kids say, "Dad's home!" There's nothing else like that. I wanted a big family. I believe in it.
KS: After all those years as a weekend warrior, what made you take the big plunge and set your sights on making the Finals? How tough a decision was that?
MS: It was a very tough decision, but I had made a few good financial investments, so it wasn't going to kill me if I didn't do great. I had confidence in myself and my partner (Walt Woodard). But if I didn't make it, I wasn't going to go broke. I wasn't waiting on every check so I could go to the grocery store, or I wouldn't have done it. I hadn't done it before, because I never had that level of confidence in my roping until then. A lot of people try it, but they don't rope good enough. I finally felt like I did. I had confidence in my horse (2006 PRCA/AQHA Head Horse of the Year Nickolas), too. I finally felt like I had a chance, and my wife was behind me on it. I lived my whole life thinking it would never happen. It's really hard to do this when you're winning, much less when you're not. There's a lot to sacrifice.
KS: Who ran Sherwood Flooring while you were on the road? Did you sell it?
MS: There wasn't a whole lot to sell. I turned over a few contracts to my father-in-law, and pretty much walked away from it. There are two flooring companies in Pima, and I'm trying to buy one of them now. If that doesn't work out, I'll probably start up a new company. I'd like to teach some roping schools and ride some horses, too.
KS: Do you have any regrets about putting your previous life on hold?
MS: I won a world championship, and I still can't say for sure it was worth it. The time away from my family is tough. I'm happy to have achieved something I never thought was possible for me to do. What ended up happening wasn't even a dream. One day, it was hey, I want to try to make the Finals. Honestly, I can't even tell you when I thought I had a chance to win the world championship-maybe halfway through the Finals. Walt was saying way back in January that we both rope good enough to win a world title. I was thinking, "Hey, you're 50, it's been 13 years since your last Finals and I've never headed good enough in my life to even think about the Finals." I appreciated his positive attitude, but at the time it didn't look all that probable. Possible yes. Probable no. I had $33,000 won by Reno in June, and needed about $7,000 more with half a year left to do it. I was in a panic worrying that I couldn't win enough to make the Finals with another 40 rodeos to go. I remember thinking, "Please don't let this end." Then we won $14,000 over the Fourth (in fact, Matt and Walt were the winningest Cowboy Christmas team in 2006). After the Fourth, we had $52,000 won. Having the Finals made changes your mentality. You don't quite have the same pressure, so you can relax a little, change your focus and think a little bigger.