Michael Perry hasn't lived in San Juan County for more than two years, but he will always be considered one of Aztec's own, especially after helping the Tigers to a football state title in 2011.
Perry, 18, moved to Bandera, Texas during his sophomore year of high school, just weeks after scoring Aztec's final touchdown to put the Tigers within a point of Goddard before Adam Lucero scored a 2-point conversion to give Aztec a 29-28 state title win on Dec. 4, 2011. Since then, he has become a booming rodeo star in Texas after shining in the sport during his time in New Mexico.
Perry finished second at Region VIII Finals Rodeo in Texas last February, earning him a spot in the Texas High School Finals Rodeo. Perry went on to become the 2013 Texas High School State Champion calf roper, qualifying him for a trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo July 14 to 20 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
"I accomplished something in Texas that is the biggest thing a high school kid can do there," said Perry, who is in Bloomfield this week working with his calf roping coach Christian Sanchez. "My whole goal in everything is to go win the national championship. You work all year long to get to nationals, and I feel like I am prepared."
Perry grew up in Aztec and twice qualified for the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo. He was a New Mexico reserve state champion calf roper as a sophomore at Aztec High and represented the New Mexico team at nationals that year. He was the youngest tie down calf roping champion in the state at 15.
Perry starred as a running back for Aztec, and he gained many fans who still keep up with one of their favorite state champions.
"Winning state was a great way for me to go out," Perry said. "That was everything Aztec had wanted forever, and it was so good to be a part of, especially in coach (Brad) Hirsch's last year. I didn't play any football in Texas. I have just been roping a lot. I did missing playing for Aztec a lot."
Hirsch has kept in touch with his former running back.
"Michael will never forget where he came from. Brad Hirsch taught him a lot of valuable lessons, and they still keep up with each other," said Michael Perry's father, Mickey Perry. "When Michael won state in Texas, Hirsch was one of the first two or three people to get in touch with him."
Over the last year, Michael Perry has won more than $12,000 in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Cowboy's Professional Rodeo Association and other open rodeo events.
In his first CPRA event, Perry tied for fifth with legendary calf roper Fred Whitfield.
"That is like playing basketball with Michael Jordan," said Mickey Perry. "The same week Michael tied with Fred Whitfield, Whitfield won the Houston livestock show and rodeo and took home $50,000 to win it. To tie a guy like Fred in his first rodeo, that was big."
Michael Perry also won the Katy, Texas, livestock show and rodeo, and he posted the only 8-second run of the 91 contestants entered.
"Winning money has meant everything," said Michael Perry. "I have had a lot of support from my mom and dad and grandpa, and this year I was home schooled and helped shoe horses for a few months. I am trying to do it as much on my own as I can. Living in Texas and going to rodeos every weekend, the money is a lot bigger than in New Mexico. I can pull big checks everywhere I go, and it is giving me a taste of what it is like to make a living at roping."
In the fall, Michael Perry will attend Howard College in Big Spring, Texas, on a full-ride scholarship for calf roping. He plans on attending the junior college for two years before finishing his four-year degree at a university. But, after school, he knows he wants to make his living in roping.
"It is amazing he can do something he loves and do it well enough to get the recognition he has received in Texas. For someone to offer him a scholarship, it means so much because college is expensive," said Michael Perry's mother, Charlotte Perry. "It makes all the sacrifice and years that have led up to this worthwhile."
She said that seeing her son earn a college scholarship makes the tough decision to move to Texas in 2012 a rewarding one.
"When we were faced with having to move to San Antonio, it was the biggest decision we ever had to make. We knew then we were either making a good move we could make the best out of, or it would sink us," she said. "Fortunately, it has been good for us. But, with everything in life, it is about your foundation. Michael's foundation came in Aztec, where he was raised, and that community made him the young man he is."
Michael Perry leaves Bloomfield this weekend for Rock Springs, Wyo., where he aims to bring home a national title. He will ride his horse Sway, who he bought from Bloomfield's Wes McConnel a little more than a year ago.
"Many in South Texas say Michael is riding one of the top horses around," Mickey Perry said.
Michael Perry enjoyed his week in the area and said the support he still has in the Four Corners is inspiring.
"I love living in Texas and everything it has done for me in roping and all the great people I have met, but it is so awesome getting to come back and stay here," he said. "I see how much support there is from the community. I may not live here anymore, but I can come back and feel the same way I did when I was in Aztec."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.