Friday, he was one of the toughest cowboys in New Mexico.
It hasn’t always been that way for Michael Trujillo. Eastern New Mexico’s collegiate rodeo national champion was once afraid of horses.
“I hated it every day,” Trujillo said, explaining how his parents insisted he work and be around horses. “Until one day I had a rope in my hands and lassoed my first steer ever…then I fell in love with it.”
The occasion Friday was Michael Trujillo Day — an event proclaimed by Gov. Bill Richardson to honor Trujillo and Eastern New Mexico University roping partner Chance Kiehne for taking first place June 19 at the College National Finals in Cheyenne, Wyo.
Sharon King, Portales mayor and executive director of Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce, was on hand to present Trujillo the proclamation. She noted that it all started for Trujillo as punishment — a story Trujillo confirmed:
“My dad has always roped and I got into trouble one day,” Trujillo said. “I was grounded and roping, riding horses was a part of the punishment…I’ve been roping for five years now.”
Richardson’s proclamation reads, in part:
“Michael Trujillo went from a man on the road to nowhere, according to a story in the press, to becoming a team roping champion during the national rodeo finals in Casper, Wy., on June 19, along with his partner Chance Kiehne.”
Trujillo, 19, is no stranger to championships.
As quarterback, he helped Portales High School win a Class 3A state championship two years ago. Trujillo passed for 409 yards and accounted for all seven of the team’s touchdowns in a 48-10 win over Lovington.
Trujillo said roping is his love now. He plans to continue the family tradition of roping for the next 20 to 25 years — as his father and grandfather before him.
Trujillo said the national title win gives him a better chance at getting more sponsors to help with expenses. He said he’s hoping to continue his partnership with Kiehne in team roping long after college.
At finals last month, Trujillo and Kiehne beat Chase and Chad Williams of Tarleton State.
ENMU Rodeo Coach Albert Flinn said both young men are good ropers and have an excellent chance of a repeat next season.
“I told them in the beginning, if they worked hard they could go to the regional and national finals,” Flinn said. “The southwest region is one of the toughest there is and the quality of the team ropers are good.”
Janis Lewis of Portales is a friend of the family and has known Trujillo since he was a child.
“I think Michael is awesome,” Lewis said. “He’s amazing because he has done so much in the last few years. It is amazing. He has accomplished more then most men have done in a lifetime.”
Trujillo’s mother Roberta Trujillo said she hopes children in the community can learn from her son’s example and it will help them through tough times in their lives. She said Michael would come home from football practice and then practice roping for hours.
“We’re hoping this allows other children to know that they can make a difference,” She said about difficult situations children might be in. “It does take a lot of family support. You can accomplish a lot and do good things. I think there are kids out there who think they can’t do this, but sure you can with a lot of work and dedication.”