Fourth generation cattle rancher, former NFL tight end, and current bulldogger Bear Pascoe is by far one of the nicest people we have ever had the pleasure of meeting. From the moment we stepped on his family’s ranch in Moro Bay, California we were welcomed with a warm handshake and a quick point to the beer cooler. We hung out in the branding pit while Bear, his friends, and family branded their cattle. The day ended with an annual branding-group photo they insisted we be a part of, homemade beef tacos, Rocky Mountain oysters, and a “don’t be strangers” genuine sign-off.
You mentioned it was your lifelong goal to go from the NFL to becoming a rodeo athlete. Can you describe that? “Growing up in a ranching family in a western lifestyle, it’s a hard life. It taught me how to work hard and get the job done. So at a young age I created two goals for myself: play in the NFL and win a Super Bowl, and steer wrestle and win a world title. And I’ve accomplished one so far and I’m working on the next one right now.”
What’s more challenging, being a rodeo athlete or an NFL player? “You know I think both professions have their equal challenges. As a rodeo athlete and a steer wrestler, we can’t control what the animal we’re wrestling is going to do. So that makes it pretty difficult. But as far as on a football field, you can predict what a team is going to try to do or how they’re going to try and defend their offense or attack your defense. So I guess you can say football’s a little more predictable and has more tells whereas with a wild animal you can’t always predict what they’re going to do every time. They’ll throw a curve ball at you whenever they decide to.”
Do you train any differently for the rodeo than you did for the NFL? “In the weight room nothing’s changed. I still lift weights the same way; trying to keep my body limber at a high peak of performance. In the arena, the thing about steer wrestling is you can’t really slow it down like you can in football. In football if you want to work at your first-second steps in the run game, you can. If you want to work on catching a football, you can slow it down and be able to see that process really come together. Whereas with steer wrestling, when you’re running steers on the ground or you’re running them on horseback, there’s no slowing it down; you’ve got to be able to step it up and keep the run going.”
How has the NFL prepared you for the rodeo world? “Playing in the NFL they kind of fine tune you with how to study and how to work and be more precise. That led over into the rodeo world as far as being able to study steers and see different patterns that they had and being able to learn quick. Somebody tells you, ‘hey, you need to land on the balls of your feet more and really have more shape,’ and being able to take what they’re telling you and go put that into the next run. It’s being coachable and being able to take that from the classroom to the field or to the arena, is how the NFL has prepared me for the rodeo world.”
What’s more intimidating, going up against an NFL opponent or a steer? “Oh they’re pretty equal. I’ve gone up against some great athletes in my career and they’ve put me to the test and I’ve had some steers that I’ve run that have done the same thing. I have one in my herd right now that makes me doubt myself every day but he’s good to have in the herd because he makes you try that much harder. And when you’re in the NFL world, when you line up against somebody that’s just a nail biter, it just makes you try that much harder. And it’s the same idea when you ride in the box; when you have a strong steer, you’re gonna have to pull your hat down and get after it and go to work.”
What do you enjoy most about playing football? “Winning. That’s the best part about it. But no, it’s a number of things. As far as enjoying football, it’s the comradery, the team aspect, working for something higher than yourself. And then being on the field underneath the lights; when you step on the field at night and the stadium is packed full of people, there’s nothing better than that. That’s an amazing spot to be.”
What do you enjoy most about the rodeo lifestyle? “It goes hand-in-hand. As far as being a steer wrestler, it’s the comradery amongst the steer wrestlers and having a travel buddy that pushes you as much as you push him to be better. And those night performances when the lights are on, there’s a different feel in the air, there’s energy in the arena. People are making fast runs and you gotta step up to the plate and perform. It’s just real.”
Your college football coach still ranches with you on occasion and your father-in-law is your steer wrestling coach. Can you describe the relationships built in football and in rodeo, and how your athletic coaches have personally impacted you? “When you’re at the college level, you go to school for a number of years so you develop a personal relationship with your coaches just in the sense that you’re around them every day for four to five years and so you become more than just friends, you become family. You make lifelong relationships that have a huge impact on your life. And transitioning over into the rodeo world, to have my father-in-law be my steer wrestling coach is pretty awesome. We’re really good friends, we work alongside each other on the ranch every day, we’re honest with each other and we trust each other. When you trust your coach and they trust you and they believe in you and you believe in them, it makes you want to try that much harder for that guy. And that doesn’t matter what world you’re competing in.”
What is it like achieving your dream of becoming an NFL player and winning a ring? “Oh man, it was something else. And I’ve been asked this a number of times and the only way that I’ve ever been able to explain it is it was just a dream come true. You know, I was very lucky to be on The New York Giants, and be there for so long. It was just absolutely amazing. When you’re at the end of the game and the confetti was coming down and it just really hits you and sinks in that you’ve worked your whole life for this and now that you’ve accomplished it you don’t really have the words for it other than it’s a dream come true.”
What was the proudest moment so far in both your NFL career and your rodeo career? “In the NFL world it’s winning a Super Bowl with the New York Giants against the Patriots; dream come true. That’s something that I worked for my whole life. That’s the biggest moment in my NFL career. I’d say after that, moving over into the rodeo world was just getting to compete against guys I looked up to as a kid; meeting rodeo legends and learning from them and trying to take what they knew and applying it to my technique and my program. And getting to compete in some of the greatest rodeos out there like Pendleton, Ellensburg, and Salinas. Rodeos like that are an absolute rush.”
What advice do you have for aspiring athletes? “If you’re a young athlete or just a person who has a goal or a target out there, first off I’d say develop a plan on how to get there. It doesn’t matter what the plan is as long as you have one and you put it into motion. And then after that, be prepared to work hard. Nothing worth going after in life comes easy. You’re gonna have to work for it. And that way, when you get there and you accomplish that goal and that target, it means that much more."