LAS VEGAS — Boyd Polhamus is a large man.
Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 260 pounds, he appears more steer wrestler than rodeo announcer possessing a voice that can fill an arena.
And good thing Polhamus casts a long shadow.
He’s got some very large boots to fill.
Polhamus is taking over as the general manager of the National Finals Rodeo, the biggest and richest spectacle in professional rodeo.
Across 10 brightly-lit nights, some of the best cowboys and cowgirls in the world chase world titles and career-changing money.
And come this December, the reins of the NFR will be in Polhamus’ strong hands.
He takes over for Whitehall native and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Shawn Davis, who has been the NFR general manager since 1986.
It was Davis who cast the deciding vote to move the NFR from Oklahoma City to the untested desert of Las Vegas. Since the move, the NFR has become Las Vegas’ hottest ticket every December with sold-out crowds at The Thomas and Mack Center and crowded casinos hosting watch parties.
“You have to remember, there was no rodeo when the NFR got here,” said Polhamus during a visit with 406mtsports.com during last December’s NFR. “Shawn Davis built this truck from the ground up. He built the chassis, he built the motor, he put on the wheels and put on the paint … everything.
“My job is to learn how to drive it and maybe add a few accessories.”
Polhamus, of Brenham, Texas, is sitting in a chair in the production room. The start of the NFR’s eighth round is still four hours away, but Polhamus has been up since 5 a.m. with his work day starting not long after.
The transition from Davis to Polhamus is part of a three-year plan. Polhamus, a long-time rodeo announcer, began shadowing Davis in 2017 and again in 2018 to gather the information necessary to run the PRCA’s most important event.
Davis will serve as a consultant for 2019.
“In truth, I didn’t know what the job entailed,” said Polhamus, who laughs often about his new situation. “It did take me a while to understand all the entities involved. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
Polhamus is familiar with the NFR. He’s been selected to work 21 NFR’s during his announcing career and four times selected the PRCA Announcer of the Year. He worked the PRCA NILE in Billings during the late 1990s and early 2000s and has worked most major rodeos, along with the College National Finals Rodeo.
“I miss the announcing of the NFR,” Polhamus said. “I miss all the sub-plots, all the storylines.”
And even with his new NFR duties, he plans to continue announcing.
“Hey, I’ve still got bills to pay,” Polhamus finishes with a big laugh that fills the room.
Polhamus and Davis start each morning checking the livestock, tending to the horses and making sure that necessary jobs are being done.
The two get to the office around 6:30 a.m. and have production meetings at 7, 8 and 9. They continue work from the morning session and have another production meeting at 4 p.m. prior to the performance.
As the horses and bulls buck, ropes fly and barrels are turned, Davis and Polhamus watch with active eyes. No detail is missed.
“Shawn sees everything,” Polhamus noted. “We’ll check everything … to where the TV trucks are posted to watching a steer leave the arena and wonder why it isn’t going the correct way.
“He is so tuned into everything associated with the National Finals Rodeo.”
Following the performance there are more meetings with representatives from the NFR, PRCA and Las Vegas Events. Polhamus, who at this point had been in Las Vegas since right after Thanksgiving, often doesn’t return to his hotel room until midnight.
“After every performance, we discuss our bobbles or issues,” he said.
Polhamus has acquired some definite principles to his new title and one he will now be in charge to enforce.
“The rules of the NFR apply to everybody, no matter what their back number,” he said firmly. “Rules are designed to be fair and designed to help contestants win world championships.”
And Polhamus understands the NFR is more than competitors and animals. There are sponsors to appease and fans to entertain.
“All the entities affiliated with the NFR must be treated the same, no special treatment,” he said. “All the entities involved want something from the NFR. We have to remember, No. 1, the patron is our seed capital. We have to be cognizant the customers drive this rodeo. We are here for the person who buys the ticket.
“We start treating each entity different, it kills the golden goose. And we want gold eggs for all the entities.”
Polhamus takes comfort that Davis will still be at the NFR this coming December in a consultant’s role.
“It will be awesome to have Shawn Davis next to me,” he said. “If someone asks a question, he can tell me an answer.”
But Polhamus knows the NFR general manager hat now sits squarely on his head.
“Next year, the buck stops with me,” he said.
Polhamus said those involved with the 2019 NFR have already been meeting with vendors and working on scheduling and budgeting.
“We have to learn as much as we can before allocating our resources,” he said.
Polhamus also had a request for well-wishers.
“Don’t wish me luck. Pray for me,” he said with another laugh.