Neither Jacobs Crawley nor Sterling Crawley can remember the first time they were horseback; they were just too young.

“They have pictures of us in diapers leading horses,” said Sterling Crawley, 27, the youngest of the bronc riding brothers who grew up in Ennis and graduated from high school in Stephenville. “I think the first saddle I ever won was when I was 4 years old.”

Cowboy is just a way of life for the Crawleys. Now they do it through professional rodeo, and they’re pretty good at it. They will return to the National Finals Rodeo together in December to battle for rodeo’s most elusive prize, a world champion’s gold buckle. Jacobs owns one, earned through the trials and triumphs of the 2015 season. He also is an eight-time NFR qualifier who sits No. 1 in the world standings heading into this year’s championship with more than $168,000 in season earnings.

Sterling is heading to Sin City for the fifth time in his career with nearly $100,000 in his pocket, sitting 10th in the world standings—each year, he’s had his big brother along for the ride.

That’s nothing new. The pair has been together through the ups and downs since Sterling’s first competition. They’re more than brothers, though. They are each other’s cheerleader and confidant.

“I really want him to win, but I want to win more,” said Jacobs, 30, now living in Boerne with his wife, Lauren, and son, Corley Dean. “If we tied everywhere, that’d be fine. But you don’t ride to finish second. As long as we’re both making a living and both comfortable in that regard, it’s all good.”

They have been at the top of their games since 2011, when Jacobs ventured to Las Vegas for the first time. A year later, they competed at the NFR together. Competition and comradery drives them.

“We’re brothers first,” Sterling said. “I don’t know any other brothers three years apart that didn’t get after each other. Our ranch was our playground. We were just far enough apart that we stayed out of each other’s age groups in youth rodeo.

“We’ve always been supportive of one another. We’ve understood what it was. There’s nobody that knows how I ride or has seen me ride all these years than Jacobs. He can almost tell me what’s going on before my ride than I can.”

That type of teamwork has proven to be beneficial. They keep each other grounded, and they both have tasks that need to be done when they’re on the road together. That’s playing to one another’s strength’s.

“I love driving, and Sterling is really good sleeper,” Jacobs said, revealing a truth that only brothers can share. “That’s what’s great about our relationship. We’re very similar, but we’re very different. At night, I like to get my sleep, and he can stay up all night and drive. I don’t know if we’ve molded into that because we’ve done that for a decade, but it works for us.”

The Crawleys’ nearly $300,000 in combined earnings in 2018 is proof. Ted Harbin

Ted Harbin is a longtime journalist who spent 22 years in the newspaper industry before focusing on rodeo. He owns Rodeo Media Relations and TwisTed Rodeo and is one of just eight individuals to be honored with media awards by both the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. He lives in Maryville, Mo., with is wife, Lynette, and their two daughters, Laney and Channing.