FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Fort Worth Stock Show hosts one of the biggest and longest-running livestock shows in the state. This year, more than 3,000 students taking part in FFA or 4H programs hope to win that coveted top spot.
There's a lot riding on this exotic Black Cross Steer named Zeke.
"He's a puppy dog. He's so sweet. He was licking my clothes, and he's just really sweet," said Natalie Camella of McKinney North High School.
"Today is pretty nerve-racking because we show today," Camella said.
The 17-year-old has cared for this animal for the better part of a year. Grooming, feeding and developing this steer into what she hopes will be a prize-winning animal.
So what makes a winning steer? That's determined by this man, the sole judge of the competition.
He determines who's worth a second look and eventually selects an overall winner.
As pretty as these animals are and as attached as the students are to them, the reality of the game is that they're judged on their ability to produce meat -- something that many students said they just try not to think about.
"It will be pretty difficult because he's like my baby, honestly, but it's just part of the experience. You live and you learn, and you just kind of move on," Camella said.
By Friday afternoon, Camella is heading to the arena.
"Just trying to stay calm because if I'm calm then he's calm, just doing what I know how to do presenting him in the best way that I can and that's all I can do," she said.
More than 60 steers are in her division. Unfortunately, her showing ends here.
"It's super humbling. It teaches us a lot, just being here, you learn a lot by watching everybody," Camella said.
And like Camella, most of the students won't see their animals go to the auction block. Ben Bezner of Delheart, 17, isn't most students.
"Long hours, early morning's, late nights, coming home right after school going to the barn washing him feeding him," Bezner said.
The judge sealed the deal with a handshake. His Steer named Mufasa has just taken the grand prize.
"I'm speechless. It's always been my dream and just for it to become a reality, it's awesome," Bezner said.
On Saturday, he'll be put up to auction where buyers have been known to throw down more than $200,000 to take home the winning animal.
All that money goes to Bezner.
"Might have some free college," Benzer said.
Free college that this high school student earned through years of hard work.