FORT WORTH, Texas ― It’s taken nearly nine years, but the lucky dollar bill in the side pocket of Justin McBride’s bull riding vest is starting to pay off for Tanner Byrne.
Byrne, 21, was only 13 years old the night his older brother, Jesse, phoned home at 3 a.m. in December 2005 and asked their father, Ryan, to wake up the youngest of the Byrne brothers.
“He just said he had somebody that needed to talk to Tanner,” recalled Ryan, who added, “Tanner wasn’t sure what was going on.”
It was his childhood hero McBride, who had just won the first of two world titles a month earlier.
“I got on the phone and he talked to me for a while,” Tanner added. “I was just a boy and it was a pretty cool deal. Just to get to talk to him at that point and then Jesse came home at Christmas and Justin had given him the vest.”
Jesse was at a Touring Pro Division event in El Paso, Texas, when he said he had the “good fortune” of sharing a room with McBride.
Jesse, McBride and a few others, including Luke Snyder, stayed up late playing the guitar and singing old country tunes after watching the National Finals Rodeo on television in the motel room.
“I think I might have just caught him at the right time,” said Jesse. “I didn’t know Justin real well, but we were having a good visit. I was telling him how much Tanner looked up to him and I actually asked Justin for a glove. I figured if I could get a signed glove it would mean the world to Tanner. Of course, Justin being the kind of guy he is, he one-upped it.”
Being a gracious host and, not to mention, he was going to be getting a new vest prior to the start of the 2006 Built Ford Tough Series, McBride sent Jesse home with his protective vest for his brother and the acoustic guitar for himself.
“I don’t know if he even remembers that or not,” Tanner said.
McBride still does.
“Oh yeah, I can remember sharing a room with a bullfighter and that he was from Canada,” McBride said. “He was just a kid then.”
Tanner added, “I grew up watching him on TV win World Championships and he’s who I looked up to since I can remember watching the PBR.”
This past weekend, Tanner had a breakout BFTS event and went 3-for-3 in Phoenix to finish the Bass Pro Chute Out second behind reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney.
The second-place finish gave Tanner a total of 724.25 points and moved the alternate up to 28th in the world standings after competing in his first BFTS event this year.
For the time being, that solidifies Tanner’s place among the Top 35 riders in the world and guarantees the 21-year-old, who recently got engaged, from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, a place in the draw this coming weekend in Tacoma, Wash.
“When I turned 18 I was kind of all over the map going to rodeos in Canada, and this year I decided I was going to – first off – make the World Finals and then go from there,” Tanner said. “I’m just going to focus on the PBR and I knew that was my goal coming in and I just did my job.”
His brother added, “With the way things are set up on the Touring Pro it’s a hard grind to make the points that you can here obviously, so with this three-ride performance this weekend it’s almost like winning two Touring Pros.”
Tanner capped off a perfect weekend with an 88-point effort on Compact in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round and briefly took the lead in the event with only two riders remaining, including Mauney, a crafty veteran who out-drafted everyone when he selected RMEF Team Elk.
Mauney made the whistle for 89.75 points and won his second BFTS event of the season by 2.5 points over Tanner.
It was still a career-night for the relative newcomer from Canada, who had only ridden at a BFTS event once before.
“This is my first real step into the show,” Tanner said afterward.
PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert likes the younger Byrnes’ consistency despite being one of the taller riders on tour.
“He’ll be around for a long time,” Lambert said. “He makes the whistle a lot.”
Tanner added, “That’s the biggest part of this, is to keep riding all your bulls.”
Jesse and Ryan both noted that Tanner benefits from having ridden against top riders like Mauney for the past few years at the Calgary Stampede.
“You get to this level and you’re obviously talented,” offered Jesse, who said, like McBride, his younger brother is pretty handy with a guitar and thought it might be entertaining to see them play together one night, “but guys struggle when they get here and that’s just based on that mental aspect.
“Tanner’s had the fortune of being around guys like J.B. a fair bit and he’s just such a great guy that he invites Tanner and those young guys into his world and kind of shows them the ropes.”
In fact, while Tanner was being interviewed in a back hallway at US Airways Center, Mauney approached the Canadian to congratulate him on a “great ride” in the final round.
More importantly, he offered Tanner the free pair of Ariat boots a rider earns each time they win a BFTS event.
“To step up and do what I do and for everybody to appreciate it, and to have them give me a pat on the back really makes me feel like I belong here,” Tanner said.
It took nearly a decade and thousands of miles traveled, but Tanner is where he always wanted to be – on tour with his brother – and although he bought a place of his own last summer, the vest is right where he put it when he first got it—in the living room of the home he grew up in above a wooden trophy case his dad built.
Ryan recalled Tanner reaching in the pocket and finding a dollar bill that was folded in half. He slipped it back in the pocket and that’s where it still is today. In fact, according to Ryan, no one touches the vest much other than Tanner, who “shines it up every once in a while.”
Ryan said they left it in the living room where “everybody can see it when they come in.”
“Yeah,” Tanner concluded, “it’s still at the house and I look at it almost every day.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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