By: Justin Felisko February 02, 2016
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Tanner Byrne was running his right hand up and down vigorously on his bull rope inside the bucking chute on Sunday afternoon when he glanced up to see his dad, Ryan Byrne, and childhood friend Josh Manson looking nervously back at him.
Manson had his hand on his face and could barely stand still as Tanner continued to warm his rosin during the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. Earlier in the day, Manson was jumping up and down on the back of the chutes cheering Tanner on during his 86-point ride on Set ‘em Up Joe.
Meanwhile, Ryan Bryne looked on anxiously as any other parent would while his son began his latest attempt at winning his first career event.
“I looked back and I see my dad and him look nervous, so I tried to stay calm so that it would keep us all calm,” Tanner Byrne said.
The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, bull rider then nodded for the gate and put on his best show of the weekend, hustling and throwing his left free arm into the air as Doc Mosley spun into the Canadian’s riding hand for a season-best 86.5 points.
The ride was good enough to push him to No. 1 in the event average after he began the weekend a flawless 3-for-3. He had ridden Tequila Sun Rise for 81.5 points in Round 1 and Boo-Ray for 81.25 points in Round 2.
Once Derek Kolbaba bucked off Moving On Up in 3.69 seconds on the final ride of the night, Byrne looked up into the Honda Center rafters almost in disbelief.
Byrne finally had won his first Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) event after coming up short in his first 44 events. He finished second four times in his career, including back-to-back weeks during his 2014 rookie season.
“When I first got on tour, I was getting second a bunch of times,” Tanner Byrne said. “I kind of figured after the events I should have been in the winner’s circle. I wanted to walk up on that stage and get that buckle. Winning a Built Ford Tough Series event is a stepping stone in your career and that is how you move forward and become a World Champion, winning events.”
Byrne is the first Canadian-born bull rider to win a BFTS event since 2003.
The Honda Center was almost too fitting of a place for Byrne to finally win his first event.
Manson – a defenseman for the Anaheim Ducks – scored his first NHL goal in the same arena nearly three months earlier against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It is pretty surreal,” Tanner Byrne said. “It is pretty wild that everything came together here at the Honda Center. This is pretty awesome. Josh was here supporting me behind the chutes. It felt good that I didn’t just fall off in front of him. He hadn’t seen me ride in a long time and is one of my best friends.”
Manson is currently in his first full season with the Ducks and had never seen Byrne compete on the BFTS level.
“Well, my first (goal) came here. There are not many words. It so exciting,” Manson said while Byrne was being interviewed on CBS Sports Network. “His family is here, not just me. It is even more special with them here.”
Well, almost his entire family.
Byrne’s wife, Meghan, had to stay home in Prince Albert as she is getting closer to her Feb. 16 due date. The couple is expecting their first child, a baby girl, any day now.
“If she wasn’t expecting this week she would have been here,” Tanner Byrne said. “It is cool that I can fly home now and tell her we are bringing some bacon home. We are ready to have the baby now. It is going to be great.”
Meghan has been one of Tanner’s biggest supporters and was at home glued to the computer screen watching PBR LIVE on Sunday.
Tanner credited her for helping him regroup before Anaheim after beginning the season 3-for-9.
He earned 530 points toward the world standings and is now the No. 6 ranked bull rider heading into next weekend’s Sacramento Invitational.
“When you are feeling solid, things just come together,” Tanner said. “Last weekend, I didn’t feel like I could make it out of the chutes. If you combined all of my rides last weekend I made probably six seconds. It was one of those things where I went home and spent some time with my wife, regrouped and got my head back on straight.”
Tanner’s mom, Kelley, and brother, Beau, were also in attendance, while his other brother is Dickies Bullfighter Jesse Byrne.
“Everyone I have been here with, my family, I feel like I have the greatest support system,” he said.
Byrne selected Doc Mosley with the second pick in the championship-round draft.
“I remember watching that bull in New York when J.B. (Mauney) got on him and he just beat J.B. out of the chutes. He had a little trouble in the chutes that he didn’t seem to have with me, but that is what got J.B (Mauney),” Byrne said. “He looks like a good bull and looks like he gets underneath himself and spins to the right. That usually fits my style really good and I figured why not give her a go. Luckily it was enough and I took the W.”
Ryan Byrne credited his son for fighting through his early season struggles and for remaining confident after coming so close to accomplishing his first career win many times before.
“It is awesome,” Ryan Byrne said. “He has always wanted to win one and he finally got it done. He had a little rough start there at the beginning in New York and I will give him credit though. He just comes back and goes after it.”
Ryan added that it was even more special that Josh and Tanner’s first major career accomplishments came in the same arena.
Josh and Tanner met each other through Ryan and Josh’s father, Dave. The two fathers are some of the most famous people to come out of Prince Albert. Ryan was a legendary bull fighter in the rodeo industry, while Dave was a famous 18-year NHL veteran.
It was only natural their two sons became best friends. Josh is a little less than eight months older than Tanner.
“They have hung since they were just little babies,” Ryan Byrne said. “For them both to be on a stage like this is phenomenal. It has been a great week, and to have Josh here too is very special.”
Earlier in January, Tanner watched Josh play in the NHL for the first time. Byrne nearly lost it in the press box when Manson fought Roman Polak of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 6. It was Manson’s first home fight at the Honda Center this season.
Throughout the weekend, Tanner would whip out his cell phone and brag about his best friend’s on-ice skills.
“Yup. That was my first Ducks game that Josh was in,” Tanner Byrne said. “Mostly we have just been hanging out this week. We don’t get to hang out often. Now we both made our big league dreams, it is weird that now we get to hang out more.”
The two have since departed on their separate paths this week.
Byrne returned home early Monday to reunite with his wife and make final preparations as the couple anxiously awaits the birth of their child, while Manson is back at practice with the Ducks preparing for their game Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks.
Manson and the Ducks are hoping to make a second half push to qualify for the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Byrne can turn his focus on the big picture and not worry about being cut from the BFTS anytime soon thanks to his victory.
“Like I said at the start of the year, I am not here to stay on tour or get points,” Byrne said. “I am here to win a world title and now I can back that up with the points.
“Win the world. That is my plan. Go win the world title.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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