PUEBLO, Colo. – There is a quiet storm of confidence brewing north of the border in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and the rest of the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) better be ready for it come 2016.
Following his second year on the BFTS and a second consecutive Glen Keeley Award, 23-year-old Tanner Byrne has big aspirations for 2016.
Not only does he hope to one day break Aaron Roy’s PBR record of four consecutive Glen Keeley Awards, which is awarded to the Canadian-born rider who earns the most world standings points, but Byrne also has his eyes focused on a $1 million World Championship.
“Any time you can win an award twice with his name on it, you know you are doing something well in the sport you are in,” Byrne said. “I want to break every record. Not just that one. I want to win world titles and win everything I can in this sport. The Glen Keeley Awards are going to come with the other championships I plan on winning.”
Byrne showed this past season that he is beginning to gain confidence in the arena as he took the next step in his career.
He concluded the season a career-best eighth in the world standings – he finished 14th in 2014 – and finished third at the World Finals (3-for-5) despite missing the final round of competition with a rib injury.
Byrne rode the fifth-most bulls on the BFTS (35 – a career-best) and also set career-highs in Top-5 finishes (five), Top-10s (10).
Outside of the World Finals, one of his best performances came during the first PBR Major when he was one of three riders to reach the third and final round of the single-elimination event.
During Round 2, Byrne rode Stanley FatMax for 86.75 points.
It wasn’t his highest-scored ride of the year— that was his 89.25-point effort on Percolator in Charlotte, North Carolina – but it was his proudest.
“I was only 86 or 87, but it was the only time he was rode all year and in a long time,” Byrne said. “He is one nobody likes to get on. To get him covered at Cowboy Stadium definitely probably stood out as my favorite ride this year.”
Stanley FatMax had previously bucked off 23 riders in a row.
Byrne is 56-for-120 (46.67 percent) in two years on the BFTS.
He was even recently named the Male Athlete of the Year by The Kinsmen Raiders Sportsman in his hometown of Prince Albert.
While already difficult to miss inside the locker room at 6-foot-4, it is hard to also not to notice Byrne’s radiating smile as well.
“Glen was a mentor to all of us and he was the greatest Canadian there was and just the nicest guy,” Byrne said. “He was just the greatest guy to everybody. He was nice to everybody and wasn’t cocky. He just went about his business.”
One area that Byrne rebounded from in his second-year on tour was his mental strength and attitude.
In the past, Byrne would let a buckoff or low score affect his psyche and lead to a poor outing the next night.
With the help of his wife, Megan, and Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team coach Michael Gaffney, Byrne learned how to control his emotions better and channel his energy.
“I always would get down and would think if I got thrown off it was the end of the world,” Byrne said. “I have gotten my mind in a better spot now where I just keep rolling. That has come from Megan. She keeps me grounded. My head will get big or something like that and she will be right there to keep me level. If I get down, she will be there to pick me up big time.”
Roy, who was competing on the BFTS for the first time with Byrne this year, noticed the change.
The biggest change of all may be Byrne’s evolution from BFTS qualifier to potential World Champion contender.
“I know I am one of the best in the world and I plan to be the best in the world,” he concluded. “All you can do is keep riding and keep rolling and it is going to come.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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