FORT WORTH, Texas – Dedicated and perseverant are two of the first words that come to mind when describing Ryan Dirteater.
Quiet and unassuming are two more words.
He’s been that way since making his Built Ford Tough Series debut in 2008 and the 24-year-old – he’ll turn 25 in April – is still that way today, even when the conversation turns to a large sign along the city limits of Hulbert, Okla.
It reads: Hometown of Ryan Dirteater.
He’s as proud of that as the 590 residents, who live in the prominent Cherokee County town, including his family, are of him.
“I don’t plan on letting them down,” he said, “or letting myself down.”
Dirteater is in his seventh season on the BFTS and has qualified for five of the past six World Finals despite a few serious injuries – a dislocated left knee, broken femur and torn ACL in his left knee – that took him out of action for two sustained periods of time.
He’s finished in the Top 15 of the world standings the past three years.
In that time Dirteater has won a pair of BFTS events, finished in the Top 10 in 31 of 99 events – he’ll compete in his 100 BFTS event this weekend in Kansas City, Mo. – and, more importantly, he’s been investing his winnings (which are approaching the $1 million mark) and endorsement money since he was 19 years old.
He bought his first rental property when he was 19 in nearby Tahlequah, which is 10 miles east of Hulbert.
Today, he owns three houses there and co-owns an indoor arena with childhood friend Mike Jones. It’s the same arena he told his parents he’d like to own one day when he was 16. Dirteater and his parents recently bought 180 acres together and he moved out of his parent’s home and into the house on that property.
“(He’s) become more independent in recent years,” noted his father Randy. “In the past couple years it’s become real noticeable to me, and I’m proud to see he’s taken on a lot of responsibility back home.
“He’s really learned how to use (his money) out in the real world and put it to good use.”
Another positive to Ryan’s investments is that it keeps him involved in his local community.
“Everything I’ve invested in for the future is going to keep me right there in the community,” Dirteater said. “Oklahoma is where I grew up and it’s where my roots are and where I’m going to stay.”
The rental property is not only an investment for the future, but he quickly pointed out it was a nice source of income at times when injuries prevented him from competing—most recently, he missed four months last year with the aforementioned torn ACL.
It’s almost unheard of for such a young man to think that far into the future, much less one who’s traveling the world – he’s ridden bulls in Brazil, Australia, Canada and Mexico in addition to every major arena in the U.S. – and competing as a professional athlete.
But he credits his parents with teaching him well.
Dirteater is the youngest of three kids. He and his older sister also have an older half-brother from their father’s first marriage.
Dirteater said the family is close and that he likes helping them out because they “helped me out since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.”
“He’s a young who’s living his dream,” said his father, “and got it on his own and we just basically stood by and watched him do it. When he needed a hand we tried to be there.”
Ryan’s been swinging a rope ever since he could walk and is quite handy as a team roper, but took up bull riding at the age of 9 after seeing the PBR on television.
The youngster watched legends like three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes, who he met when he was only 14, and two-time World Champion Justin McBride. Dirteater also admired Mike Lee, who won the world title about the same time he met Moraes.
Dirteater was 19 years old when he made his BFTS debut in 2008 and said Moraes remembered the time they met and had a picture of the two taken together.
However, Dirteater credits his father with teaching him how to ride.
Randy rode in the late 1980s, but never professionally. Instead, he focused on raising his family.
“He didn’t get to do this at this level,” said the younger Dirteater, who added his father taught him to give 100 percent or find something else, “so he’s happy to be here seeing me do this at this level.”
Ryan is currently ranked 15th in the world and his father, who was at last week’s event in St. Louis, said he’s watched his son mature in and out of the arena in recent years.
Randy agrees that Ryan has been as focused in recent years as he has been driven since he was a young boy.
“Mentally he’s been there,” Randy said, “physically he’s been roughed up a lot.”
There was never any doubt about what Dirteater was going to grow up doing.
“I love the rush of the game and the challenge to do it,” Dirteater said.
He added, “I love sports—being an athlete.”
However, the same forward thinker he was to begin investing his money as a teenager knows all too well that bull riding won’t last forever.
He hopes he’ll have at least five more years after this season. That would make him 30 years old at the conclusion of the 2019 season and he’ll see where he’s at then.
For now, when he’s not riding bulls, he can be found at his indoor arena at the opposite end of the arena from where the bucking chutes are located.
He and his friends spend a lot of time team roping—a sport he said ropers can continue participating in until they’re 60, even 70, years old.
“I love the sport,” Dirteater said.
He and Jones have 30 head of steers on hand for practice and have also held several open team roping events at the arena. Although he’s never competed professionally at a PRCA event – yet – in 2010, he won a truck. It was the 10th time he’d entered a truck roping “and I finally got one.”
Recently he began teaming up with PBR co-founder Cody Custer and the two have plans to continue roping together well into the future.
But he doesn’t plan to spend more time roping until his bull riding career is over.
“I have to ride bulls to pay for my team roping habit because it gets expensive,” concluded Dirteater, who among his many accomplishments referenced being a member of the U.S. World Cup team that traveled to South America for the first time in 2010 and upset the heavily favored Brazilians in their home country.
“Bull riding has given me an opportunity to do great things. I never would have gotten those opportunities if it wasn’t for bull riding. … The PBR has gotten me everything I have to today. It’s been a great road for me.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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