NAMPA, Idaho – Great opportunities are often met with even greater expectations.
And for two recent invitees to the Built Ford Tough Series – Guytin Tsosieand J.W. Harris – both seem poised to find themselves on the elite tour after their third and final exemption next weekend in Billings, Mont.
Harris finished this past weekend’s event second in the average, while Tsosie was third after a strong showing Saturday night in the final two rounds of the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational.
Tsosie, who sought the advice of Harris, is now ranked 36th in the world standings and his counterpart is ranked 39th as they now turn their attention on the upcoming three-day event in Big Sky country. Both riders are currently in a range where BFTS alternates have been selected from, and with a rash of injuries in recent weeks – seven of the 37 riders competing in Nampa were unable to finish the event – the list of alternates for the four remaining BFTS events leading up to the annual summer break could go even deeper in to the standings.
“It’s unreal to me,” said a subdued Tsosie. “I’m trying to catch my breath. This is unreal for me.”
Tsosie was invited as a Native American representative three weeks ago in Albuquerque, N.M., where he quickly gained the respect of the event’s namesake Ty Murray and other PBR co-founders – Cody Lambert andMichael Gaffney – for his relentless effort.
“In Albuquerque, I didn’t really worry about nothing,” said Tsosie, who admitted that all changed once he was offered three BFTS exemptions. “I just knew I was an invitee and if I bucked off all of them it wouldn’t matter, but, at Fresno, I kind of put pressure on myself.”
Guytin Tsosie rides David’s Dream for 88.75 points at the 2014 Ty Murray Invitational.
Friday night, he spoke with Harris.
Harris has won four PRCA titles in the past six years and is something of a veteran despite competing on the BFTS for the first time in his professional career.
“He came up to me and asked me how I handled the nerves,” Harris said. “I told him not to worry about that. I said, ‘You ride good enough that you belong here’ and I said, ‘Just go out there and show them why you got invited.’
After bucking off in the opening round at the Ford Idaho Center– his third straight buckoff since riding David’s Dream for 88.75 points in Albuquerque – Dickies Bullfighter Shorty Gorham approached Tsosie with some words of encouragement after seeing the young Navajo “override his bull.”
Gorham opined that it was an easier adjustment than the alternative.
In a brief conversation, he simply told Tsosie to settle down and think of it as if he were riding bulls at a practice pen in his own backyard as opposed to an arena with nearly 10,000 fans cheering. Tsosie admitted he was having difficulty concentrating and keeping himself from getting overanxious.
“I told him, ‘Remember, your job is to match moves with the bull,’” Gorham said.
Tsosie wants badly to take advantage of the opportunity being offered to him by the PBR.
“They told me to relax and calm down,” Tsosie said. “Everybody was telling me to relax and, I think, I finally got into the rhythm of it.”
The advice worked.
Tsosie covered Say La V for 86.5 points in the second round Saturday night to secure a spot in the championship round.
“After he rode his first one I told him, ‘I told you so. It’s as easy as you make it,’” Gorham said. “He belongs here.”
Tsosie earned the third pick in the bull draft, where he selected Chocolate Thunder, after Harris selected Apollo Stripes with the first pick and eventual winner Eduardo Aparecido took King Buck.
Tsosie brought the crowd to its feet Saturday night with an 86.25-point effort on Chocolate Thunder to close out his weekend with his second Top-10 finish and first Top 5.
It’s also the second time in the past three events he’s converted in the final round.
“I just kept trying,” Tsosie said. “I think, if I ride one – like how I did (Saturday) – it just relaxes me a little more than I was before, so when my second bull came in, it just happened.”
Harris said, “I was glad that he got that short-round bull rode, and I’ve seen him a lot at rodeos and that guy can really ride. He’s pretty special.”
Make no mistake Harris has made himself feel right at home among the Top 35 riders in the world.
In Fresno, Calif., he was 1-for-2 and missed the short round by just two spots.
This week, he found himself in the Bad Boy Mowers Lead Dog chair early in Round 2 when he followed up his first-round score of 86 points on Team Paige with an 87-point effort on Speckled Ivory.
Looking at the list of the 15 available bulls, Harris got the one he wanted. Although, 2009 Ring of Honor inductee and television commentator J.W. Hart thought Harris might have selected Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack.
Harris mulled over a few options knowing only that he didn’t want to takePalm Springs.
He went with Apollo Stripes.
“I kind of let that bull get away from me,” Harris said afterward with no outward signs of letting the missed opportunity of winning a BFTS event get the best of him. “I tried to set a trap and beat him around there and it just didn’t work out.”
Harris garnered a total of 623 points in Nampa with a second-place finish and 2-for-2 performance to move up 39 spots in the overall standings from 78th.
Asked if he was aware of where he was and where he is now in the world standings as it relates to getting an alternate position in the draw beyond Billings and, perhaps, riding his way into the Top 30 and earning a guaranteed spot in future events, Harris smiled and simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Yeah, I’ve never been one that looks at standings or pay attention to any of that,” he said. “I just go out there and do my job. If they tell me I’m on tour then we’ll go from there and if not then we’ll just figure it out.”
Harris is already figuring things out when it comes to his schedule for the remainder of 2014.
He’s indicated that he wasn’t planning to resume his pro rodeo schedule until May, which works well with the BFTS schedule. The PBR will host BFTS events four of the next five weeks, which wraps up with the Last Cowboy Standing on May 9-10 in Las Vegas.
When the list of 20 riders competing at the Calgary Stampede was announced, Harris’ name was surprisingly missing.
Or maybe it wasn’t so surprising.
The Stampede is independent of the PRCA and Harris said he wanted to earn as much money as he could during those two weeks toward qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo, so that in the fall he could in fact concentrate solely on the BFTS.
Everything clearly indicates he’s aware of the opportunities ahead—namely living up to the prediction by two-time World Champion Justin McBride that Harris will qualify for the PBR World Finals.
Until Saturday night, some wondered if Tsosie was as aware as Harris of the true value of the opportunity.
Harris emphatically put that notion to rest.
“Guytin knows what the opportunity is all about too,” Harris said.
“I hope the kid keeps on riding,” Gorham added. “I’m just glad he showed everybody he does belong here and I hope he keeps it up—good kid.”
TSOSIE THRIVES WITH FATHER IN ATTENDANCE
Quiet and unassuming.
Those are two of the most commonly used adjectives when it comes to describing Guytin Tsosie, who grew up without running water or electricity in the Tsosie family home until he was 12 years old. His father, Guy, built the house on land passed down to them by his grandmother.
Their home, which is just over 30 minutes south of Farmington, N.M., is two miles off the interstate on land occupied by the Navajo Nation and 30 miles from the nearest gas station and pharmacy.
“It’s not close,” said Guy, referring to any stores offering groceries or household supplies.
“It’s not a community,” Guytin said. “It would be like, if you were driving down the interstate and you see a house out in the middle of nowhere. That’s what it’s like and that’s where I grew up.”
Having come from humble beginnings, he added, “It makes you cherish more things, I guess.”
“It’s a different deal for a guy coming from his upbringing to this,” said Gorham, who referenced a laundry-list of distractions that included pyro, fireworks, television cameras, microphones and media requests. “It’s a huge deal for a guy like Guytin, but I think he belongs here and I want him to know that and I think everybody else wants him to know that.”
Until now, Tsosie has been working with his father framing houses Monday through Thursday and then traveling to bull riding events on the weekend.
This past week, father and son were working in Laramie, Wyo.
According to Guy, there is no work in Farmington, or anywhere in New Mexico for that matter, so he found work up in Wyoming and his wife is looking after their horses and the few cattle they have.
After winning a second check in three weeks, that schedule is changing.
“I’ve been working with my dad,” Tsosie said. “I’ve been doing that and thinking about PBR and this is kind of surreal to me. I get excited and – (long pause) – it’s just hard to explain.”
According to his father, “Well, he said he’s going to let the job go and put all his effort on this side—practice on bulls or barrels, anything. Yeah, I’m all right with it.”
Guytin said his parents have always been supportive of his bull riding aspirations.
His father said, “I’m really proud, really proud.”
The older Tsosie’s eyes widened and he breathed a sigh of surprise when told his son won more than $12,000 in Idaho.
Asked if that was more than he’s ever made framing walls, the younger Tsosie replied, “Yeah.”
Will he focus full time on bull riding?
“Hopefully,” he replied.
Saturday night, the elder Tsosie and his son headed out on a 12-hour journey home to New Mexico, where Guytin will prepare for his trip to Billings and Guy will then immediately drive back up to his unfinished job site in Laramie.
He hopes to be with his son again this coming weekend.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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