By: Justin Felisko
March 15, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Tanner Byrne glanced up inside the bucking chute and saw a flashing 6 seconds staring back at him on the chute clock Sunday afternoon at Infinite Energy Center.
Meanwhile, Dickies Bullfighter Frank Newsom had jumped up onto the gate with the clock still ticking down as he tried to help get Crackerjack to stop leaning against the steel chutes and popping a squat.
With a potential event victory on the line in Duluth, Georgia, the crowd in the back of the bucking chutes erupted into a frantic, “Frank, get off the gate!”
Then, “Tanner, you have to nod, now!”
Finally, Byrne nodded for the gate.
Crackerjack erupted out of the chutes with an off-balance Byrne trying to find some sort of normalcy on the back of the bucking bull with $30,000 on the line.
Byrne’s frantic effort helped him hit the 8-second mark. The 87.5-point ride was good enough for him to secure his second event win of 2015.
“I didn’t really know I was on the clock,” Byrne said. “They didn’t really say it very loud that I was on the clock. He was squatting down in there and I knew he was going to leave hard, so I didn’t want to give him that shot to get me reared back. With that much money on the line, you want to make sure everything is right.”
Byrne wasn’t happy about being put on the clock, especially once Crackerjack began to look toward the inside and lean on the gate, crushing the 6-foot-4-inch Byrne’s legs.
“I knew what he was feeling like in there and exactly what he was doing,” Byrne said. “He was going to leave there very hard like that, so I was just trying to get him to stand up. When they put me on the clock, he started looking to the inside and leaning on the gate. Obviously it worked out good, but I wasn’t in the near control that I could have been on that bull if I had gotten a good go at him. It made it a lot harder. I had to really work for it on that one.”
That was an understatement.
Despite how unorganized the ride unfolded, Byrne still posted his highest score of the season thus far.
“I felt like I was going on his head then I felt like I was going on the back and then I was going on the inside and then the outside,” Byrne said. “I literally rode, I think, every part of that bull so I kept my hand shut and got to the whistle. At the end of it, when you look back at it, I guess if you keep your hand shut you can ride any one of them. That is what I try to live by and keep my hand shut.”
Byrne was the only rider to go 3-for-3 and is now up to seventh in the world standings courtesy of the 482.5 points he earned.
He rode Fast Talker for 83.75 points in Round 1 and Throwin Salt for 82.75 points in Round 2.
“I thought he looked really good on all of his bulls,” said CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart. “In that championship round, he got down to that one second mark getting out of that chute with that chute clock and when it all come together he kept his hand shut. His feet were flying everywhere, but the effort was there. That is the thing. You have to put out 110 percent effort every single time that gate opens and he did that today.”
Byrne is eighth on the BFTS with a 46.15 percent riding average (12-for-26). He trails world leader Paulo Lima by 572.5 points heading into this weekend’s Ty Murray Invitational.
While Byrne had won the Anaheim Invitational earlier this year, this weekend was his first event victory as a father.
Tanner and his wife, Meghan, recently gave birth to the couple’s first child on Feb. 10. Every day brings with it a new, lasting memory when Tanner gets to spend time with their daughter, Layla.
“Every time I get to come home after these weekends, I get to see the change that has happened in the short three days I am gone,” Tanner said. “It is kind of weird as a parent, and I am sure other parents will agree with me, any time they do anything really it is super exciting like, ‘Oh My God!’
“She started smiling and she is getting more lively. Even the littlest smile lights up your life and gets you fired up. It is pretty cool. Every moment is amazing.”
Byrne said that even with the new added responsibility at home, he doesn’t feel an added sense of pressure in the arena.
He still understands that being a father means he has to ride for not just him, but for his family.
“The responsibility and the job that you have now, it is not about you,” Byrne said. “It is about your child. It is amazing. She is beautiful and my wife is being totally amazing. Her grandparents, my parents and (Meghan’s) parents, are helping out and little Layla is loved more than anything.”
Hart purposely waited until after his riding career to have kids. He tips his hat to the current era of riders that have been able to balance the responsibilities of being a bull rider and a father.
“Just getting on the last couple of bulls I did in my life, having children, it wasn’t the same,” Hart said. “I know I couldn’t do it on a daily basis at this level. Having a wife is one thing, but when you have kids that depend on you, it is a different story. I don’t know how them guys do it, so I can’t speak on it. My hats off to them to be able to do it though. I could always go to Burger King to get me a sandwich, but when you got a family depending on you, how well you ride is what they get to eat. It adds more incentive anyway.”
Byrne couldn’t wait to get home and show Layla his new shiny belt buckle for winning the Duluth Invitational.
Layla likely will be just as bright with another precious smile when she sees her dad’s latest accomplishment.
“Having a kid now makes me realize life isn’t all about myself,” Byrne concluded. “It is about my family and everyone that is a part of my family. It is just cool to be able to phone home and tell them I did good again and I won a bunch of money.
“I get to go home and see her grow.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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