LAS VEGAS – If seven is a lucky number, Tyson Durfey is counting his blessings.
Next week, Durfey will compete in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the seventh time. It’s just another major step in an already-amazing 11-year tie-down roping career, which includes three Canadian titles, a Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo championship and a $100,000 payday this past March for winning tie-down roping at RFD-TV’s The American.
Over his previous six trips to Las Vegas, the Missouri-born cowboy has had a mixed bag of results. He’s seen great success and struggled. Since his first qualification in 2007, Durfey has missed the finale just once; that was two seasons ago when he finished 18th in the world standings – only the top 15 cowboys at the end of the regular season make the trip to Las Vegas.
“My dad was a cowboy, my grandfather was a cowboy and my brothers were cowboys,” said Durfey, the youngest son of Roy Durfey, a man well known as an elite trainer of tie-down ropers and calf-roping horses. “All I wanted was to be a cowboy.”
He’s been that way since he was a young man growing up on his father’s place near Savannah, Mo. That’s where he was taught the lessons of being a true rodeo hand. It’s what’s carried him through his 31 years, both as a talented roper and as a man.
“One thing I still hold onto today is that when I give someone my word, that’s as good as anything I can give them and that I will stand by it,” he said.
That’s a vital point to being a cowboy, but so is competing at a high level.
At 23, Durfey became the first American-born contestant to win a Canadian Professional Rodeo Association title. That came in 2006. He followed that with two other Canadian titles, one in 2008, the last in 2011. Earlier that season, he won the national title for the first time.
“It felt good to win the national championship and the Canadian national championship” in the same year, he said.
He also has made adjustments to his life and his livelihood, which has made a significant difference in how he approaches the work of being a professional rodeo cowboy.
“When I was younger, I’d let that pressure get to me more,” said Durfey, who has sponsorship agreements with Next IT Corp., Zoetis Animal Health, Pro Vision Equine Digital Surveillance, Cinch, Corral Boots, Logan Coach Horse Trailers, Willbros Group Inc., Swift Transportation, HR Workplace Services, Priefert and Silver Lining Herbs. “As I’ve gotten older, I guess I’ve gotten more focused and more confident. Every win gives you a little bit more confidence. If you can take every win, you can just build your confidence over time.
“I rely on what my capabilities are. I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and I know what I’m capable of. If I’m able to stay focused, stay relaxed and rope, the winning takes care of itself.”
Each year on the rodeo trail means another level of experience he carries with him. These days, he also shares his life with his wife of one year, Australian-born country singer Shea Fisher. They live on a place near Weatherford, Texas, when she’s not singing and when he’s not on the rodeo trail.
During his first qualification to the NFR in 2007, he had a much different approach to the game than he does now. The adjustments have made a world of difference.
“I just wanted to win and beat them, but at the end of the day, it boils down to being the best person you can be and doing the best you can do every time,” Durfey said. “I was more focused on trying to win than I was at trying to be the best I could be at the rodeo.”
It’s working rather well.