LAS VEGAS – Bull rider Garrett Smith accomplished many goals during his 2016 season.
First he qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, entering the championship 10th in the world standings. Like everyone who earns the right to compete for the biggest payday in the game, he had dreams of leaving Las Vegas with a world championship and the gold buckle that comes with it.
While that didn’t happen, he earned a cherished buckle on Saturday night by winning the 10th go-round with an 84-point ride on Rafter G Rodeo’s J Lazy. He pocketed $26,231 and moved up to fifth in the average with a five-ride cumulative total of 330.5 points; that was worth an additional $22,846.
“Winning that round means everything,” said Smith of Rexburg, Idaho. “Making here was awesome, but finally getting a buckle is great. I was the second one out in a pen of awesome bulls, so I thought there was no chance.”
It held up, with only five men staying on their bulls for the qualifying eight seconds. Smith did that more often than most of the top 15 bull riders in the game. Only four men rode more bulls in Las Vegas. He only placed in the second and 10th rounds, but earning that many qualified rides paid off in the end.
In all, he pocketed $72,269 in Las Vegas and pushed his season earnings to $171,698. He moved up five spots to finish fifth in the final world standings.
“The nights I finally rode one, it seemed like everyone was going to ride one,” said Smith, who finished one spot out of the money twice by placing seventh in both the sixth and seventh rounds. “I could’ve done better, but I’m really happy with how this went. I learned a lot.
“You learn about the bright lights and learned to just take it one bull at a time. Anything can happen. You could be down for a couple nights and right back at the top then next night, so you have to be ready for anything.”
Possibly the best part of the finale was that he was able to share his moment on the biggest stage in the game with his family and friends. At one point or another, many family members made their way to the City of Lights to show their support.
“Family is everything to me,” he said. “Having my mom and my dad and my little brother was great, and my older brother came for a little while. It was the first time I’d seen him in quite a while, so for him to come down and to get calls and texts from him every day was just like old times.
“This whole experience has been very awesome. I couldn’t do it without the family.”
Now his focus turns to the 2017 season, which actually began Oct. 1. He would like to return to the Nevada desert every December as he plays the game he loves.
“I’ve had a really good start to next year already,” said Smith, who has earned more than $17,000 and sits No. 1 in the world standings as he heads toward the 2017 NFR. “Hopefully I can roll this over and keep the momentum up.
“But anything can happen, so I just have to focus on one bull at a time. That’s all it takes.”
It worked over 10 December nights to the tune of more than $70,000, so it should again.