BILLINGS — This is it.
Three horses and he’s out.
“That’s all I’ve got left in me,” said Tyrell J Smith with a chuckle.
The 32-year-old Smith has made it official last month, announcing through social media that the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in Great Falls would be his last rodeo.
“I’ve been doing this for 13 years,” he said of being a professional saddle bronc rider. “I’m kind of at the end.”
The MPRF features the top 12 in the 2018 standings. The year-end and Finals champions qualify for the national circuit championship this March in Kissimmee, Florida.
There are performances Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.
Even if Smith wins the year-end or Finals titles, his last rides will be in Great Falls.
“I’ll let the spot roll down to the next guy,” he said.
Smith, of Sand Coulee, turned pro in 2006 and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 2012. He won the MPRC Finals title in 2015.
Smith enters the MPRF fourth in the saddle bronc standings, trailing Jesse Kruse of Great Falls by $5,859. Kruse is the 2009 world champion.
Between the two veterans are Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge and Melstone’s Sage Newman. Brooks and Newman traveled with Smith this past summer with the elder cowboy taking care of the scheduling and travel itineraries. Brooks competed at his first NFR this past December in Las Vegas.
“I’ve always been a guy in a mentor-type position,” said Smith. “That gives me a little peace of mind about the decision. Knowing that in some small way, I was part of Chase’s qualifying for the NFR.
“That allows me to walk away satisfied.”
Smith finished 25th in the final 2018 world standings.
During his career, Smith was always knocking on the NFR door, finishing among the top 30 in the world standings eight times, including 16th in 2016 and 18th in 2011. But his career has also been slowed by a myriad of injuries.
“I’ve invested so much into my career,” he said of time and finances. “I didn’t reach some of my goals. Maybe without the injuries, things would have turned out differently.”
But Smith wasn’t going to wait to be escorted out of the arena.
“That’s something that’s been important to me,” he said. “To go out on my terms.”
For his near future, Smith is contemplating a career in law enforcement. He just started working for the Motor Carrier Service of the Department of Transportation, which helps regulate the trucking industry.
“It was the first law enforcement job I could get close to home,” he explained. “I actually considered the military when I was in high school but when you’re 17 years old and making $30,000 riding bulls, you don’t have a care in the world and the military stuff kind of falls away.”
Smith, who has a goal of becoming a county sheriff, has already started the process. “I went through the training,” he said. “The next step would be field training and then the academy in Helena.
“I just want to find out where I fit in best. I want to find something that’s finally stable. Maybe start a family. I want to find out where I fit in best. Being with MCS gives me a good opportunity to get some experience and find out where I fit best. I might stay with them.”
He and his wife Janelle also want to finish building on their property.
“For a lot of reasons, financial and time, it’s been pushed back. Now it’s time to get that done,” Smith said.
And he won’t be far from rodeo. Smith is involved with “Broncs, Bulls and Bibles,” rodeo camps with University of Providence assistant rodeo coach Sylvan LaCross, and his father John still runs JS Rodeo out of Cascade.
“I want to help some kids along the way,” said the younger Smith.
And should Smith become a county sheriff, his former traveling partners shouldn’t expect any breaks if caught speeding in his patrol area.
“I’d ticket all those little turds just for fun,” Smith finished with a laugh.
NOTES: Other standings leaders are: Jessy Davis, bareback; Brendan Laye, steer wrestling; Delon Parker, team roping headers; Justin Viles, team roping heelers; Haven Meged, tie-down roping; Shelly Anzick, barrel racing, Parker Breding, bull riding. Hank Hollenbeck leads the all-around standings. He has qualified in steer wrestling and tie-down roping. … Breding is going for his fourth consecutive year-end bull riding title and fifth in the last six years. He is also a three-time national circuit champion. … The steer wrestling field includes 2018 NFR qualifiers Bridger Chambers, Ty Erickson and Scott Guenthner. … Only $473 separates the top three in the bareback standings, while Parker has a lead of $526 on Travis Tryan for team roping headers. ... Wyoming cowboys have five of the top six spots in the team roping heeling standings.