GREAT FALLS — The 41st Montana Circuit Finals return to Great Falls this weekend, and the beginning of the 2019 season marks the end of a career for one highly successful cowboy.
Former circuit saddle bronc champ Tyrell Smith plans to make this weekend’s rodeo his last as a competitive cowboy. The Sand Coulee native is healthy now but has seen injuries derail several promising seasons over the past few years. The 2012 National Finals Rodeo qualifier, 2016 Montana Circuit champ and 12-time circuit finals qualifier also decided to retire to help clear a path for young up and comers and travel partners like Chase Brooks and Sage Newman.
Brooks recently qualified for his first NFR in the 15th and final position, and left Las Vegas with more than $90,000 in earnings after winning Rounds 7 and 8. It was a proud moment for Smith, who has traveled with Brooks for years.
“I was more nervous about it than he was,” Smith chuckled. “I was always checking up on him and making sure his head was in the right place. He would just shake it off like nothing happened. Kid’s in a really good spot to make a huge, huge jump in his career.”
Smith is 32 years old and has seen too many cowboys dragged out of the arena. He always wanted to go out on his own terms and is at peace with his decision.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve been traveling hard for 13 years trying to go back to Vegas,” Smith said. “I feel like I’ve done a lot and a lot of the stuff I’ve put on the back burner as far as building a place (in Sand Coulee), and starting a family has never really been the focus of everything, and so I think it’s time. The bronc riding world is in good hands as far as Montana as concerned, so I’m more excited to come home than I am to head back on the road.”
Smith and his wife, Janelle, will work to turn their land into a makeshift arena with the goal of hosting youth riding camps like the Broncs, Bulls and Bibles camp his friend Sylvan La Cross runs annually in Miles City.
It’s also a chance for Smith to make a career change. He recently turned in his trademark plaid shirt for a uniform, working for the Motor Carrier Services near Belt. Ultimately, Smith hopes to become a deputy with the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department.
“You rodeo for so long, you got to have something fun and interesting to take up your attention afterwards,” Smith said of a career in law enforcement. “I’ve never stayed in one spot long enough to get involved in the community and give back to it. This is a way to get invested in my community and do more for the place where my kids are going to grow up and where I’m going to raise my family.”
But before he gets too wrapped up in his new life, he has three more horses to ride. Smith enters the finals in fourth place in the year-end standings, behind work champ Jesse Kruse in first and his travel partners Brooks and Newman in second and third, respectively. The top four are separated by just more than $4,000, and Smith doesn’t plan on letting his friends spoil his retirement without a fight.
“A circuit title is within striking distance for all four of us,” Smith said. “Montana has always been known for good bronc riders. I think it’s going to be one of the best circuit finals we’ve had in a long time.”
The first of three performances at the Montana Circuit Finals is set for Friday, 7 p.m. at the Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.