Platte Valley graduate Jacob Smith taking on next challenge as pro and collegiate bull rider | TheFencePost.com

Platte Valley graduate Jacob Smith taking on next challenge as pro and collegiate bull rider

Bobby Fernandez

He did so with regularity during his time at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo. — in the classroom, on the football field and within the baseball diamond.

The challenge he has taken on at the University of Wyoming is on a whole different level.

Smith, a 2014 Platte Valley graduate and current sophomore at Wyoming, is the top college bull rider in the region and is fifth nationally.

He's also in his second year of owning a pro card, and he does plenty of traveling to pro rodeos during the summer.

He has designs on making a living as a bull rider once he graduates from college.

Sure beats a nice, cushy office job.

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"I definitely want to spend my time after college rodeoing as hard as I can," said Smith, who is also an accomplished student, studying petroleum engineering at UW. "As soon as (school) is done, I'm going to pursue that dream."

Smith, 19, said he plans to take as sincere of a shot as possible at being a full-time bull rider after college.

Once his rodeo career is wrapped up, however, he'll be able to fall back on his engineering degree.

"Once I'm crippled … you can't ride bulls forever," Smith said, jokingly.

Smith's team at UW is in the hunt to make it to the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., this June, and Smith is a big reason why.

Because of his busy school schedule, Smith competes in about one rodeo, usually in-state, per weekend. That pace will pick up significantly this summer.

Smith's pro career is budding. He recently won the Mountain States circuit in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.

"I think it is pretty cool," Smith said of his recent success. "I just want to build on it and definitely keep going further."

Though his rodeo career is nowhere near as hectic during the school year as it is during the summer, Smith said juggling his college rodeo schedule with schoolwork is a hefty task in itself.

"You lose the weekend (to compete in rodeos) when there is so much of that open time for studying and getting homework done, finishing your week and then starting your next week — It definitely makes it hard to do that," Smith said. "So, you have to stay on top of things during the week and make sure you know where you stand in your classes."

Smith's rodeo career had rather modest beginnings, as most rodeo careers do.

"We thought it would be cute to put him on the sheep at the Stampede," Jacob's mother Teri said with a laugh. "So, that's kind of when it started."

Smith was a baseball and football standout at Platte Valley, winning a Class 2A state football title as a co-captain with the Broncos in 2013.

He first dipped his toe in rodeo when he was 6 years old, riding sheep and calves.

Smith never backed down when lowering his shoulder and charging through an opposing defensive line as a wingback on the football field or when acing a test in the classroom at Platte Valley. So, naturally, he hasn't flinched when taking on the challenge of pursuing a bull riding career at the pro and college levels.

"He's a tough kid," Teri said. "He's a tough kid mentally, and this is his passion. He loves it, and it is just really fun to see him pursue it, be successful and to see how hard he works to be successful."

Jacob comes from a tight-knit family with his mother and father (Gary), younger sisters (Maggie and Claire) and younger brother (Eric) all actively supporting each other in their various endeavors.

"It's definitely really cool," said Maggie, a standout volleyball player who recently committed to the University of North Dakota.

"I've watched him ride bulls since he was little. So, watching him grow up and fall in love with that and be super successful at it while still loving it — it's really cool to watch."

Rodeo is not particularly prominent within the Smith family, but Jacob's aunt, Kristen, is involved in rodeo through gymkhana.

Jacob was introduced to the sport during numerous trips the family made to the Greeley Stampede when Jacob was younger.

"At the Greeley Stampede, we would always go and watch the rodeo, and my favorite part was always watching the bull riding," Jacob said. "When I started, I knew I wanted to ride bulls someday. When you're riding calves, you watch the older guys get on bulls, and that's what you want to do."

Smith first got on a bull when he was about 12 years old, progressing to bigger and better bulls from year to year.

As dangerous of a sport as bull riding is, Smith said his family has always been encouraging.

"I think they all know there are risks involved, but it's not like they're constantly telling me, 'Don't get hurt,' because it's just like anything else," Smith said. "You can get hurt, but you're just out there doing what you love to do, like football or any other sport, or any other activity."

Teri has seen her son experience many of the bumps and bruises that are part of the everyday life of a bull rider, but Jacob has managed to avoid major injuries.

While admitting there are still plenty of nerves that go with being the mother of a bull rider, Teri said she's learned to cope with them the best she can while offering plenty of unconditional support to her son.

"He gets on (the bull) in the chute, and I start praying and let glory be, and I just kind of keep going and going until they open the door," Teri said. "Then, it's like, you just kinda of hold your breath, get excited and yell. … It is nerveracking, but I'm nervous when the kids (Maggie and Eric) leave the house in the morning to drive themselves to school." ❖

The Jacob Smith File

» Smith is a professional bull rider that also competes at the college level with the University of Wyoming.

» He graduated from Platte Valley High School in 2014 and was a standout football player and baseball player.

» He is the top college bull rider in the region and is fifth nationally.

» He recently won the Mountain States circuit in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.

» At Platte Valley, he was a strong contributor to the Broncos 2013 Class 2A state championship team, rushing for 590 yards and nine touchdowns on 97 carries. He led the team in receiving with 36 catches for 390 and two touchdowns. He was second on the team in tackles with 139.

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