Acknowledging The All-Time Greats

As a boy growing up in Texas I loved watching the old movies and television shows about the old west. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, John Wayne, and Randolph Scott were among the actors starring in this genre who were often referred to as the “King of the Cowboys.” But ask most any rodeo fan and they’ll tell you that the real life “King of the Cowboys” is nine time World Rodeo champion Ty Murray. It seems Murray was born to be a cowboy. After all, his father was a long time rodeo hand and his mother was a rider in the National Little Britches Rodeo Association who won first place in the National little Britches Rodeo in the bull riding competition. Ty’s parents taught him the rodeo fundamentals growing up. As a nine year old school boy. he wrote an essay on wanting to break Larry Mahan’s record for World All-Around Rodeo championships when he grew up. Murray competed in the Arizona High School Rodeo Association where he was the All-Around Champion cowboy and helped lead his high school rodeo team to its first National High School Rodeo Association championship in 1987. He then attended Odessa College in Texas where he helped lead the rodeo team to a title. Upon joining the PRCA, Murray set out to fulfill his childhood dream of breaking Mahan’s record, although it wasn’t just Mahan’s record any longer. Mahan had won five straight World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles from 1966 to 1970 along with a sixth in 1973. Shortly thereafter another cowboy, Tom Ferguson, won his sixth consecutive All-Around title in 1979 eclipsing Mahan’s consecutive title streak and tying his overall titles mark. So with the bar now set slightly higher, Murray began his assault on the record. Ty won six consecutive World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles from ’89 to ’94 to surpass Mahan and tie Ferguson’s record of six consecutive titles. The All-Around cowboy title is awarded to the top money-earner in that year’s PRCA events. Murray, Ferguson, and Mahan all competed in the rough stock events, bull, bareback, and saddle bronc riding. This made their accoplishments easy to compare.  After knee and shoulder injuries required numerous surgeries and cost him significant down time over the next three years, Murray returned in ’98 to break his tie with Ferguson by winning his record setting seventh PRCA World All-Around Rodeo Championship. That was when they started calling him “King of the Cowboys.” In ’93 and ’98, Murray also won  the PRCA World Bull Riding Championship title. Injuries continued to limit Murray over the next few years. A neck injury in 2002 led Murray to retire from competition. Murray co-founded, competed in, and remains a Board adviser of, the PBR which is the association of Professional Bull Riders. Besides taking care of his ranch in Stephenville, Texas, Murray’s time since retiring from competition is occupied doing television color commentary for PBR events. He met singer Jewel in ’99. The two were married in ’08, had a son, Kase, in ’11, and divorced in ’14. Since Murray’s retiremnt another cowboy, Trevor Brazile, has gone on to surpass Ty Murray’s total of seven World All-Around Rodeo Champion titles.However, many don’t see the accomplishment in the same light, being that Murray, Ferguson, and Larry Mahan earned most of their money in the rough stock riding events, while Brazile’s has come mainly from the roping events. Among the many honors bestowed on Ty Murray over the years are: the Cowboy Capital Walk of Fame in ’88, Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in ’89, Texas Sports HOF in ’99, Pro Rodeo HOF in ’00, Texas Cowboy HOF in ’02, PBR Heroes and Legends Celebration Ring of Honor in ’02, Arizona Sports HOF in ’11, California Rodeo Salinas HOF in ’13, Cheyenne Frontier Days HOF in ’15, and the Texas Rodeo Cowboys HOF in ’16. All of the accomplishments and honors above are why most still consider Ty Murray to be the “King of the Cowboys.”