Tutor Excels In Classroom, Arena As Bearkat Rodeo Team Leader
|Junior agribusiness major Bill Tutor has been hot out of the gates since entering SHSU. His freshman year he finished fourth in the Southern region of college rodeo and not only went on to win the region his sophomore year but was named "All American" by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. His goal in his third year on the team is to win the national title in bareback riding and help lead the team to its second national championship in more than 40 years, while maintaining his 3.94 GPA. —Submitted photo|
There are few things easier to stereotype than a Texas cowboy: a cowboy hat- and Wrangler jean-wearing, not afraid to work hard, “yes ma’am”-saying gentleman with boots on his feet and dirt on his hands.
Sam Houston State University junior Bill Tutor is all that and so much more. One conversation with the agricultural business major will leave you wanting to learn more about rodeo life and the second- to-none Bearkat Rodeo Team, led by rodeo coach Bubba Miller, who also proves there’s more to a Texas cowboy than what you might think.
The relationship between this rodeo student and his coach started long before Tutor accepted a scholarship to ride bareback horses for SHSU and before Miller accepted the intimidating challenge of taking the reins of the legendary Sam Houston Rodeo Team.
When Tutor was in junior high school, he met Miller at Branded for Christ Cowboy Church. Miller was, and still is, pastor of the church which is located at his home just north of Huntsville. Prior to starting the church, Miller was a professional farrier, whose love for the Bible and rodeos led him and his wife to the ministry. Along with worship, members of Branded for Life Cowboy Church also participate in church rodeos and Bible camps.
“Bill Tutor came to my house when he was in the eighth grade and said he wanted to ride steers,” Miller said. “In one of our first church rodeo schools, Bill was entered in steer riding and was named ‘Iron Man’ of the rodeo. There were 61 kids in the school and Bill came out on top.
“I had never seen a kid with that much drive and determination get on steers and junior bulls like he did,” Miller said.
During his sophomore year of high school, Tutor reluctantly began riding bareback horses, after being persuaded to do so by his father and Miller.
“He hated it,” Miller said, as the two laugh in remembering.
“I did, believe it or not; I thought I was a bull rider,” Tutor said. “I got bucked off all of the time. But once I started staying on and not getting slammed all of the time, that’s when I started liking it.”
“He really started liking it when he started making some money,” Miller said.
Tutor found great success in the high school rodeo ranks; he even won the Big Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla.
|(Above) Tutor (front row, second from the left), is one of eight SHSU cowboys who compete in the bareback riding event. He competes alongside (front, from left) Blake Dornack, Taylor Price, Donnie B’Oris, (back, from left) Tyler Dartez, Logan Moore, Tanner Mendel and Mason Johnston for the opportunity to participate in the College National Finals Rodeo, held every summer in Casper, Wyo. (Below) The entire nationally recognized SHSU Rodeo Team. —Photos by Brian Blalock|
It was during Tutor’s senior year of high school when Miller began coaching the Bearkat Rodeo Team.
“Taking the job as Sam Houston’s rodeo coach was very intimidating. There were very big shoes to fill with the legendary Sonny Sikes coaching for more than 40 years and Roger Walters and Roger Hanagriff having success as well,” Miller said. “It was kind of at the rebuilding stage when I took over.”
Miller knew as soon as Tutor graduated from high school that he wanted him at SHSU.
Tutor was thrilled to be a part of the Bearkat Rodeo Team. He finished fourth in bareback riding his freshman year, missing out on the opportunity to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo by just 30 points, a slim margin in rodeo scoring.
“He told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to make the College National Finals next year,’ and he did. His sophomore year he won the region easily and did very well on the national level,” Miller said.
Tutor has always exceeded his coach’s expectations, and last year he did it again when he was named “All American” by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
To make the elite list, a college rodeo student must qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo, held in Casper, Wyo., and maintain a 3.5 grade point average in his course work. Tutor, however, doesn’t have a 3.5 GPA; he has a remarkable 3.94.
“It’s an awesome feeling. You can make it and do well in your event, but showing that you can do well in the classroom at the same time is important,” Tutor said. “People say you get busy rodeoing and your school work suffers, but if you really buckle down and work hard enough, you can be successful at both.”
“Words can’t describe how proud I am. For any student to have nearly a perfect GPA is incredible,” Miller added. “His class schedule is tough with agricultural economics and the statistics classes he’s taking; they are academically challenging and he just excels. Excelling in the classroom helps motivate him to excel in the arena as well.”
Tutor is not resting at the top, but is instead setting new, even tougher goals for himself. This year he wants to not only qualify for the 2013 College National Finals Rodeo, he wants to win it.
Last year Miller sponsored Tutor’s professional permit, allowing him to try his hand in the professional rodeo circuit while still competing at the college level. He earned enough money last year to qualify him to purchase his Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association card, which allows Tutor to fully compete at the professional level while still in college. And you’ve guessed it, it has inspired another goal.
“This is my rookie year in the professional rodeo circuit; I want to be rookie of the year,” said Tutor.
Last year Tutor competed in 96 professional rodeos, along with numerous collegiate level rodeos. Doing the math, that’s at least two rodeos every weekend.
During the week, he focuses on coursework and training. Since bareback riding is so tough on the body, his workout regimen is mostly on a stationary machine that allows him to simply go through the motions and not get injured.
Injuries are common to rodeo cowboys, but Tutor calls himself “lucky,” having had only a broken wrist in high school and having his face stepped on just once in college.
“I was only out a couple of weeks with that and it healed,” said Tutor. He takes a fall and gets back on, not only for the thrill of an eight second ride, but because his goals are always in the back of his mind.
Now Tutor and his fellow rodeo cowboys and cowgirls are gearing up for a competition on their home turf. The Sam Houston State Rodeo will feature the best of bull riding, bareback riding, team roping and barrel racing, to name a few events.
There are nearly 100 students in the Sam Houston Rodeo Club, with 72 competing members.
“These students work hard every day. Rough stock riders spend a lot of time in the gym and at the track to stay in shape. We buck horses and bulls every Tuesday, and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, we rope steers, calves and goats. They are practicing every day and year-round,” Miller said.
The dedication has paid off and shows Miller had no reason to be intimidated when he signed on as rodeo coach. In 2011, after coaching only three years, Miller’s men’s rodeo team won the National Collegiate Championship–the first time Sam Houston has held the title in 43 years. They became Reserve National Champs in 2012.
“I feel we are primed,” Miller said. “Getting on top is extremely hard, but staying on top is even harder.
“But guys like Bill Tutor and the rest of these Bearkats want to stay on top,” he said. “We’re two rodeos into our regional competition and both teams are winning the region, and we’re winning several individual events right now, so we’re on course to make a run for the national title for sure.”
Tickets for the Sam Houston State University Rodeo, held at the Lone Star Expo Center in Conroe, are available at Cavender’s Boot City in Huntsville and in Conroe for $5 each, or for $7 at the gates. The rodeo will run from Nov. 8-10, with events starting each night at 7:30 p.m.
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