ODESSA, TX (KWES) - 3 members of the Odessa College Rodeo team were selected as NIRA Scholar Americans. I caught up with Coach C.J. Aragon and one of those student athletes to find out it all fits together.
"Layne Ward, Jessie Morriss and Cody Falconer were recognized as National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Scholar All-Americans," said Aragon.
Those are impressive honors, to be sure. But it's not as easy as it sounds. Honors like those require a 3.5 GPA or higher, in addition to their performance in the rodeo arena.
"There's a lot of contestants that are really good on the rodeo side of it and there's a lot that are really good at the academic side of it. But, they took the time to be good at both, of them," Aragon explained.
Of the three, Layne Ward is the only one still attending Odessa College. Jessie and Cody have already graduated. Layne is a sophomore bull rider who wants to major in engineering. Odessa, Texas is a long way from Alma, Idaho.
Layne says he was surprised to learn he had gotten the award. But, as he found out more about it, he was, definitely, honored. But, how does he juggle school work and rodeo at the same time?
"Sometimes, you have to sacrifice a little bit of practice time for school and your school work, when it's piling up and when you've got important stuff. But, still getting in the time that you need to, in practice pen, to do good at the rode," commented Ward.
Layne says there's not much free time. And even so, he still manages to find time to bull ride, professionally, too.
"I enter a lot of professional PRCA rodeos around here and back home," he said.
Layne says he doesn't, really, get scared when he rides, "I think I've done it enough, now, to where, you know, it's kind of a calculated risk, at this point. I know what can happen. But, I've done it enough that I know I can be successful at it."
Successful he has been. He won the southwest region in bull riding and finished in the top 20, in the nation, last year. All as a freshman.
Layne has a lot of goals set for himself. He wants to make a living out of riding bulls, make the National Finals Rodeo and win the World Championships. But, he will always ride for the love and thrill of the game.
"Just the fact of you, riding a bull, it's the self-accomplishment, stepping off and that rush, that feeling of doing it, you can't, really, compare it to anything," Layne concluded.