ProFile: Layne Ward

by Lily Landreth

Bull rider Layne Ward won the NIRA’s Southwest Region in 2015 competing in just five rodeos – half of a college rodeo season. This year, he’s sitting second in the region with plans to defend his title and represent Odessa College a second time at the CNFR. “This year is going good – I won the first rodeo of the season and placed in the second,” says the 22 year old from Almo, Idaho. He attended Utah State University for a semester in 2014 but competed in a full season of rodeo. When he arrived at Odessa College, he needed 24 previous credits before he was eligible for a second season of college rodeo, giving him just the spring of 2015 to qualify for the CNFR, which he accomplished by winning three rodeos and placing second in another. “College finals was rough – I’d separated my shoulder the week before in an accident and then went to two pro rodeos before the CNFR, so it was a hard week. But the experience was great and it’s a really fun rodeo to be a part of – it makes me hungry to do good this year and get back there!”
Odessa College came onto Layne’s radar when several of his friends, including a cousin, chose to attend school there. “C.J. Aragon, our rodeo coach, recruited my cousin, and I thought it would be pretty awesome to rodeo here,” Layne recalls. “C.J. put a scholarship together for me, and this is my second year here now. I love it here – the college and their rodeo program are great, and so is C.J. He’s always encouraging me, and any time I’m down, he’ll give me a boost. If I’m ever going through a rough time and have to ask myself why I’m doing this (rodeo), I’m reminded that I’m doing it to win titles, but I mainly want to push myself to see how great I can be. If I’m not at that point, then I need to keep working, and my coach and my parents do a great job of keeping me going. It’s always good to have those outside sources, but if you don’t have the internal drive to push yourself each day, it can be pretty tough.”
Growing up on a ranch in southeast Idaho gave Layne the foundation for the self-motivation and hard work bull riding requires. His parents, Steve and Tonya Ward, took him to gymkhanas where he rode sheep and calves before he competed in a year of junior high rodeo, while his brother and two sisters also compete. “I stick to the thrill side of things – I’m usually the one up for doing the scariest stuff,” Layne says with a laugh. “I try to take anything to the next level, whether it’s boating or riding my dirt bike.” In high school, he competed in amateur rodeos in the area, but after graduating, made a difficult choice to pause his rodeo career and serve a two year LDS mission in Mesa, Arizona. “Right as you graduate high school, it’s an important time in a rodeo career as you transition and practice for the college and pro level. It was a tough decision and I had to leave everything – I couldn’t ride bulls or horses or go to a rodeo for two years, but I don’t think I’d be as good as I am today if I hadn’t gone on that mission. I was able to heal up and work out, and let my body grow. But it was also a mental break that helped me forget about rodeo for a while and serve other people. It helped me grow up and mature, and put a lot of things into perspective.”
Returning to the chutes two years later wasn’t as challenging as Layne expected, but he admits it was still rough. “It was frustrating to re-learn some things, but I’d also forgotten some bad habits, and once it clicked, I knew how it should feel again,” he says. “Rodeo down here in Texas is a different level. It’s not better than anywhere else, but everybody here is ready to do well and help everyone else do the same. They step up the game and make rodeo what it is.”
Layne filled his PRCA permit this year and plans to ride on his card starting with the 2017 season. He’ll graduate in the spring with degrees in business administration and general studies. “I couldn’t have done a lot of this without the help of my sponsor, Brahma Lending and Leasing,” he finishes. “I’d like to win the college region here again and win the CNFR. I want to rodeo as hard as I can and see how far I go, but the aim is to make the NFR and win a gold buckle. I plan on going all the way!”

© Rodeo Life Media Corporation | All Rights Reserved • Laramie, Wyoming • 307.761.9053

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