Will Smith

by Lily Landreth
Will Smith

Determined is the word that best describes PRCA cowboy Will Smith and his rodeo career. Coming from a family that did not have roots in rodeo, Will’s leap into the sport began when he was 13 at a weekend rodeo school. After buying his PRCA permit twice, then filling both permits at his first rodeos, Will acquired his rookie card in 2010. Since then, the 24-year-old saddle bronc rider from Marshall, Mo. has persistently worked his way to now being 16th in the PRCA world standings.

Will’s introduction to rodeo came from watching a friend of his compete in high school rodeo. His interest piqued, 13-year-old Will told Jim Smith – his grandfather and close friend – that he wanted to ride a bucking horse. “He told me that I would have to ask my mom,” Will recalls. “She wasn’t very excited about it, but I went to Summerville, Ga. (for the Sankey Rodeo School) and I got on seven broncs that weekend. The last one I broke my arm on. When my dad took me to the doctor and found out it was broken, he knew that I really wanted to ride broncs, since I’d broken my arm and still wanted to do it.” After his first taste of saddle bronc riding, Will was sold on the sport.

Following the weekend at the Sankey Rodeo School, Will began competing in high school rodeos in saddle bronc riding and calf roping. He and his family, especially his grandfather, plunged into rodeo together. Being a town kid, Will spent a considerable amount of time riding horses on his grandparent’s farm outside of Lugoff, S.C. Will and his grandfather traded with a friend for an old bay mare which Will would practice bucking on. The mare was put on a lunge line and Will was put on her back. “That horse bucked like crazy and that got us our big start,” says Jim Smith.

Although Will and his family had been involved in horse 4H, they were now off to rodeos. Will would travel with his grandparents, Jim and Myra Smith, in their RV, and his parents, Billy and Lynn Smith, would come after getting off work. Though competition was fierce his first year of high school rodeo, Will made it to the national high school finals that year, and every year after. In addition to his family, Will was greatly supported by SCHSRA board members Eddie Truesdale and Scott Smith. Will spent his high school years going to rodeos, wrestling, or working on projects for student government. His senior year of high school Will ran an extensive campaign for student government. “I could’ve been mayor of the town,” he said with a laugh. “It was a pretty big campaign.”

It was at the national high school rodeo finals that Ken Mason, rodeo coach at Missouri Valley College, first saw Will riding a saddle bronc. He recruited him to the rodeo team, and in 2007 Will took the next step towards his rodeo career. Coming from the east coast, Will stood out amongst his teammates from the Midwest. His skinny jeans and long hair made him look a little different, according to his friend Brady Wilson, who first met Will in college. However, his teammates always wanted him to win, and Will was on the team when they won second in the nation at the college national finals rodeo in 2010.

Will’s bronc riding improved significantly through college rodeo. “He wanted to get better. He craved it,” says Brady Wilson. Then Ken Mason put him to work on the spur board, and Will worked at it feverishly, getting his legs into shape. “Will would get on as many broncs as we had at practice. If we had ten horses to buck, Will would get on every one,” Ken Mason says. “He’s a winner. He loves riding broncs and he loves Christ.”

Will began college studying political science, thinking he would go into politics later in life. However, he says, “I fell into a good group of kids. They started a Bible study, God led me in that direction, and the next thing I knew I was a religion major.” Will has also started working on a double major in business, which he hopes to finish when rodeo slows down for him. He hopes to earn his master’s degree in theological studies and become a professor, and even pursue a mission trip to Papua New Guinea someday. Another goal that is very significant to Will is settling down to have a family.

Since finishing his degree and leaving college, Will has been on the road to rodeos all over the U.S., as well as Canada in CPRA rodeos. He is constantly looking for ways to improve his riding. One approach that he has taken is travelling with fellow saddle bronc riders and PRCA cowboys Cody DeMoss, Curtis Garton, Ty Atchison, and Wade Sundell. Another asset to Will’s success is being surrounded by so many supportive people. Of his role models, Will says, “My granddaddy, Jim Smith, is always telling me that you only live once. Ken Mason, (Will’s rodeo coach) is like a second dad/brother. I call him all the time.” Will looks up to his dad for his discipline, and he says of his mother, “I love her to death. Her motherly love keeps my heart full and my hopes up.”

The support that Will has received from family and friends has done wonders, as he has many titles and accomplishments under his belt. Will is most proud of winning the 2010 Great Lakes circuit championship in saddle bronc riding. And one of his most recent accomplishments, winning the Casey Tibbs Match of Champions with a 90 point ride on Chuckulator. “Not very many guys can say that they won that. I’m proud to be one of them.”

Will has the WNFR in his sights, and many of his friends and mentors expect to see him riding broncs there this December. “I think every cowboy’s goal is to win a world title. For sure that’s my goal someday.” But Will is not in rodeo only for titles and championships. He says, “Growing up, my granddaddy had really cool stories of travelling. I want to have those stories to tell my grandchildren.”

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