T.J. Gray has had the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo circled for a long time.
He has had the aspiration to win the competition for years.
Any young, talented cowboy would want nothing more — win your local rodeo.
After the first day of the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo at the Klamath County Fairgrounds, Gray felt more than comfortable.
The Grays are among the more well known bull riders in the Klamath Basin.
They have two of the top young bull riders in the country, both of whom were raised in the small town of Dairy.
Both Levi and T.J. Gray are national junior champion bull riders.
T.J. Gray is in coming fresh off being a national champion this past year, the final year he was able to be in the competition.
He has had one desire on his bucket list yet to fulfill.
Levi won the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo three years ago, one thing T.J. Gray has been more than eager to do as well.
This year, Levi Gray did not participate in the event, but was there to coach and cheer his younger brother on.
Winning the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo this year might be his last chance after he said this year could be the final time he will be in the competition.
Gray drew the bull named “Party Pooper.”
Coincidentally, it was the same bull his older brother used to win the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo several years ago.
Party Pooper held true to his name. The final four seconds of the ride were the most difficult.
“I had a good bull tonight. I felt a lot better at the beginning then towards the end. He was getting ahead of me,” Gray said. “He kicks hard the first couple of jumps, but spins really fast. He kind of had me beat. There was a near scare for me, but I braced for it and did not fall off.”
Gray’s effort was a 79 Friday night, which had him in the lead.
One thing Gray holds dear is being honest with himself.
His highest score ever, a 92, he attained a month ago during a competition.
It may have been his best ride on record, but he thought otherwise.
“A 92, it was not quite worth it in my opinion. I would say 88 was my best legit score,” Gray said. “The score does not solely depend on flash. There are different judges. I want to ride fundamentally correct and earn it the right way.”
It is known in bull riding, a cowboy is not left without a scratch.
Gray has had his series of concussions and broken arms.
One of Gray’s broken arms sidelined him from riding for four months.
He has showed his endurance after he hurt his knee, which required surgery, but kept competing on it until he had surgery at the start of this year.
That injury was the longest he went without riding a bull and took him out of rodeo’s for five months.
If it were up to him to choose, the broken arm hurt the most.
“There were times when I really got down on myself. I was injured a lot when I was young. Since I have been in high school, I have been fortunate to stay away from injuries,” Gray said. “Four months — that felt like eternity.
“It was easier to start at a young age because you get through all doubt. Fear is all out of the way.”
It is a scary business.
Gray said many of the friends he has known through bull riding, have been injured to the point where they could not be on bulls anymore.
“I visualize a lot. I read positive thinking books. That gets your mental game on point. I sit on barrels and 55-gallon drums shaped like a bull. I just picture it as if I am on a bull,” Gray said.
Now that he is 18 years old, Gray will next get his pro rodeo card.
It will mean he will be able to compete in rodeo events with his older brother once more after not being able to for months.
He will be headed to compete now at Central Arizona College.
“He (Levi) just got home and it was great to have him watch me (Friday). He gave me some great tips. He started earlier than me and got things figured out earlier than me,” Gray said. “We should be seeing each other more now.”
The Gray brothers are not your average family.
The two brothers played football together in middle school, but decided they wanted to take a route not many would take.
They returned their football helmet for a permanent cowboy hat.
Now Gray is hopeful he can win the bull riding event where he essentially grew up at.
“For me, it all started right here at the fairgrounds when I was young getting on sheep and calves. There is also a winter series, and rode all winter here,” Gray said. “This is where I got my start. Now, I have been at rodeo’s through the West Coast and have been doing what I can control.”
“There are not many bull riders from the area anymore. I want to make this my life for as long as I am healthy. Being a kid, I knew I wanted to do this my whole life so there is not much that made me deter from it.
“Just glory to God. Jesus saves.
“I try to look at it more as I am blessed to get on bulls. Even when you are doing bad and not riding well, you are still riding on bulls, you are still blessed. You cannot complain about that.”