FORT WORTH, Texas ― Citing the desire to start a family, 13-year veteran and PBR fan favorite Luke Snyder is the latest professional bull rider to announce the 2013 Built Ford Tough Series will be his last.
In his opening remarks, Snyder said, "It's crazy when you actually come out and say it."
However, the 30-year-old from Raymore, Mo., never actually used the word "retirement" or referred to "quitting" one time in a 47-minute long interview in his new home in Springfield, Mo., that he shares with his wife, Jennifer.
Reaction to the news was that of happiness.
His childhood friend and fellow PBR rider Dusty LaBeth said, "I've known Luke since he was 13 and he's lived his dream. He's done it all and the highlight, for me, is him finding Jen. When he found Jen I knew it was close."
"I'm sad to see him leave," said Ross Coleman, "but happy to see him healthy and happy in life with his wife and family, and there (isn't) anything better than that."
Coleman added, "It's been a great ride for him."
"Luke is a role model for younger riders," said PBR co-founder Cody Lambert. "He does the right things and says the right things. Anyone can say the right things, but if they don't really believe it they won't walk the walk and Luke does."
Others, like J.W. Hart, were surprised and saddened to hear of his retirement and the loss of a great spokesperson for the PBR and its sponsors.
"I hate to see that guy do all he did and be as good as he was in our sport, for as long as he was in our sport, and as good as he is for our sport and not get paid off with a world title," Hart said, "because he really could be one of our best world champions ― just the way he speaks, his likeability, his character, the modesty he has. Everything he has is world champion, except what's hanging on his belt.
"He's a good speaker, good looking kid and has a great wife. He has everything but that one buckle, and I hate to see him quit."
"It's always a sad day when one of our veteran riders decides to retire," said PBR CEO and Chairman Jim Haworth. "Luke has had a wonderful career and we've seen him grow up in the PBR. I'm so proud of how he's always handled himself as an ambassador for this organization and our sponsors. While I wish him the best as he moves forward in life, I'm certain someone as well-liked as Luke Snyder will always have a place with the PBR."
Snyder, who was the 2001 PBR Rookie of the Year and World Finals event winner, is the first and only rider to nod his head more than 900 times at Built Ford Tough Series events.
According to Probullstats, he's done so 948 times and with nine regular season events remaining, and one more trip to the World Finals, he'll add 25 to 48 more outs to his PBR career record.
His run of 275 consecutive BFTS events stands as, perhaps, the greatest mark of resiliency (and luck) in what is undoubtedly the most dangerous sport in the world. According to Probullstats, Snyder has been to 355 BFTS events ― another of his PBR records ― and missed only 10 BFTS events in his entire career, which only enhances his "Titanium Tough" moniker.
"What that equates to is getting on more rank bulls than anybody in the history of bull riding," said Lambert, the PBR's livestock director. "There's nobody in the history of the sport that has been on as many rank bulls as Luke Snyder has ― nobody.
"Nobody can compare their career to Luke's because he spent his entire career getting on the best of the best. It's hard to think of. Luke's such a nice guy that you don't think of him as a tough guy, but ― to be able to handle that ― it's hard to compare to anything else because he's been on so many of the best bulls and still does it today."
Coleman said, "If you're going to get on them you might as well get on the best ones. That's a tough little dude right there."
"Wow. That's amazing. That's crazy," Hart said. "Those numbers simply amaze me. I know what kind of luck you have to have to not get hurt for an extended period of time or to make that many in a row, and I hate to see him retire this year."
Lambert added, "If he was a baseball player, it would be like every time he was up to bat he was up against a Cy Young Award winner for 13 years. That just doesn't happen."
Snyder's won six events, recorded 32 Top-5 finishes and posted 74 Top-10 finishes. His $1.7 million in career earnings is 12th on the PBR's all-time list of money-earners.
In 2004, he recorded the highest-marked ride of his career when he rode Werewolf Snuff for 94 points in Fresno, Calif. Snyder won nearly $220,000 in Las Vegas, in 2011, when he claimed the title of Last Cowboy Standing at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, which happened to be the 300th event of his career.
Snyder, who will turn 31 in October, said he contemplated waiting until after his final out at the upcoming World Finals to make the announcement, but ultimately decided against the idea because he felt it wouldn't be fair to his sponsors or the fans, who have supported him since making his BFTS debut in Guthrie, Okla.
"It's a point we all come to and I had a (heck) of a run at it," said Snyder, who said he discussed the decision with family and close friends before making it public. "I (don't) look back and have any regrets for the most part. I always said when I got to the chapter in my life when I wanted to have some kiddos I didn't want to be doing this because everybody knows how dangerous it is, so that kind of gives me some peace of mind.
"There is more to life than riding bulls."
Snyder and his wife were married last November at a ceremony held at the Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Mo.
He credits his wife and her sister, Julie Manna, with the resurgence in his career.
It was the Manna sisters who introduced Snyder to Pilates and yoga, which led him to rededicating himself towards getting into optimal bull riding shape after missing the first Iron Cowboy Invitational of his career in 2010.
"I've never seen anybody that went from a great bull rider to, in my opinion, a below average (rider and) back to being a great bull rider," Lambert said. "I've never seen it happen like that. He spent years struggling to just stay on the Built Ford Tough Series, and then came back and is a Top-10 rider finishing out his career. That's really cool to me."
Lambert went on to explain, "The Built Ford Tough Series breaks an egg in some riders ― it breaks their spirit in almost all of them at some point in their careers ― and it looked like it was doing that with Luke, but he refused to let it happen. He was that tough. He's ridden with injuries and he's ridden with pain, and he's done it forever. He's done it for a long time and ― back to being a role model ― he shows up glad to be there."
Until 2010, he hadn't missed a single BFTS event despite a torn rotator cuff, broken wrist, broken leg, knees that needed to be surgically repaired, multiple concussions, rib injuries and a lacerated chin among other ailments.
He broke the C-7 bone in his neck in April of 2010 and returned to competition three months later in August. It was the only time he missed because of an injury.
By 2011, Snyder reclaimed the promise of his rookie season, when he finished seventh in the world. He's finished 12th and 11th in the world standings the past two seasons, and he is currently 18th after seven years of being outside the Top 20.
"He's so young too, and he's done so much," Coleman said. "He's been nonstop since he was 18 years old. That's a lot of years he's been involved with the PBR. Not only has he rode great bulls and been successful as a great bull rider, and maybe one of the best, but he's done so much for the public relations of the PBR."
For the past two years, Snyder has been involved in national Ford campaigns with the BFTS' title sponsor.
Snyder has made a number of local, regional, national and international appearances on behalf of Bass Pro Shops, WinStar World Casino and other sponsors. He's also made television appearances and even starred in a music video with Master P.
For more photos of Luke Snyder click here.
Television producer Brannon Braga said the first time he met Snyder he recognized him for his movie- star-like qualities.
With all he's done in and out of the arena, Lambert was asked if Snyder would one day cap his career by joining an elite group of riders in the prestigious Ring of Honor.
Lambert, who was among the first class inducted in 1996, replied, "There's no doubt to me."
Though he has more than two months to add to his career totals, the next several weeks will undoubtedly be emotional for Snyder.
Next week's event in Tulsa, Okla., will be his first BFTS event since making his decision public ― although he's known since last year ― and the event in Thackerville, Okla., later this month, means a lot to him considering WinStar was the first sponsor he secured after surging toward the top of the world standings in late 2010, early 2011.
He'll also compete in Nashville, Tenn., where he first met his wife and in Springfield, where Bass Pro Shops is headquartered. Then there is one more trip to Las Vegas, where he earned more than a third of his career earnings.
Snyder has also committed to competing at Australian Cup events in November.
Until the past two summers when he's been invited to compete at the Calgary Stampede, he's regularly gone to Australia with longtime friend Brendon Clark, who also announced his retirement earlier this year.
Both of them will attempt the final bulls of their respective careers at events in Wollongong, Townsville and Tamsworth.
"It's always going to be tough," said Snyder, of walking away from the sport he's been part of since before he was a teenager. "Once you do it this long or you do it at all, any bull rider, once they close that chapter of their life, I mean, it's going to be tough.
"I don't know how much I'll miss the getting banged around and stomped on ― obviously that's part of the sport ― but being with your buddies, seeing your friends and seeing the country and being on the road with them, I mean, this sport draws some of the closest friendships that will last a lifetime."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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