ARLINGTON, Texas — For being only 24 years old, Tanner Byrne has lived through more tragedy than most can handle. From the death of Max Clunie, who would have been Byrne’s brother-in-law a few years later, to last month’s passing of best friend Ty Pozzobon.
After finishing 14th in the PBR’s World Standings, Byrne was looking forward to the upcoming season back with Pozzobon, who finished 23rd.
“I was feeling really good, getting on some practice bulls at home getting ready for the 2017 season. I wanted to be in top form but sometimes wrecks happen right in your backyard,” Byrne said. “A young bull of ours (Flying Four Bucking Bulls) got me on the ground four days before New York. I broke my shoulder blade and fractured the bone that connects my collar bone to my shoulder and messed some stuff up. I’ve been out since then. I thought it might be a couple week thing like a collar bone but there was quite a bit more stuff messed up in there.”
Six weeks later after a month of physio in Prince Albert, SK a couple weeks in Merritt, BC with the Pozzobon Family and ten days working out with Tom Ockerman in Hawaii, the 2015 PBR Canada Champion gets back to competition at the PBR’s Iron Cowboy at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
“He’s worked with players from the NBA, NFL and fighters from the UFC,” Byrne said of Ockerman. “He, along with a massage therapist here in Maui have rehabbed greatly. They have me feeling no pain, physically I feel 100% again. I’m ready to come back and do some winning.”
Feeling 100% physically could be said to be less than half the battle in the sport of bull riding.
“The injury was the initial thing keeping me out and it’s feeling better now,” Byrne said. “I really wanted to get my mind set to come back and you know to be honest I don’t know if it’s 100% right of if it’ll ever be 100% right. We lost Ty on January 9th and things have been a roller coaster, to say the least, since. He was my best friend since we were young, we were rookies together coming up in Canada. We rolled and travelled together, he was on tour before me and he was the main reason I got on tour after that. He helped me out. There’s not much I can really say about it, he was my best friend. I loved him to death and I love him to death. Nothing ever will ever change on that note.”
“Through him we have an opportunity to help and change. Beauty from ashes. That’s how I will always choose to see it,” – Lauren Blackwell, wife of BMX Athlete Dave Mirra.
“I was kind of mad at bull riding and the whole life of it I guess,” Byrne said. “I just kind of came to grips that it’s not bull riding that did this, bull riding is what he loved and I love. It’s a sport that we live for. He would be mad if I hung it up or if I didn’t come back and go whole heatedly at it for myself and for him. In returning I’ll also be starting an initiative for rider safety and the well-being of us riders. Starting with our youth to the best in the world, I feel it’s our duty to Ty and it’s time for change in our sport.”
As much as it is a change in the sport it’s the same amount education.
“In no way am I going against bull riding or our sport,” Byrne said. “Bull riding is the sport that Ty and I made our living at and loved so very much every minute of the day. We knew/know the dangers it entails. I’m merely raising awareness of the seriousness of head injuries from concussions and talking about depression. I’m hoping with spreading this awareness we can better ourselves and our youth. I want to help educate ourselves and the future generations to come of the implications and affects on our brains from concussions and the protocols needed post injury. I’m trying to better our sport and be an open ear for those suffering from depression, giving hope that your not alone and can reach out for help. If we can better educate and research the brain we can better understand this. So maybe, just maybe, another young man doesn’t have to go through what my little buddy did. So another Mom and family and their loved ones won’t have to stand by helplessly because we simply don’t know enough about the brain.”
When Tanner Byrne does nod his head again this Saturday, Ty Pozzobon will be with him both mentally and physically.
“Luke and Leanne Pozzobon and Chad Besplug gave me Ty’s thunder boots. Every bull I get on now will be with those boots,” Byrne said. “They were Chad’s boots that he won the Calgary Stampede, a Canadian championship and a pile of money in.”
“When Chad and Ty were in Texas a couple years back they bought these boots,” Byrne continued. “When Ty’s stuff got stolen this year in Calgary, he ended up finding it, but when his gear was lost he was scrounging up gear from all his buddies and Chad gave him those boots to wear. Ty was winning but when he did find his stuff again he just kept those lightning bolt boots. He rode with them at the World Finals, won a hundred grand, won Canada in those boots so they’ve got a lot of history.”
“Now I’ve gotta keep that alive,” Byrne said. “I can’t really imagine getting on a bull right now without something of Ty’s so those boots are something you’ll see me in from now on. I’m honoured that Chad and the Pozzobon’s have let me do that and keep Ty’s legacy alive in a small way.”