“It’s a special honor,” said Tuckness, who was also one of five finalists for the award in 2009. “Everyone who has a PRCA card is eligible to vote, so you know when you win it that you’ve earned the respect of a pretty big group. I just thank God for giving me the opportunity and blessing me.”
Tuckness is certainly no stranger to the professional rodeo scene. Even at 24 years of age — young by bullfighting standards — he has spent approximately 250 days per year traveling to and from rodeos and working the various events, including the granddaddy of them all, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“That’s a pretty special one to be invited to work,” Tuckness said. “There’s only three of you, and only the top 20 bull riders in the world standings get to vote for who they want out there.”
Tuckness has been one of those three in each of the last two seasons.
“I just sort of grew up into it,” Tuckness said of bullfighting. “My dad did it. I’ve been running around rodeos all my life. One day, I started doing it. I kind of fell into it and haven’t looked back.”
Tuckness was presented with the award at the PRCA’s annual awards banquet. The event takes place the night before the start of the NFR.
“I’m thankful for my family and friends who support me in my career,” Tuckness said. “The contractors that give you the opportunities, the rodeo committees, my sponsors. There’s so many people that have to get on board and help you get up and down the road every year that you’ve got to thank when you get an award like this.”
While viewed as entertainers by many in the stands, those who make their living in the arena appreciate the work that Tuckness and other bullfighters perform as something far more important.
“We’re in there protecting lives,” he says, matter-of-factly. “It takes a lot of self-discipline, and you have to be willing to make yourself better. I mean, you’re in there going against an animal that’s 2,000 pounds and can wipe you out in an instant. You have to work to improve all the time. You’re never good enough.”
So just what does a bullfighter focus on once the gate is thrown open and bull and rider burst onto the arena dirt?
“You’re focused on both the animal and the rider,” Tuckness said. “Your main focus is on keeping everything as safe as possible. You just sort of read and react. You can’t really think for a second, because if you do, you’ll be a second too late. You just want to be there to prevent the wreck before it happens.”
Over countless rodeos, it is hard to calculate the number of wrecks Tuckness has been able to intercede in and prevent. The riders whose lives he protects on a routine basis have noticed though.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback,” Tuckness said. “They’ve told me I deserved it. Hearning it from the guys you work to save year in and year out really makes it special. You’re out there working hard to see them be as successful as possible.”
As bullfighter of the year, it might seem as though Tuckness is already on top of the game, but he notes the award is likely to throw open some doors that weren’t open previously.
“I’ve already had a few new rodeos give me a call,” said Tuckness. “Other people see you get recognized and it gets you some opportunities. I’ll probably see a few more rodeos, both this next year and in years down the road as events that already have contracts signed for 2011.”
Regardless of who comes calling, Tuckness is determined to treat 2011 in much the same fashion as he’s handled earlier years in his career.
“The focus is always on taking one rodeo at a time,” he says. “Whatever God has in store for me, that’s what’s going to happen. I’m going to keep working to try and make myself better and put in as much effort as possible. I just look forward to whatever the good Lord wants and I’ll let everything else play out for itself.”