Tim O’Connell was the first bareback rider from the state of Iowa to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in over three decades when he made his first appearance in 2014. That was just one year after he joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
He finished that season in eighth place and came back determined to do even better in 2015. Last year, he was fourth in the standings in spite of missing four critical weeks of the season in July. He broke the middle bone in his riding hand all the way from his finger to his wrist.
O’Connell, like most bareback riders is no stranger to injury. He competed at his first NFR with a strained hamstring. He is healthy now and wants nothing more than to win a world championship.
Last year was eventful for the second generation rodeo competitor in and out of the arena. He won the National Intercollegiate Bareback Riding championship in June of 2015 for Missouri Valley College (MVC) where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations. He married his wife, Sami, and they bought a place at Marshall, Mo., close to Sami’s work at MVC.
He won the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo championship in Kissimmee, Fla., last April and is headed to his third NFR in December.
Favorite movie: That’s a tough question. To be honest, I watch a lot of different movies, but my favorite is probably The Cowboys, with John Wayne.
Favorite current TV show: Really like Hell on Wheels.
Dogs or cats: Dogs – I have a red heeler/German Shepherd cross. His name is Jackson. He has the body of red heeler and markings of German Shepherd. I like to take him with me when I don’t have to fly. If Sami comes with me, Jackson gets to tag along.
Favorite dessert: Chocolate milkshake with peanut butter in it – gotta have your protein!
Favorite board game: Monopoly – my wife has gotten very good at beating me. It turns into a chaotic situation between me and her.
Favorite sport, other than rodeo: Wrestling – collegiate and high school wrestling. I was a wrestler growing up.
If you weren’t in rodeo, what would you be doing: I never really thought about it. Probably try to find a way to raise some cows, be involved in farming and ranching.
Best childhood memory: Going around the country with my dad from rodeo to rodeo. I got to see a lot of country at a young age. At that time, he was picking up for the Cervis and Three Hills.
Best gift you ever received: Besides my wife, obviously. She got me a cross necklace from Hi Ho Silver that I wear every day.
Favorite thing you like about Las Vegas: I really like the lights of Vegas. They are very distinctive, especially on the Strip. When you see those lights and see all the people, it makes you realize that you made it (to the NFR).
Historical figure you’d most like to meet: I’d probably like to meet Billy the Kid (without him shooting me). The story behind him is really unique and I’d like to sort out the fact from the fiction. Movies have clouded the historical facts.
What do you like to do in your spare time: I like playing cards quite a bit. There are a group of us that play at home and we will play Chicago Euchre for hours. It’s similar to Pitch. It’s a pretty intense game. There is a lot of yelling that goes on between us.
My role model is: My dad – he taught me how to grow up. He taught me everything a kid needs to know to become a man.
What would people be surprised to learn about you: I really like wood working. I’ve been making a lot of things for the house. I made a day bed, a desk, and an outdoor table with chairs.
Best travel partner: I’ve had quite a few guys that have been instrumental in my success. We’ve had the same goals and just have all gotten along and fed off of each other.
Music: I listen to everything but probably mostly older traditional country.
Favorite Bucking Horse: Top Flight of Pickett Pro Rodeo. I’ve been on that horse four times, twice at the NFR. She’s special, produces great colts, bucks hard every time. She’s just phenomenal.
Best quality your wife possesses: She knows how to keep me sane. Knows how to calm me down and helps me remember to put God First in everything.
How did you get your middle name Ray: It’s from my father.
Best thing about being married: I get to hang out with my best friend.