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Champion’s Tumultuous Journey to the Top

“I've been eleven times to the National Finals rodeo. Won over a million-and-a-half dollars in professional rodeo. A three-time Canadian national champion; was the first American in history to ever do that. I won the American Championship in 2014. I was the World Champion in 2016. And since then I've been pretty much consistently in the top five in the world.” Tyson Durfey is one of professional rodeo’s best and brightest stars in the high stakes sport of competitive calf roping. His family has been involved professional rodeo for generations, but--his journey to the top of his field has been anything but easy.

“I rodeoed in a borrowed trailer, I had borrowed horse. I lived in the back seat of my truck for a long time. I would travel from rodeo to rodeo to rodeo and I’d bum showers here, I’d bum showers there. It was miserable but in the midst of all that I found happiness because I was chasing my dream.” He says. His parents divorced when he was young and in his early teens Tyson moved in with his father. Their relationship was tense and volatile.

“16-year-old kid, I want to do things my way. I'm smarter than you, Dad – which I wasn't. I wasn't.” he says, “But we started to butt heads. He was kind of like a wild cowboy outlaw, you know. We fought, I mean, we fought a lot.  You know, there was nothing easy about it. Dad was an alcoholic. You know, some nights he would drink till he passed out, I hate to say it, I really hated him. The last memory that stuck in my head from me and my dad was, you know, us getting into a fight and me thinking I that I was gonna choke him to death. You know, it was a – it's a tough deal to even talk about it, really.”

Hatred towards his father consumed Tyson for years. Then he met a Christian couple who often volunteered to feed the cowboys behind the scenes at the rodeos, they showed him a different way of life. Tyson says, “They'd give you a free Bible. They would give a kind word if you were down. They would feed you. Heck, they would probable even wash your feet, you know. I mean, they literally were the epitome of what a Christian life should be. They would do anything to spread the word of Christ. And I watched their ministry for nine years, watching these people give their heart and soul to all the cowboys that would come through – literally thousands.”

Tyson began reading the Bible and studying the life and words of Jesus.  He says, “I started out with James. I wanted to learn about wisdom, controlling my temper. Then I go to Proverbs and I'm learning all this cool stuff. I'm like, ‘This book is amazing.’ You know. And He just pulled me a little bit, a little bit, a little bit, a little bit.”

Then, in 2012 he was ready to make a change. Tyson says, “I decided 100% – 100% that I was giving my life to God and that I would do no matter what it took to serve His kingdom. I got baptized in a stock tank at Houston Rodeo of all places, get baptized in a stock tank. I come up out of the water and I just feel like this massive release of everything. Like, no more weight on my shoulders. Like I feel, maybe like the presence of God or the Holy Spirit descended on me or something because I just felt like I just completely let everything go. There was nothing holding me back. There were no negative thoughts. At the end I was shaking and shivering and I'm completely soaking and I'm standing in a cold-water tank but it was the best night of my life. I can truly say, above the birth of my daughter, above the marriage of my wife, that was the coolest night of my life because I gave my heart and my soul to Jesus Christ.”

Tyson knew he needed to forgive his dad. While traveling to his next rodeo Tyson made a phone call. “And I said, ‘Dad, I just want to forgive you for everything that you've done to me and I want to – I want you to forgive me for all the things I've done to you, because this is a two-way thing.’ And we had a great conversation. And that was the day I truly forgave my dad for everything that ever happened in our childhood. He says, “To experience Christ and let all that go is, is liberating.  You know, you feel like the Devil's not got a hold of you anymore. You feel like the weight of the world is off your shoulders, that you can go and be a model for other people to live Christ like.”

The following season was a tough one for Tyson and he failed to qualify for the national finals, but says God helped him refocus and receive the mindset of a champion. “I finally decided that I am a child of God and He wants me to be a world champion so that I can give all the glory back to His kingdom. And-and that paradigm shift changed the way I trained, changed the way I thought, I knew that God had gold for me. God wants you to be the absolute best that you can possibly be, and it took me a long time to realize that.

The very next season in 2014 he won the American championship, then 2016 he became the world champion.  But he says all the awards and prize money don’t compare to the new life, and legacy, he started the day he gave his life to Christ.

“I know my kids are gonna grow up in a Godly house. They're gonna – I'm gonna model Godly behavior in front of them. They're gonna go to church every-every Sunday, but not just church, we're gonna study the Bible together as a family. What good is it gain the world and lose your soul? You might have a million bucks in the bank, you might have two million bucks in the bank, but if you sacrifice the lives of your kids to get that money or you put work ahead of them, it just doesn't work. It's empty. You put Him ahead of everything. He will bless you in more ways than you could possibly imagine.”

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