LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As the rodeo kicks off, East Texans can expect a special treat. The 2013 Saddle Bronc Riding Rookie of the Year was one of our very own born and raised right here in Central. Ty Kirkland has come back home to compete in the Angelina Benefit Rodeo.
"I go to about 100 rodeos a year and never stay in the same spot twice," said Ty Kirkland, Professional Saddle Bronc Rider.
At only 23, he's been around the country and back.
"I can't explain it. It's just a dream come true. Most people don't get to see the things I've seen, and I'm only 23," Kirkland said.
The daredevil has seen it all, including his dreams of becoming a successful professional saddle bronc rider come alive. He wears his wins on a buckle.
Kirkland will be saddling up right here in East Texas at the Angelina County Expo Center, but it's not just home. The beginning of the dream come true started right here in a bucking shoot.
"The pastor at a cowboy church here at the expo center talked about riding a bucking horse, and I said 'Hey, that sounds cool," Kirkland said.
"I got bucked off, and I just wanted more and more after that. It's been a thing ever since."
Kirkland joined the PRCA in 2013. He's fairly new to the game but rules the reigns like a champ.
"I just kept pushing, and my mom kept saying 'you got it, you got it.' I took it one horse at a time and finally got it pulled off," Kirkland said.
He's excited, confident, but just a tad bit nervous because tonight's crowd won't be filled with faces of strangers - but with the people who watched him grow.
"It's great. I get to see everybody who keeps up with me on Facebook...all the family," Kirkland said.
Before he hopped on the saddle, he had words of wisdom for those with a passion to feel the thrill of riding.
"If it's your dream, don't have any doubts. Just think you're the best. Just try hard every time like you'll never get to try again," Kirkland said.
Kirkland will hit the dirt at 7 o'clock tonight. The Angelina Benefit Rodeo is going through Saturday. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the rodeo begins at 7 p.m.