Ten-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier Mike Smith walked away from rodeo after the 1999 season, deciding he wanted a break and to stay home with his wife, 1990 Miss Rodeo America Joni (James) Smith, and their two young children.
Smith, the 1998 world steer wrestling titlist, eventually moved from Louisiana to his wife's home in Idaho, where he remained out of the rodeo picture.
Now 38, Smith says he's hungry again and wants to pursue an 11th Wrangler NFR berth and second world title. He's reunited with renowned hazer and good friend Jimmy Powers and things are looking up.
Smith launched his comeback recently with a major win at the Livingston Round-Up (July 1-4) where he beat 109 other bulldoggers with a run of 3.9 seconds. The win earned the Cajun cowboy $3,225.
"I'd been gone for all those years and never been home and made the Finals all those times. [I] kind of accomplished all the goals I wanted in the sport," Smith said, "I took three years off and now I'm wanting to do it again. I'd like to make the [Wrangler] NFR some more times and by then my kids will be at the age that they'll be involved in rodeo."
The timing, Smith said, seemed right to launch his comeback bid.
"I went to a few rodeos this winter and was still working around the house and I thought, 'Mike, if you are ever going to do it again, you're 38 years old, the time is now.' I feel revitalized and refreshed after being at home those years. I still feel good physically, I never was hurt. Now, I would like to go back to the finals maybe three or four times, who knows. It's set up a lot different now, where a guy can really make some money and you can be home a lot more than he used to."
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