Three world championships in four years, and all before his 24th birthday. Some people consider World Champion Bareback Rider Will Lowe a legend in the making, but he has difficulty seeing himself that way. Lowe thinks of himself as a "regular" cowboy, one who's lucky to have nabbed another world title.
"The guys who hold the top records, they're the legends," Lowe said. "I'm just blessed to have three of them (world titles). Of course I'd like to (tie or break the record), and that'd be a goal, but just one is phenomenal."
Lowe ran away with the world title this season, finishing the year with nearly $100,000 more in earnings than runner-up Bobby Mote. Lowe was the only world champion to successfully defend his 2005 world title, and was the first bareback rider to win back-to-back titles since Marvin Garrett from 1994-95.
Joe Alexander and Bruce Ford hold the record for most bareback riding titles with five, and Alexander did it consecutively from 1971-75. Lowe said he views Alexander and Ford, as well as four-time world champion Garrett, in a category all their own, one that his victories don't compare to.
But the statistics say differently. Lowe is halfway to breaking the five-title record, and the young cowboy just celebrated his 24th birthday on Christmas Eve. He also broke several records this year en route to his title.
Lowe's earnings prior to the Wrangler NFR, $151,924, were a new record, breaking the record of $143,121 he set in 2004. His $128,302 in earnings during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo broke Lan LaJeunesse's 1999 record of $99,487. And Lowe's final season earnings of $280,227 easily topped Kelly Timberman's 2004 mark of $225,181.
Despite all the broken records, the fact that, mathematically, Lowe had clinched the world title after Round 8, and that he placed in all but one round, Lowe remained humble. In fact, instead of boasting about winning the title, Lowe chose to praise his fellow bareback riders.
"With the field of guys behind you, even if the math is right, those guys ride so great that anything can happen," Lowe said. "They all ride phenomenal. There is not one guy in the group who didn't deserve to be here. They're all great bareback riders, and I'm honored to be in the same field as them."
Lowe spoke highly of the "Wolfpack," his traveling partners Wes Stevenson, Tom McFarland and Royce Ford. Each member of the group won at least one round during the Wrangler NFR, and they were all there to support each other.
"They pump me up, and they're the best," he said. "They're great guys to rodeo with. They always keep positive attitudes, and I just can't say enough about those guys. They're one of the main reasons I'm here. Also, my wife, the Lord and my friends and family at home who allowed me to stay out on the road. Thanks to my wife (Tiffani) for always being behind me."
Lowe credited some of his success at the Wrangler NFR to drawing the top stock available. He rode several strong bareback horses, including Big Bend Rodeo's Spring Fling, Carr Pro Rodeo's River Boat Annie and Sankey Rodeo's William.
"I drew, I'd have to say, probably the best of anybody here this week," Lowe said. "Every day, I was excited to see what I had. We are at the NFR, so everything is good, but it seemed like I plucked really good ones each day and had a lot of fun."
After winning his third world championship, Lowe said he still can't find the words to describe the feeling. Each title is special, he said, and each year feels like the first victory.
"It feels like just a couple of hours ago when we got on our first ones, and now it's over," Lowe said. "You have to cherish all your moments here at the Finals because it goes by so quickly. I really appreciate being here."