“My first hat was an American. I’ve always been particular about how I looked and that’s where it started – they are definitely family members […]
American Hat presents: Tim O’Connell
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
“I like American Hat,” said bareback rider, Tim O’Connell. “I like what they represent, stand for, and believe in.” For the past few years, Tim has spent the winter in Bowie, Texas, so he is well acquainted with the American Hat headquarters (located in Bowie, Texas). “I actually wore an American hat before I was an endorsee. Their hats always stood out to me because of the craftsmanship, comfort, and style.” American hats are his choice in and out of the arena.
The 30-year-old has made eight trips to the NFR, taking the title three times, and winning the average three times as well. The Iowa cowboy credits his rise to the top to Three Hills Rodeo’s Free Ride Program, which provides instruction, as well as pays permit dues and entry fees for all the rodeos produced by Three Hills. He also competed in high school wrestling which helped his riding ability. His talent landed him a Wisconsin high School bull riding Championship in 2010 as well as a four-time qualification to the National High School finals. He qualified for the CNFR in 2011 and 2012 and earned the Resistol Bareback Riding Rookie of the Year in 2013.
Tim married his wife, Sami, in October of 2015 and they have a son, Hazen, and another son on the way in May. “Hazen just turned 4 and it’s a lot of work. We don’t live near either one of our families, so it’s always on her when I’m gone.” Tim has made going home a priority now that he has a family. “Honestly, it’s more important being a parent than being a rodeo athlete. I come home a lot. I will fly home often, even if it is just for a day or two to spend as much time as I can with my family.” He feels the longer he is away from his family, the worse he rides. “I come home, recharge my batteries, and I’m good to go.”
As far as the competition in the bareback riding goes, Tim loves it. “I’ll never shy away from competition.” He stays at the top of his event by hard work. “I have a personal trainer at Missouri Valley College, where I am a volunteer assistant coach. There is nothing easy about riding bareback horses, there’s not an easy route to being good at it. I have a great team of PT trainers, and when I’m hurt I can get the treatment I need. The team is dedicated to winning. We work so my body can take that abuse.”
Tim grew up around rodeo; his dad (Ray) is a pickup man and his brother, Will is a PRCA bullfighter. “I knew I’d be involved – I had a passion to be great. I don’t accept defeat very easily and I don’t accept mediocracy. I always said I’d be a world champion, just not multiple – and I thought it was going to be bull riding.” Tim went to a school in 2010 and got on some bucking horses. “One through me over his head; I tried it one more time and rode it and I slowly got on more horses.” Tim got a college scholarship to ride horses and bulls and he found out that he loved the bucking horses better than bulls.
He graduated with an Associates in fire science and a Bachelors in public relations. “All but two of us went on to get jobs in the field, but I knew by the second year I was destined to be a rodeo athlete.” When he finished school, he was two years into college rodeo, and he transferred to Missouri Valley. “I fell in love with the school and the program; it was centrally located, so I could rodeo on the side.”
He jumped in with a couple great guys (Jared Keylon and Kyle Brennecke) that had been doing it awhile and took careful notes on entering. “A couple years later, I had my route figured out and I just tweaked it over the years to make it feasible to make money. I know where to go and when to be there.”
Besides the NFR, Tim doesn’t have a favorite rodeo. “I just love rodeoing from the little ones to the big ones .. Cheyenne, Pendleton, Calgary … it’s hard not to be a true fan of rodeo in general.” He’s not sure what he’s going to do when rodeo is over. “I haven’t found the thing – I can do anything I want, but I’d like to find something I’d be half as passionate about as I am about rodeo.”