Tarleton inducts four into Rodeo Hall of Fame, presents championship rings
Tarleton State University’s Rodeo Hall of Fame celebrated the induction of four new members during its sixth annual steak dinner and auction Saturday, Nov. 14, on the Stephenville campus.
Inductees include 1999 College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) national champion barrel racer and women’s all-around cowgirl Jennifer Smith-Driver; 1977 CNFR national champion steer wrestler Steve Fryer; 1988 CNFR team roping champion heeler David Key; and 1992 CNFR national reserve champion team roper Turtle Powell.
Each honoree was presented with a bronze Rodeo Hall of Fame medallion by Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio and head rodeo coach Mark Eakin.
In addition to honoring Tarleton’s newest rodeo hall-of-famers, members of the 2015 men’s national championship team received their diamond-studded, silver championship rings during a formal presentation at the Barry B. Thompson Student Center ballrooms. Team members also each received a framed copy of The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents’ resolution that recognized the cowboys’ achievements at the 67th annual CNFR.
The annual steak dinner and auction benefits Tarleton Rodeo Program’s scholarship fund.
About this year’s inductees:
Jennifer (Smith) Driver is a lifelong equestrian, who started riding at age 2 and competing at 4. She grew up in a ranching family and competed in high school rodeo, with the goal of earning a college rodeo scholarship.
Driver was offered a scholarship by Bob Doty, who was in his second year as head coach at Tarleton. She competed all four years at Tarleton, qualifying for the CNFR every year. In 1996, she won the Southwest Region and finished third in barrel racing at the CNFR, bringing home the rookie title. She won the reserve championship in breakaway roping and barrel racing and won the all-around title in the 1997 Southwest Region.
Driver’s accomplishments continued in her senior year, when she won the CNFR national championship in barrel racing and women’s all-around championship. The women’s team also won the reserve championship. That same year, Driver was the women’s high-money winner and her horse, Top Bar Master, won the CNFR Horse of the Year award. Additionally, she received a resolution from The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents, recognizing her accomplishments as a student-athlete as well as honoring her classroom achievements and community service.
Driver graduated with a bachelor’s in accounting and continues to compete in breakaway roping and barrel racing. She shows her horses at AQHA shows in speed events. In 2014, she won the AQHA reserve world championship in pole bending. She has taken active leadership roles in club projects such as youth rodeos, clinics and the Special Rodeo hosted each spring in conjunction with the NIRA-sanctioned rodeo in Erath County.
Driver and her husband, Zane, and daughter, Jordan, operate a cattle ranch in West Texas.
Steve Fryar, from Big Spring, Texas, graduated from Tarleton State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s in agriculture.
Fryar competed at the 1976 CNFR in Bozeman, Mont., as a member of the Tarleton men’s team and in 1977 as the Southwest Region champion steer wrestler. He won the national championship in steer wrestling at the 1977 CNFR, one of the top highlights of his rodeo career.
Fryar went on to have a 20-year career in the PRCA, where he competed from 1975 to 1995. He qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in 1980.
Since retiring from rodeo, Fryar has farmed full-time while continuing to support rodeo at the PRCA event in Big Spring. He has served on the rodeo committee for the Big Spring Old Settlers Reunion PRCA rodeo for the last 14 years. Fryar has been a big asset to the Howard County College rodeo team where he has helped many students pursue their rodeo dreams.
Fryar has two daughters, Stephanie and Julie, and a son, Sterling. Stephanie qualified for the 2008 National Finals Rodeo in barrel racing.
David Key was the 1988 NIRA Southwest Region and CNFR team roping champion (heeler) while attending Tarleton State University—the first team roping championship for the school.
In 1989, Key joined the PRCA and was close to making the finals as a heeler but, in 2000, he switched to heading. Since the switch, he has qualified for the National Finals Rodeo nine times. Key has won more than $1 million with the PRCA.
Key’s other major accomplishments include being named as a U.S. Olympics team member in Utah, winning the USTRC Open Team Roping, George Straight Team Roping and many PRCA rodeos.
Key now resides in the Cowboy Capital of the World (Stephenville) with his wife, Josey, and their sons, Kase and Kooper. In addition to continuing to rodeo, he conducts roping clinics, offers private roping lessons and works in the oil field.
Turtle Powell was born and raised in Alpine, Texas, where he began the sport of rodeo at age 6. After graduating salutatorian of his class at Alpine High School in 1991, he attended Vernon Regional Junior College before transferring to Tarleton.
While in college, Powell was the Southwest Region College Team Roping director from 199-96. He was the Southwest Region champion team roper in 1991, 1993 and 1996. In 1992, Powell was the National Reserve Champion collegiate team roper. He graduated from Tarleton in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics and continued in 1996 to work on his master’s degree.
Turtle joined the PRCA in 1996 and, to-date, has more than $1 million in PRCA career earnings.
Powell’s list of accomplishments in the arena is extensive. In 2011, he was the World Champion header–team roping. He is a two-time Texas Circuit Finals champion and a nine-time qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo (1999, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Powell is also a DCNFR qualifier.
A major team roping champion, Powell has competed in numerous contests across the United States, including the George Strait, Bob Feist Invitational, Hork Dog, Spicer Gripp and Wildfire Open Roping. He has made many appearances at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo and was the $50,000 winner in 2010.
When not roping, he enjoys watching his favorite teams—the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns—or eating at In-N-Out Burger. Powell lives in Stephenville with his wife, Molly (10-time NFR qualifier), son Layne Edward and daughter Rayna Jo.
2015 Men’s National Championship Team Receives Rings
A year’s worth of blood, sweat and effort paid off for Tarleton’s men’s rodeo team at the 67th annual College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. Tarleton earned 915 points to edge out Panhandle State (835 points) and secure its place as national champion.
In addition to winning the national title as a team, team members secured individual titles.
Three-time CNFR qualifier Landon Williams, from Midland, Texas, capped off his senior year by winning the all-around title—the third such title in Tarleton’s history—and the national title in tie-down roping.
Williams amassed 445 points in tie-down and team roping to secure his titles. In the short go, he tied his calf in 9.9 seconds to finish third in the round. His time of 39 seconds on four head was 1.6 seconds faster than second-place Bobby Abernathy of McNeese State (La.).
Aside from collecting 280 points in tie-down roping, Williams scored another 165 in team roping along with partner Casey Tew, a header attending nearby Weatherford College. The duo finished sixth in the average.
While Williams led the team in points, freshman Jace Lane racked up 240 points to finish third in the all-around and second in saddle bronc riding.
In bareback riding, Kody Lamb’s consistency enabled him to place third in the average and fifth in the short round. Senior Devan Reilly missed placing in the short round with a no score; however, he placed third in the second round with a 76-point ride and split 11th and 12th in the average.
Other team members included Jace Melvin and Brody Cress. Melvin, a senior, placed eighth in the second and third rounds of steer wrestling and also competed in tie-down roping.
Tarleton State Rodeo: A Winning Tradition
Tarleton’s renowned rodeo program is known for having some of the toughest and most talented student competitors among NIRA members. To celebrate their achievements during the past 68 years, the Rodeo Hall of Fame was established in 2012 to recognize some of the cowboys and cowgirls who have brought notoriety to the sport and university.
Competing for the purple and white under the motto, “A Winning Tradition,” Tarleton’s rodeo teams have won seven national championship titles, 24 individual national championships and numerous NIRA Southwest Region titles since the program was established in 1947.
In 2015-16, Tarleton boasted one of the largest collegiate rodeo teams in the nation with 116 card-holding student members.