Trey Benton is a professional cowboy.
Heads turn to the back of the room where the senior agriculture communications major is sitting after the words “professional” and “cowboy” come out of his mouth in the same sentence.
At only 24, Benton has ranked third in the world in bull riding twice, only one accomplishment of many.
Benton received his rookie card when he was 20-years-old, but originally found his comfort zone in the world of livestock as a child.
“That’s all I’ve ever known really is cows and horses,” Benton said. “My dad stuck me on some calves when I was about six and it just stuck. I guess I was pretty good at it then so I decided to keep going.”
Bull riding and rodeo competition became a fluent aspect of Benton’s life- so much so that countless broken bones, hospital visits and unbearable pain became a natural part of who he was.
“I got injured more through pro rodeos than college rodeos but I was doing them at the same time,” Benton said.
The senior has suffered from a broken femur, which now has a metal rod inside it, a broken eye socket which got infected, leading him to facial surgery in 2013, and two replaced knees among other debilitating injuries.
“I sat out for six months with my two knee surgeries and then I came back and I wasn’t ready yet,” he said. “I re-tore my ACL in Calgary, Canada so I came home.”
Like an addict who finds their way back to their dealer, Benton returns to the sport he loves after each hospital visit.
“I’ve been real successful with it,” Benton said. “It’s based my life pretty much. It’s given me a house, land, paid for my college. If you let yourself get tired then I’m sure you’ll be tired, but there’s no rest for the wicked.”
Benton has dedicated the majority of his collegiate career to rodeo. The professional started at Warton Junior College, where Sam Houston State Rodeo Coach Edward Miller, or Bubba as the rodeo team knows him, recruited Benton.
“When I recruited Trey I recruited what I felt like was the national champion bull rider but because of injuries he was never able to put on the board the points for Sam Houston that he was capable of,” Miller said. “It was all injury related. It can be devastating to a team as well as an individual.”
The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association only permits four years’ worth of rodeo, so after two years with the SHSU Rodeo Team, Benton hung up his collegiate cowboy hat.
“The SHSU Rodeo Team is real close,” Benton said. “Bubba Miller does a good job of keeping all the students well known throughout the team but it was hard for me to interact with them throughout the week during practices because I had stuff of my own going on. He realized that, though. I was at a professional level the same time as college and that’s pretty rare so it’s not like he needed to tell me something that I didn’t already know. He kind of let me do my own thing.”
Even with Benton’s injuries, though, the rodeo team is, and has been, in a league of their own.
According to Miller, at their most recent meet their team collectively scored almost 800 points. The teams under them scored only 350 and below, including Texas A&M.
Now, Benton said that while he still rides professionally, he is focused on graduation.
“I’m going to ride bulls and make my money,” Benton said. “Hopefully I never have to use my degree but it’s good to have in case I get hurt bad enough where I want to quit or go a different route. I’ll have that degree and not many cowboys have that.”
Benton decided on agriculture communication as his major so he could potentially provide publicity to the agriculture world
“I’d like to promote ranches that are big huge organizations but they don’t have the social media or the marketing and advertising that they need,” Benton said. “So maybe have my own firm and open it up to agriculture companies to let them grow in the new technological world.”
In the meantime, though, he spends his weekdays in the classroom and his weekends traveling across Texas and the southern part of the country to compete professionally.
“It just goes to show that when you have so much going on it’s hard to balance everything,” Benton said. “When you got school on your mind just like every other student it’s easy, but on the weekends I live a lifestyle that nobody would ever understand here. I fly in Monday morning at nine and I’ll be in class by 11.”