Former Broken Bow cowboy Paul Tierney has won arguably the two most prestigious titles in rodeo. He finished his 10-year professional career by topping $1 million in career earnings, and his 2008 induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame makes him the most accomplished cowboy from Nebraska.
But although Tierney won the state all-around cowboy title as a high school senior and several regional rodeo championships in college, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to go professional until he finally beat fellow calf roper and mentor Clark Brown of North Platte at the age of 22.
"He was the guy you had to beat when I was growing up," Tierney said.
In 1977, his first year as a pro, Tierney qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in tie-down roping and steer wrestling. By 1979, he had won a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world title in calf roping, and in 1980, he won the association’s all-around title, the pinnacle of the sport.
Tierney came close to winning the all-around title again in 1981, finishing fourth. By the time his professional career ended in 1987 because of back surgery, Tierney had finished as a top-10 all-around cowboy seven times and had won titles at every major rodeo in the country.
The Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame inducted Tierney in 1998, and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame inducted Tierney on July 12, 2008, as an all-around cowboy. Tierney is the only all-around cowboy from Nebraska in the ProRodeo hall.
Kendra Santos, senior communications adviser for the PRCA, said Tierney is a legend in the sport.
"He had that fire that separates the good guys from the great ones," Santos said. "He wasn’t the biggest, but his heart and drive made him the best."
Tierney now lives on a ranch near Hot Springs, South Dakota, where he raises and trains horses and conducts a few roping schools a year. All four of his children are active in rodeo — his sons, Jess and Paul David, and daughter Amy have qualified for events at the National Finals Rodeo, and his youngest daughter, Jordan, just finished her freshman year on the women’s rodeo team at Chadron State.
Played for: Broken Bow High and National American University
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: His mentor, fellow calf roper Clark Brown of North Platte
Best moment as an athlete: Winning the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's world all-around title in 1980
Tierney was No. 95 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »