Born to Buck: Statesboro legend to ride at Kiwanis Rodeo

Photo courtesy of: Smith Baggett

Jack Magruder

Tomorrow, local legend Smith Baggett will compete in the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds.

Baggett was a student of Georgia Southern University in the late 1990s and early 2000s before eventually transferring to the University of Florida.

Baggett is originally from Statesboro and he grew up on a large, family cattle ranch in Bulloch County. He is a third-generation cowboy and has been comfortable with livestock and ranching practically since birth.

Baggett started riding bulls at age 24 in smaller rodeos and has been climbing the ranks ever since.

For much of the year, he travels out west competing in rodeos and frequenting honky-tonks, but this year’s Kiwanis Rodeo is the first that this Statesboro favorite will compete in front of his hometown crowd.

Baggett’s last rodeo win was at Bull Bash in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and he is looking for another win this weekend. He is a sponsored rider, by both local and national businesses: West Coast Chill, Line-X, Southeast Customs and Superior Automotive of Statesboro.

Although sponsors help, “if you’re not riding, you’re not making money,” Baggett said.

To explain how serious these bull riders are, Baggett spoke of a rider who had broken his ankle just before competing in the finals, and instead of calling it a day, the rider took a spur to the hospital with him to have it set inside his cast so that he could compete in the finals.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Baggett said as he told of the multiple broken bones, fractures and hematomas that he has incurred over the years. “But ask any cowboy, the thing that hurts the most about bull riding is retiring. Once you do it that first time, you’re hooked.”

“I guess different people do it for different reasons, I was drawn to it because it was involved in the Western lifestyle which my family has always been involved in. What’s pretty cool about rodeo is that when you get back there, all the cowboys that are competing are there to win money, so technically they’re competing against each other, but no one sees it that way. It’s the cowboys against the bulls, and that’s what it’s all about,” Baggett said.

“The comradery is awesome, the traveling, the driving, the stuff you get to see, going to the honky-tonks. It’s a lifestyle that I take a lot of pride in,” Baggett said.

The Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo is an International Professional Rodeo Association event and opens its gates at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Baggett is set to ride on Friday night, but will be in attendance on both days.