Gilbert Carrillo and his twin brother, Adam, were standout bull riders on the Professional Bull Riders Tour in the early days of the PBR, earning more than $1 million between them and both competing at the PBR Finals 11 straight years from 1994 to 2004. After also riding bulls at the 1992 and ’98 Wrangler National Finals Rodeos, Gilbert hung up his bull riding chaps in 2006, and has since replaced them with team roping spurs. Now 47, Gilbert lives in Stephenville, Texas, with his son, Chase, a senior kicker and free safety for the Stephenville High Yellow Jackets, and daughter, Cheney, who’s a star soccer player for the Stephenville High Honeybees, who were the 2017 state champs.
Q: Your first love was bull riding. What do you consider the highlight of your bull riding career?
A: Yes, I rode bulls 22 straight years. I think the highlight was one year at Oklahoma City. I’d gotten cut from the Bud Light Cup Tour, because I wasn’t riding good enough. I was out cutting hay one day, and Julie (Gilbert’s late wife) called and told me that Spud Whitman had gotten hurt, and I was taking his spot. I rode Crossfire Hurricane for 94 points—which wasn’t the highest marked ride of my career but was the best one—and won the event and a Ford truck.
Q: Was it tough to walk away from such a fiercely competitive sport?
A: Of course. But I wanted to retire from the sport. I didn’t want the sport to retire me. I never wanted to be washed up. Adam and I both retired while we were still on top of our game. When your desire runs out, you have no place getting on bulls. I had two life-threatening injuries. I broke my neck in Nashville, and I lost a third of my pancreas and my spleen at Calgary and darn near died.
Q: What do you do for a living now?
A: Adam and I own interests in Nitro Oil Field Services, and we co-own Cowboy Oil Field Services. We’re a full-service oil field company. We do it all. I also have the 4Cs Rodeo Ranch in the back of my place, with hookups and apartments I rent out to college kids, snowbirds who winter in Stephenville, and oil-field workers.
Q: You and Adam were two of the 20 original PBR shareholders. How great an investment was that $1,000?
A: Adam and I wouldn’t be where we are today without being bull riders and shareholders in the PBR. The best thing we did in our careers was getting into the PBR Ring of Honor, and my wife getting the Sharon Shoulders Award. We’re oil field cowboys now, and our customers and friends still want to talk about bull riding. We have a suite at The American, and our clients get to see a hell of a rodeo.
Q: When did you start team roping?
A: I headed for Adam at the high school rodeos when we were kids. We calf roped and team roped together. We’ve always roped for fun. I’m a 5 header, and enter from the #13 all the way down at the World Series ropings.
Q: How does roping fit into your life now?
A: The roping arena is mine and Adam’s comfort zone. When the weather’s good, that’s where you’ll find us.
Q: Do you rope with Adam all the time?
A: Yes, of course. We were 20 high team back in the #9 roping at the World Series Finale in Vegas last December. If we were 10 seconds or under we could have won $60,000 to $80,000 apiece. Everybody was cheering us on. Adam threw a good loop, but he got so excited he pulled it out of there too soon. But there’s no better feeling than the World Series Finale in Las Vegas. We get just as nervous as we did getting on bulls at that roping.
Q: You lost your beautiful wife, Julie, to cancer in 2017. How has losing the love of your life changed you?
A: It’s still very hard. Julie had colon cancer, then it metastasized to her liver, then her lungs. We fought it for two and a half years, and in the end I was her hospice nurse at home. I never missed a doctor appointment or a chemo treatment, and I was there with her when she took her last breath. Julie and I were married for 18 years when she was taken away from me. I tell my friends all the time to be thankful for what they have, starting with their health. It could always be worse. I have a small circle of friends that I truly trust, and I tell them all the time that I love them. I want people to know how I feel about them. Because you never know.
Q: What’s the highlight of your team roping career so far?
A: Roping with Pepe Briseno in the #9 roping at the 2014 Finale in Vegas. We were 20 high call, ended up ninth and won $20,000 apiece. Pepe’s from Guadalajara, Mexico, and owns an agave plant in Mexico, where they produce agave that’s used to make tequila. In 2017, Adam and I didn’t do any good at the World Series Finale inside, but we won the #8 roping in the outdoor arena there at the South Point and won $10,500 apiece. Adam’s wife, Heidi, was waiting on us in the casino to go have dinner to celebrate, and she won $10,000 on a penny slot machine. That was a pretty fun day, too.
Q: What’s your number-one team roping goal today?
A: To win one of the Finale ropings this year. The sad part about the World Series is that you have to wait a whole year to get back to Vegas in December. What people win there is unheard of. The guys at the NFR don’t even win that much money.