By Christina Calloway
Irvyng Urquijo’s chosen sport was fraught with danger and he knew it, an Eastern New Mexico University rodeo teammate said as about 200 mourners gathered Wednesday for a prayer vigil around the fountain at the heart of the campus.
Urquilo, 20, died Tuesday after a bull stepped on his chest Tuesday during team practice. He was the second ENMU rodeo team member to die in a bull riding accident in the last 11 years.
Surrounded by friends and students, teammate and ENMU senior Hadley Howe said in a bull riding, death is a reality.
But the important thing, he said, is knowing Urquijo, the “all-American cowboy” as described by friends, died doing what he loved, and was strong in his convictions.
“I was around (Urquijo) just long enough to know that he was a believer in Jesus Christ,” Howe said over sobbing and sniffling from the gathering crowd of ENMU students, faculty, and athletes.
ENMU Football Coach Josh Lynn said the support for Urquijo’s family and teammates extends to the entire ENMU family.
“When something like this happens I look at it from a family standpoint first, a faith standpoint, and then I look at it as a team standpoint,” Lynn said told those gathered for the vigil. “And everybody at Eastern, especially in our athletic program are teammates.”
Urquijo died about 9 p.m. Tuesday at Roosevelt General Hospital according to a university news release.
Urquijo’s cousin Arturo Urquijo of Colorado said Urquijo would likely want to be remembered for his sense of humor, his generosity and how he loved to help others.
“He was loving, caring to his family and was devoted to his passion, which was bull riding,” said Arturo Urquijo. “He also loved being around his family.”
Urquijo’s rodeo coach Albert Flinn said the slender, 5-foot-8-inch bull rider was riding a practice bull out of one of the arena shoots when the bull spun around and bucked him off. Urquijo fell back into the shoot where the 1,800-pound bull stepped on his chest. Flinn said it all happened in seconds.
“We called 911 because we knew he was seriously hurt,” Flinn said.
Flinn told a television station Urquijo was experienced and wearing all the proper safety gear, which included a protective vest and mouth piece.
Flinn said while they waited for emergency workers to respond to the scene, Urquijo’s teammates comforted him and said prayers.
Flinn declined to say what if anything will happen to the bull that stepped on Urquijo.
“Right now we’re focusing on the family and what’s best for them,” Flinn said, adding that practice was held Wednesday but no animals were used. The team also faces a competition this weekend.
“(Urquijo) was a nice young gentleman,” Flinn said. “Him and his brother were very close and he’s a hard-working athlete. It will take some time for the team to heal. They’ve all said their prayers. It’ll be tough. He’ll be missed by all of us.”
Urquijo’s teammate Macy Devenport said the team will be going to ride for him this weekend.
“He was a great kid,” said Devenport, a sophomore ag education major from California. “He never had anything bad to say and he always tried to build people up. He could make you laugh as soon as he walked up.”
Devenport said she was in disbelief when she heard of Urquijo’s death.
“We’re really safe, our coach makes sure we do everything correct,” Devenport said. “Right now everyone’s trying to process it.”
Howe said every time he was around Urquijo he was happy and smiling.
“I never saw him on an off day and maybe he was having an off day, but he presented himself like he wasn’t and I can’t always do that,” Howe said. “I feel that’s definitely an admirable quality.”
Howe said he feels everybody on the team is going to compete in their event this weekend with their fallen teammate in mind.
“The most important thing to take away is to not leave feeling like something was taken from you but leave feeling like you have an opportunity to change something…like a motivation to become more for someone who’s not going to get the chance to become what they had dreams to become,” Howe said.
Sophomore roper Shawn Holgate said the sport is a risk but they love what they do, and Urquijo was no exception.
“He knew how to change the mood and make everyone smile,” Holgate said.
Urquijo was a sophomore, an animal and dairy science major, and was a 2011 graduate of Springer High School.
His childhood friend Rainie Urquijo, who recently married into his family, said there’s nothing bad people can say about her friend, who loved rodeo since he was a child.
“He’s always telling jokes to keep people positive all the time,” said Rainie Urquijo, a behavioral management specialist. “He’s so kind-hearted. Most of the things I remember was he’s always smiling and put everyone else first.”
ENMU President Steven Gamble expressed his sentiments in a statement and is having the university offer support to its students in dealing with Urquijo’s death.
“Eastern New Mexico University is saddened by the tragic accident which took the life of Irvyng Urquijo,” Gamble said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with this wonderful young man’s family and friends. Our counselors are reaching out to those affected by his loss and need support. Our deepest condolences to his family. The entire ENMU family shares their grief and will be there for them.”
Urquijo also was a referee for the Portales City Sports’ basketball leagues.Director Strawberry Robinson said he was planning on being a referee for soccer this season.
“He was a real decent guy, he was great with the kids when he was out there and well-spoken with the coaches,” Robinson said.
Urquijo was the second bull rider from ENMU that has died in the last 11 years. In 2003, a bull stepped on and killed 18-year-old Rolland Ellsworth Jr. of Ramah during rodeo competition at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.