Craig Sjodin/ABC
May 13, 2009 12:00 AM

Don’t get him wrong, Ty Murray is every bit the stand-up guy America saw for ten weeks on Dancing with the Stars. But being eliminated a week before the season 8’s finals made him a very happy cowboy.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am,” Murray said, laughing to PEOPLE after the show. “I don’t have to learn any more dances.”

That doesn’t mean America’s cowboy regrets for one second trading in his chaps and leather boots for Dancing’s sequins and spray tans.

“The whole reason I did this show is because it was nice for cowboys to be represented in something so pop culture, and this show did in spades,” Murray said. “For me to be able to do this is a fantastic opportunity. You don’t realize how big something like this is until you’re on a show that 25 million watch.” And Murray rightfully earned a special place in the judges’ and the fans’ hearts each week by giving every dance his all.

“If the others have climbed hills, you’ve climbed mountains,” judge Len Goodman said to Murray about his trajectory on the show.

The accomplishments of Murray’s partner, Dancing freshman Chelsie Hightower, 19, did not go unnoticed either.

“I made a terrific friend in Chelsie,” Murray said.

“I don’t know that I expected us to do this well and I couldn’t be happier,” Hightower added. “I feel great about the run we had and I feel great about leaving right now. It was a great season.”

Next week the three remaining celebrities — actor Gilles Marini, Bachelor star Melissa Rycroft and Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson — will compete for the season eight mirror-ball trophy. –Monica Rizzo

Tell us: What will you miss most about Ty? And who are you rooting for in next week’s finale?

MORE: Tuesday’s Dancing: What You Didn’t See

Craig Sjodin/ABC

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