By Kurt Wolff

During the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards last night (April 6), George Strait showed that while he may be winding down his final concert tour this spring, the cowboy isn’t ready to ride away just yet. The laid-back, Wrangler-wearing country legend took home the night’s most coveted trophy, for the ACM Entertainer of the Year.

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Strait’s win wasn’t a sure thing. He was up against some of the top names in the current country crowd: Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan (the 2013 winner), Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert.

Related: See the 2014 ACM Award winners list

You could argue that Strait was on the list with those other Entertainer of the Year nominees in honor not just of his success the previous 12 months but throughout his entire career.

So with that in mind, and considering the massive successes the other nominees achieved last year, did Strait truly deserve to be named the ACM Entertainer of the Year?

Absolutely. And there was probably not a single soul in the MGM Grand Arena Sunday night who thought otherwise (including, dare we speculate, the four other nominees). Proof was in the unprompted standing ovation Strait earned when the win was announced, and the fact the crowd cheered louder and longer for Strait than for any other win that night.

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Further proof came during the press conference Strait held backstage after his ACM Award win. As he was talking, fellow award winner Kacey Musgraves burst into the room unannounced and shouted to him, “I love you! Congrats!”

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With a recording career that’s 30 years long and counting, an astounding 60 No. 1 hits, and membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, there’s no question Strait is a country legend.

“I couldn’t have written this, no way,” Strait said about his career during the press conference. “I couldn’t have dreamed it like that.”

But Entertainer of the Year isn’t a lifetime award — it’s voted on by fans and aims to highlight his achievements during the past year. And Strait had plenty. Watch all of them in our Inside the ACM Entertainer of the Year profile video, above.

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