LAS VEGAS — Luke Bryan heard his name called at the end of the Academy of Country Music Awards, accepted the entertainer of the year trophy and then things became a blur.
"It was like I was on the tilt-a-whirl," Bryan said.
Bryan pulled off a dizzying upset, all right, beating out the night's top winner Miranda Lambert, two-time entertainer of the year Taylor Swift and top male stars and good friends Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean for the academy's top award.
The 36-year-old Georgia native's reaction? He hugged the trophy and hung his head, appearing to fight back tears as members of the crowd at the MGM Grand shouted "Luke!"
"I don't think there was anyone in the room more shocked than him," Aldean said. "That's why I love him."
Though Bryan got tons of love before the ACMs because of his new role as co-host with Shelton, the idea of winning entertainer of the year was far from his mind as he prepared to replace Reba McEntire on the show. He told reporters afterward he was so focused on hosting duties, he had trouble remembering what categories he was nominated in.
And he didn't give himself any chance to beat Swift, the undeniable pop star who has reshaped the genre and used a legion of fans to rule the ACMs the last two years.
Heck, he was still opening for Aldean last summer and only recently started his own headline tour. Even he thought it was too early to win an award usually given as a reward to veteran performers who were almost universally acclaimed.
He won an award before the show, sharing vocal event of the year with Aldean and Eric Church for their collaboration on "The Only Way I Know." And he thought he might have a shot at album of the year or male vocalist.