Heroes & Legends

The PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration honors a recipient of five prestigious awards each year at the PBR World Finals. The Ring of Honor, the Sharon Shoulders Award, the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award, the Brand of Honor, and the Ty Murray Top Hand Award. Each award honors a segment of the bull riding or rodeo community, and each recipient has made a substantial contribution to the sport of bull riding.

The following pages break down each award, and list all the former recipients of each of these prestigious honors.

Ring of Honor

Ring of Honor

The PBR Ring of Honor is given annually to individuals who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the sport of bull riding. It is both a physical ring, and a fellowship of men whose blood, sweat, heartaches and handshakes have been instrumental to the present and future of the sport.

The Ring of Honor is the highest honor a professional bull rider can receive. The honor is based on the core beliefs of the organization-Only the Best, Authentic, Toughness, Team Work, and Professional.

2019

PUEBLO, Colo. – 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi headlines the list of honorees to be feted at the 2019 PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration at South Point Casino & Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

Marchi will be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor, and 1995 World Champion Bull Bodacious will be presented the PBR Brand of Honor, the sport’s highest recognition for a bovine athlete.

The Ty Murray Top Hand award, introduced last year for athletes from the rodeo world exemplifying excellence and traditional cowboy values, will go to rodeo legends Phil Lyne and Larry Mahan. The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Neal Gay and Mack Altizer.Kylie Shivers will receive the Sharon Shoulders Award.

Heroes & Legends Celebration tickets will go on sale on Monday, June 3 and are available for $40 through PBR Customer Service (800) 732-1727 or by calling the South Point Showroom Box Office at (844) 846-8689.

RING OF HONOR

No rider in PBR history has stayed on more bulls than 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi – the all-time ride leader with 635 qualified elite series rides. A beloved figure among fans around the world, the determined rider with the warm smile retired from U.S. competition after the 2018 PBR World Finals, where he had competed 15 consecutive times from 2004-2018. Less than a month later, Marchi would ride once more – a dramatic farewell performance to win in Goiania, Brazil, his native country. During his 15-year career, Marchi won 25 premier series events, including the PBR World Finals in 2005. He came heartbreakingly close to becoming a multi-time World Champion, finishing runner-up in the world standings four times (2005-2007, 2012). His accomplishments and approachability have helped PBR move into the mainstream. In 2016 Men’s Fitness named him “the fittest athlete in sports.”

South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa is the Official Host Hotel of the PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration. Special room rates and packages, starting at $75 and $119 (plus taxes and resorts fees), respectively, are available to fans at South Point by using the code FAN1101. For reservations and information, call 866-791-7626.

The 2019 PBR World Finals, the richest bull-riding event in the world, will take place Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The five-day event will crown a $250,000 event champion and also determine the overall 2019 PBR World Champion, who will receive a $1 million bonus and the coveted world championship belt buckle. The 2019 PBR World Finals are preceded by the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Nov 2-3 at South Point Arena, with some of the best riders in the world chasing a $100,000 purse, and five riders receiving an invitation to compete at the 2018 PBR World Finals.

2018

Gary Leffew is widely considered the rodeo guru of positive thinking, and it all traces back to his fateful decision to pick up a book.

In the late 1960s he was a struggling bull rider, slumping badly and crippled by self-doubt.

Then he started thinking positively.

The simple act of picking up a book – “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz – not only got his riding career back on track, but changed the course of his life and revolutionized the sport of bull riding.

Leffew got his start in bull riding late, preferring motorcycles to bulls until his dad encouraged him to climb aboard bovines instead – claiming they were safer – at age 19. He was immediately hooked, and his career got off to a fast start. Within several years he qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo appearance in 1966 and finished 10th in the world standings.

“I loved the travel, I loved the adventure, I loved the life and I loved riding bulls,” Leffew said on Ride TV. He cracked a smile “And it’s show business!”

But more on that later.

Things took a nosedive in 1967, with Leffew struggling through a six-month period unable to stay on a bull. That’s when a friend recommended “Psycho-Cybernetics,” and everything changed.

The book drove home to him that bull riding is a mental game.

From there, Leffew began meditating and using visualization tactics, or “riding bulls every day in [his] mind.” He envisioned himself riding and winning, over and over again. He says he rode 50 practice bulls before he returned, but visualized riding several hundred more in his mind.

By the time he got on his first bull after his six-month slump, he had what he calls the best ride of his career and went three months without getting bucked off.

Leffew turned his revelation into the Gary Leffew Bull Riding School, which opened in 1969, a world championship and NFR aggregate title in 1970, as well as seven career NFR appearances.

“I always tell my kids in my schools, my teacher used to snap her fingers and say, ‘Stop daydreaming!’” Leffew said. “I would snap my fingers and say, ‘Daydream!’ Because daydreaming is your rehearsing being someplace, being somebody and doing something. Being in the moment. And that is the best thing in the world for you, because it programs your mind. The next thing you know, you wake up and you’re there, and you feel at home.”

Leffew’s impact on the bull riding world didn’t stop when his riding career did.

The Gary Leffew Bull Riding School has now taught several generations of bull riders. Seventeen of his students have gone on to win PRCA World Championships, including four-time PRCA World Champion Sage Kimzey. Leffew’s methods advocate a straight arm technique and encourage daily meditation with the goal of a lower level of consciousness, enabling riders to essentially dance with the bulls.

From there, Leffew went on to build an empire for himself as he branched out into the entertainment world. He’s served in various capacities for commercials, music videos, movies and TV series; his IMDb page lists credits in acting, stunts and writing, as well as livestock consultant and bull riding instructor.

Perhaps his most famous work is the 1994 movie “8 Seconds” about the legendary Lane Frost, in which he taught star Luke Perry how to ride bulls using his psycho-cybernetics techniques. Perry’s first-ever time on a bull, after just weeks of training, ended in a qualified ride.

Now an elder statesman of the bull riding world, Leffew says the word retirement isn’t in his vocabulary.

2017

Ricky Bolinis a busy man. As the General Manager for HatCo., the makers of Stetson, Resistol and Charlie-One-Horse Hats, Bolin’s livelihood since retiring as a bull rider in 1989 is now built on hours of work outfitting cowboys instead of just 8 seconds in the arena.

Still, Bolin has never forgotten his life as a bull rider. Even though he has hung up his spurs and chaps for good, he was still beyond honored to get a special call from PBR co-founder and current Livestock DirectorCody Lambertinforming him that he was being inducted into the PBR’s Ring of Honor.

“It meant a lot getting inducted and, of course, coming from Cody was pretty cool,” Bolin said.

Lambert and Bolin were good friends from back in their rodeo days before Lambert went on to form the PBR with 19 other bull riders in 1994. Bolin was pleasantly surprised to receive the honor, especially considering that his retirement in 1989 came a few years before the formation of the PBR.

As one of the great pre-PBR bull riders though, Bolin’s induction into the Ring of Honor came as a no-brainer. Given the growth of the sport, and the PBR specifically, Bolin was humbled to earn a permanent seat in the burgeoning league’s equivalent to a Hall of Fame.

“It’s an awesome thing,” Bolin said. “We have these athletes that are finally getting recognized for what they do.”

Bolin seemed destined to ride growing up in Texas. His childhood memories were built around the weekly rodeos in Mesquite, Texas, and it wasn’t long before he started competing.

In fact, Bolin received his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card at the age of 16. With the help of some legends, Bolin was cleared to compete before the required age of 18.

“I remember I had to get Jim Shoulders and Neal Gay to sign for me,” Bolin said. “You were supposed to be 18 years old in order to get that.”

Not long after, Bolin qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals rodeo at the ripe old age of 19 in 1978.

Bolin always considered himself a bit of a thrill seeker. He used to even race motorcycles and had professional aspirations before he took up rodeoing full time.

“My dad told me I had to make a decision on which one I was going to do,” Bolin said. “So I chose bull riding.”

It was the right choice as Bolin went on to qualify for the NFR four times. He was also an 11-time qualifier for the Texas Circuit Finals, where he won the bull riding championship in 1988.

Ultimately, Bolin retired in 1989. Though it was a relatively young age to call it a career, the then 30-year-old had already experienced a lifetime of success and was ready to take on a new challenge in the world of business.

“There’s very few things that I would change about those days because they opened so many doors for me,” Bolin said. “I’m sitting in the chair that I’m sitting in today because of that career, and I thank God for giving me brains to walk through those doors.”

With the PBR becoming a global phenomenon, and several of the best bull riders breaking $1 million in career earnings, Bolin saw himself as a sort of pre-cursor. He was one of the first cowboys to earn a major sponsorship in his career, wearing special patches and chaps in the arena.

But even he can hardly believe just how big the stage has gotten. As a leader of a company that sponsors and outfits countless bull riders and rodeo athletes, he has grown to appreciate his life on both sides of the fence.

“To see it grow to what it is today and to have the privilege to work on both sides of the fence helps me stay involved,” Bolin said.

Now as a member of the PBR’s elite Ring of Honor, Bolin has become a permanent part of the PBR’s history and future. He is excited to see the continued growth of bull riding and Western sports.

And as for that future, Bolin wanted to leave one bit of advice for the young guns that have taken up the torch.

“I would say, ‘Never shut any doors and always keep your eyes open,’” Bolin said. “Just keep your eyes open and never shut a door behind you.”

As a western sports athlete, Lyle Sankey is one of only four men to qualify for the NFR in bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding. In bull riding, he twice won the average at NFR, riding nine bulls in each of his victories. Throughout Sankey’s competitive career, and now as a coach and mentor via his Sankey Rodeo Schools, he has helped countless athletes in the western sports world. Sankey Rodeo Schools is the first full-time rodeo school in the U.S., holding classes nationwide for the last 33 years. Since retiring, Sankey has also established himself as an author, lecturer, businessman and motivational speaker, notably being featured in Joe White’s 2007 “Promise Keepers” messages, furthering his impact on the community. Sankey has also spoken to city Chamber of Commerce groups, sports banquets, sports team meetings, and the Billy Graham Crusade in Boise, Idaho and Cheyenne, Wyoming. He will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at the 2017 PBR World Finals alongside Ricky Bolin.

2016

It takes a special combo of talent and swagger to conquer some of the rankest bulls in the PBR, and 1996 World Champion Owen Washburn put both of those on full display seven years after he won his only gold buckle.

It was in Bossier City, Louisiana, in 2003 when Washburn became the first rider to conquer the unridden Hammer, who was 23-0 at the time, by riding Tony Sharp’s bovine athlete during a bonus round matchup.

If that wasn’t enough, the 30-year-old made it two in a row aboard Hammer by riding him again for 92.5 points to earn a then PBR record $125,210 in one event.

“Most guys that ride bulls need money, just like everybody does,” Washburn said. “That is what I did for a living and I loved getting on rank bulls. That is whenever it seemed like I did my very best, especially the older I got. Whenever I got on a bull like that, and there was that much money, you don’t have to convince yourself to get your motor running. You are just there.”

Washburn’s first ride was away from his left-riding hand, and his final ride aboard Hammer went into his hand.

The New Mexico native understood his first successful 8 seconds would be viewed as a fluke if he failed to ride Hammer the second night.

“Whenever I drew him the next night, I thought everybody would say, ‘Yeah he got lucky last night and Hammer came back tonight and bucked a lot harder.’ I knew that time I had to ride him just to keep everybody quiet.”

Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said, “That was a bull that gave a lot of people fits. He just rode him dead easy. Owen would do that on a regular basis.”

Washburn said that you could argue the two-month stretch he had around his Hammer ride was the best run of his career.

“That was as good a stretch of bull riding that I ever had,” he said. “I would make the short go and there wasn’t one I didn’t want. What I always think about bull riding is some people never get in the zone in life and I am thankful and grateful I got in the zone.

“There is nothing like that feeling.”

Washburn was certainly “in the zone” when he won the third World Championship in PBR history in 1996. He is one of only 15 bull riders in the world that can say they are a PBR World Champion.

“When I won the world, bull riding was all I had and that was all I wanted,” Washburn said. “Nothing came before bull riding and that is why you are never as good as when that is all you got. I was young that year and I was just bull riding. So much of my career was after that. I was young, gritty and all I wanted to do was ride bulls.”

Murray said that Washburn had a couple of seasons where he “epitomized swagger and confidence.”

“That is how you have to be,” Murray said. “It is important to have that and he had it big time.”

Washburn qualified for the PBR World Finals 10 times and retired from the PBR in 2005. He earned the nickname Captain Consistency during his career and will be the 43rdrider to be inducted into the PBR’s Ring of Honor.

He will officially be inducted on Nov. 1 at the PBR’s Heroes & Legends Celebration at South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas.

“It feels good to be remembered,” Washburn said. “I don’t know what exactly I am supposed to feel. People would ask me about it and I didn’t put much thought into it. There again, bull riding is still a part of my life and it is kind of nice for somebody to remember me and bring it up 10 years after being done.

“I am pretty humbled. It is pretty nice to be remembered after all.”

Still, Washburn doesn’t want his World Championship or Ring of Honor induction to define his bull riding career.

He is just thankful he was able to be his own boss and earn a living doing something he enjoyed.

“I was so lucky and happy just to be making a living doing something I love,” Washburn said. “I never put a bunch of things in there like World Championships. I was just riding bulls and making a living. I would have ridden bulls for free at that time.

“I was going to ride bulls for a living and it just depended on if I had to eat baloney sandwiches or steak at the end of the day. I was going to ride bulls and I was sure thankful, and I still to this day am thankful that I got to.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

2015

2015 Honoree:

Back when New Line Cinema released the feature film “8 Seconds” in February 1994, it forever immortalized Lane Frost as the 25-year-old face of professional bull riding.

The film, which more than 20 years later remains a favorite among the Western culture, also changed the sport in another way. It proved to be a major influence in young boys pursuing bull riding as a career.

Among those boys was a then-11-year-old Luke Snyder.

The Raymore, Missouri, native credited the spirit of what the film represented as a major influence on his own decision to pursue a career as a professional bull rider.

Like all three of the film’s main characters – Cody Lambert, Tuff Hedeman and Frost – Snyder will also be inducted into the prestigious PBR Ring of Honor.

He will be the 42nd rider to be inducted later this month.

“The dang whole cast of “8 Seconds” has that ring,” Snyder said, “and when I watched that movie when I was just a little kid – it was about the time that I was starting when it came out – that made me want to be a bull rider.

“Going back even further than that – Jim Shoulders, Harry Tompkins – all these guys wear that same ring and there are not very many of those rings floating around. For me to be able to have one, I don’t know, it just put a cap on a career that I did my whole entire life and had some good fortune in it. Just to be able to put that ring on caps off everything.”

The 33-year-old follows a tradition of honoring the great riders who have made an impact on the sport in and out of the arena.

In addition to the PBR founders – the likes of which include Ty Murray, Jim Sharp and Michael Gaffney – and World Champions that include Adriano Moraes, Justin McBride and Chris Shivers, Snyder noted the historical recognition of riders dating back to the 1950s and 1960s.

“That’s what really hit home,” Snyder said. “This isn’t just within the PBR. It’s guys like back when Jim (Shoulders) was riding in Madison Square Garden and all the stuff that’s happened just throughout the sport of bull riding, whether it be Myrtis Dightman going through what he had to go through to Lane getting it posthumously awarded to him for all the stuff that he did for the sport.

“There’s so much history there, it just blows my mind that I get to put it on and join that group of guys.”

The Ring of Honor was created in 1996 to recognize those who have had the most profound impact. The inductees share a common bond of courage, strength and victory, and they have shown their dedication and support while playing a significant role in helping professional bull riding become what it is today.

Each inductee is presented with a ring featuring the PBR logo along with their name and year they were inducted.

“I’m sure it’ll hit me more once we get out there and start seeing all the old guys and all my buddies, instead of me just sitting in the crowd excited to see who’s going to get it that year,” Snyder said. “It’s going to really sink in when me and Jen (Snyder’s wife) are sitting there looking at each other and it’s me that’s going to get it.”

He added, “It’s my World Championship. That’s what it means to me.”

Snyder’s professional career began in 2001.

That year he won the World Finals event average and was named the PBR Rookie of the Year. At 30, he won another $220,000 at the Last Cowboy Standing event in October 2011. More than a third of his career earnings – he competed 13 years in the PBR – were won in Las Vegas.

He holds the unparalleled record of having competed in 275 consecutive Built Ford Tough Series events.

It’s a record most insiders universally agree will never be broken.

At the time of Snyder’s retirement in October 2013, his 913 career BFTS outs stood as a PBR record and his $1.7 million in career earnings was 12th on the all-time list of money earners. He is now 13th on the list.

Snyder said he was caught off guard this past summer when recently promoted PBR CEO Sean Gleason called with the news of his induction.

After a few minutes of small talk, Gleason simply said, “You’re getting the ring in Vegas.”

“I was like, ‘Come again,’” recalled Snyder, who was home alone with his daughter at the time. “It caught me off guard because I was messing around with Ollie.

“He said I was getting it and it was pretty exciting.”

Snyder first contemplated the idea of being inducted when he announced his retirement in the fall of 2013 upon reading comments from Lambert.

At the time of Snyder’s retirement, Lambert said “there’s no doubt to me” Snyder will one day wear the Ring of Honor.

“When he mentioned that in the article, and we all know Cody’s opinion is very well respected around the PBR, yeah, I kind of started taking it in that it might be a possibility for me one day,” Snyder said.

He never asked Lambert, who was among the first four inductees in 1996, about the comment.

However, they talked just before his final out at the Thomas & Mack Center.

According to Snyder, Lambert thanked him for his unwavering support of the PBR – his entire professional career was exclusively in the PBR – and told him that he thought of him as an ambassador of the sport.

Snyder always wanted to be thought of as a role model the same way Gaffney was for him.

“That’s something that I always wanted to have be part of my career, so it was really cool hearing that come from him,” Snyder said. “It felt like it was pretty heartfelt.”

2014

2014 Honoree:

Professional Bull Riders co-founders Adam Carrillo and Gilbert Carrillo will both be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor this October.

The Carrillo twins retired from the PBR in 2006, competing at the Built Ford Tough World Finals from 1994-2004 and earning more than $1 million between them.

Adam Carrillo picked up four event wins during his career, including back-to-back victories in 1999 at Louisville, Kentucky, and Tunica, Mississippi. He also qualified for the World Finals nine times (1994-2001, 2004). His highest-recorded score, 94.5 points, was earned twice, once atop Jit in 1999 at the Louisville event and again aboard Washita Mud Slinger in Columbus, Georgia, in 2001.

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It’s not uncommon for Gilbert Carrillo or his identical twin brother to Adam Carrillo to drive back and forth between West Texas and their respective homes in Stephenville, Texas.

These days, life is less about professional bull riding and more about the oil business they started together. In fact, the 42 year olds do darn near everything together. However, ever since Gilbert retired Carrillo Cartel from competition he said it’s rare to receive a phone call from longtime PBR livestock director and fellow PBR cofounder Cody Lambert.

“I looked down and saw he was calling,” said Gilbert, who impersonated Lambert’s unceremonious salutation, “Gilbert, Cody Lambert.”

After some small talk, Gilbert quickly said, “Cody, I don’t have any more bulls and now that I retired Cartel I don’t have anything for you.”

Lambert wasn’t call about bulls.

Instead, he simply replied, “Congratulations.”

Figuring it must be some sort of dry sense of sarcasm from one of many old friends who affectionately calls the little Carrillo brothers “munchkins,” Gilbert recalled laughing for a minute and then asking, “What’s the joke? What did we do? What happened? Did Adam do something that I don’t know about?”

“No,” replied Lambert, “the Ring of Honor, it’s been a long time coming.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Gilbert, who was “shocked” and speechless and unsure what to say other than ‘thank you.’ “One of the most prestigious things in the PBR is the Ring of Honor. Adam and I, of course, we’re one of the founding members and did not get one until now.”

It’s been a decade-long wait.

They had been hoping and anticipating this day and, more specifically, that call for years.

“When he called, I was shocked,” said Gilbert, who was then entrusted to call his brother Adam. “I thought holy shit, but now I’m done. I’m happy. If I don’t raise another bull, if I don’t buck another bull, I don’t care.”

His brother, who had joked he might wind up being inducted posthumously, would be just as thankful for the acknowledgement. However, not before Gilbert would joke around with him on the phone the way he thought Lambert had.

Adam was in Fort Worth with his son Wesley, a golfer who plays on the Junior PGA Tour, shopping for a new golf club.

When Gilbert called he told Adam, “They’re cracking back out Cartel?”

“What?”

“They want to crack Cartel back out.”

“Well, that’s good,” recalled Adam, who shocked to hear Gilbert say, “Nah, they’re not. We got the Ring of Honor.”

“I thought, damn right,” Adam said. “I’ve been wanting to get this for so long.

“As far as I’m concerned, in my life and what I’ve accomplished in bull riding is complete. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted. Now that we’ve got it, in my eyes, I’ve done everything I could.

H&L

Having to wait makes it more special and does nothing to dampen the spirit of receiving the highest recognition a bull rider can earn in the PBR.

The Ring of Honor was created in 1996 to recognize those who have had the most profound impact on bull riding, both in and out of the arena.

The 38 previous members – the Carrillo brothers along with Bobby Berger will bring the total to 41 – share a common bond of courage, strength and victory, and they have shown their dedication and support while playing a significant role in helping professional bull riding become what it is today.

Each inductee is presented with a ring featuring the PBR logo along with their name and year of induction.

The Carrillos will join a long list of legends and icons that include Lambert and onetime roommate Ty Murray along with the likes of Jim Shoulders and Larry Mahan as well as former college rodeo teammate Jerome Davis.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Adam, who hasn’t thought about his speech yet. He hopes to have all his thoughts collected by then and said he’ll likely thank everyone from when he and Gilbert first started to when they retired, including their college coach Jim Watkins, who they’ve already asked to introduce them at the Heroes & Legends ceremony in Las Vegas.

Adam and Gilbert, the two youngest boys of six, were born and raised in El Paso, Texas.

Their parents John and Anne Carrillo were both raised on ranches in West Texas and likewise, the identical twins and their brothers – Tommy, Tracy, Robert and Eddie – were brought up on a farm around animals in what Adam referred to as a “cowboy atmosphere.” The spent their childhood at 4H events.

Their father, who passed away in 1999, was in the military and as a member of the civil service he worked for the government at the White Sands Missile Range.

Their first glimpse of bull riding came watching their brother Tracy and another older cousin, who had been in rodeo and were now competing in college.

At 13, they got on their first bulls.

They could rope and ride and until then had only tied up heifers, got on and “turned them loose.” There were no chutes, just two kids having fun, but despite lacking in stature, they stood out as soon as they started competing. Both made the short round the first time they entered an organized amateur event and Adam went on to win it.

“Shoot, one thing led to another,” Adam said, “and that’s what we loved. We had tunnel vision on riding bulls.”

Gilbert added, “Ever since then we were on the trail. We did it for 22 years nonstop. … We lived on the road. We were like gypsies. We made money to pay for ourselves and put money away.”

Lambert and Tuff Hedeman, who were both older, also grew up in El Paso.

Their brothers Gary “Roach” Hedeman, a former PBR bullfighter, and Casey Lambert were the two that helped the younger Carrillo brothers get on their first bulls, which happened to be practice bulls Tuff kept with Dustin Danley.

Their dad John had driven them to amateur events until undergoing his second open heart surgery at which time their brother Robert drove them or they traveled with a few older friends until they were old enough to drive themselves.

“Any good rodeo cowboy or bull rider is an athlete,” Adam said. “They can pretty much do anything. They can be a gymnast, a boxer, you name it.”

The two younger Carrillo brothers played baseball and football until their junior year in high school when rodeo took over their lives and they were competing too often to play other sports. Gilbert, who is older by five minutes, was the 1990 National High School Bull Riding Champion and won the Texas state title in 1991. Adam also won a state title, while in high school.

“Anything you could have done in the sport of bull riding, as far as growing up, we did,” said Adam, who explained if one didn’t win the other usually did.

After graduation, Gilbert and Adam were recruited to join the Odessa College rodeo team.

Watkins, who will introduce the brothers at their Ring of Honor induction ceremony, in October, had previously recruited Jim Sharp followed by Ty Murray and the one year the Carrillo’s attended Odessa College, they were teammates with Jerome Davis.

“As a team, we were unstoppable,” Adam said.

In their one season of junior college rodeo, Gilbert qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo.

Just a few years later, all five former Wranglers would eventually make up a quarter of the 20 original founders of the PBR.

The identical twins moved to Stephenville, Texas, where they still reside today, and roomed with Murray for a year before moving out on their own.

As pros – first in the PRCA and later with the PBR – they won their fair share and that’s saying quite a bit considering they were firmly entrenched in what is arguably the golden era of professional bull riding.

Lambert said, “They would dominate today.

“Adam and Gilbert, in their prime, would be in the same conversation as Guilherme Marchi right now. They rode pretty damn good. They didn’t ride as consistent as the great bull riders of that time, but they damn sure rode as consistent as the best bull riders of this time.”

More importantly, they both rode rank bulls.

Adam and Gilbert each have two rides that rank among the Top 50 scores of all time.

Adam scored 94.5 points on Jit – a bull owned by James Harper – and two years later, at an event in Columbus, Georgia, in 2001, he was the first to ride Mudslinger before he was known as Mossy Oak Mudslinger. While his score of 94.5 points was being announced, Adam had jumped up behind the chutes to pull Ty Murray’s rope before eventually celebrating the win.

“We’ve rode some rank bulls,” said Adam, who recalled being marked 97 points at a Touring Pro Division event in Springfield, Missouri. “I was never as consistent as Gilbert, but, like Gilbert, I had my fair share of rides.”

Gilbert put up 96 points on Perfect Storm, in 2001, and another 96 points a year later, in 2002, on Blueberry Wine. Lambert said, compared to other bulls, Blueberry Wine was tiny, but with Gilbert on his back he seemed bigger than he actually was.

However, when asked about the two scores, he simply replied, “My best ride I ever made – that bull would have blown away those two – was a bull called Crossfire Hurricane.”

Bred, raised and hauled by D&H Cattle Company, the Pages hauled him up to Oklahoma City, in 2003, where Gilbert was marked 94 points.

“That put me back on the map,” said Gilbert, who was a last-minute alternate after riding his way back from injury. However, his worst injuries came in 1993 when he sustained internal injuries that resulted in doctors removing a third of his pancreas and spleen. Two years later, in 1995, he broke his leg when a bull turned out backward in the Championship Round at an event in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

That year, at the time of his injury, he was the top-ranked rider in the PRCA and near the top in the PBR. He missed the National Finals Rodeo, but returned to the PBR and battled Hedeman down the stretch before giving way.

At the Finals, Gilbert would make his way to the chutes with the help of crutches and following his rides he would pull himself and crawl to safety.

“It was a bad deal,” said Gilbert, of his leg injury.

They were 35 years old when they both decided to retire at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

Together they qualified for the World Finals 11 consecutive times – they’re two of just three riders to have qualified for the Las Vegas event every year from 1994 to 2004 – and combined to win 12 Built Ford Tough Series events (Gilbert, 8; Adam 4) and more than $1 million in career earnings.

As was typical throughout both their careers, Gilbert continued to anticipate drawing the rankest bulls and relished those moments afforded him in which the bulls helped to “show us off and if we ride him, we win.”

Gilbert added, “We didn’t worry about the competition. We knew when we showed up at a bull riding we were either going to win it or place at it.”

“How many guys can say they got to rodeo with or ride with Ty Murray or Jim Sharp or got to get on practice bulls with Lane Frost?,” asked Adam, who said he and his brother are better described as entrepreneurs. “We also did stuff outside the world of bull riding.”

2014 Honoree:

Professional Bull Riders co-founders Adam Carrillo and Gilbert Carrillo will both be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor this October.

The Carrillo twins retired from the PBR in 2006, competing at the Built Ford Tough World Finals from 1994-2004 and earning more than $1 million between them.

Gilbert Carrillo collected eight event wins throughout his 12-year PBR career, as well as 29 Top-10 finishes and 14 Top-5 finishes. He competed at the World Finals 10 times (1994-2003). He is one of six PBR bull riders to earn 96 points or higher during a ride and he accomplished this feat twice. In 2001 at the PBR St. Louis event he rode Perfect Storm and a year later at the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he rode Blueberry Wine for the high-marked rides of his career.

******************************

It’s not uncommon for Gilbert Carrillo or his identical twin brother to Adam Carrillo to drive back and forth between West Texas and their respective homes in Stephenville, Texas.

These days, life is less about professional bull riding and more about the oil business they started together. In fact, the 42 year olds do darn near everything together. However, ever since Gilbert retired Carrillo Cartel from competition he said it’s rare to receive a phone call from longtime PBR livestock director and fellow PBR cofounder Cody Lambert.

“I looked down and saw he was calling,” said Gilbert, who impersonated Lambert’s unceremonious salutation, “Gilbert, Cody Lambert.”

After some small talk, Gilbert quickly said, “Cody, I don’t have any more bulls and now that I retired Cartel I don’t have anything for you.”

Lambert wasn’t call about bulls.

Instead, he simply replied, “Congratulations.”

Figuring it must be some sort of dry sense of sarcasm from one of many old friends who affectionately calls the little Carrillo brothers “munchkins,” Gilbert recalled laughing for a minute and then asking, “What’s the joke? What did we do? What happened? Did Adam do something that I don’t know about?”

“No,” replied Lambert, “the Ring of Honor, it’s been a long time coming.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said Gilbert, who was “shocked” and speechless and unsure what to say other than ‘thank you.’ “One of the most prestigious things in the PBR is the Ring of Honor. Adam and I, of course, we’re one of the founding members and did not get one until now.”

It’s been a decade-long wait.

They had been hoping and anticipating this day and, more specifically, that call for years.

“When he called, I was shocked,” said Gilbert, who was then entrusted to call his brother Adam. “I thought holy shit, but now I’m done. I’m happy. If I don’t raise another bull, if I don’t buck another bull, I don’t care.”

His brother, who had joked he might wind up being inducted posthumously, would be just as thankful for the acknowledgement. However, not before Gilbert would joke around with him on the phone the way he thought Lambert had.

Adam was in Fort Worth with his son Wesley, a golfer who plays on the Junior PGA Tour, shopping for a new golf club.

When Gilbert called he told Adam, “They’re cracking back out Cartel?”

“What?”

“They want to crack Cartel back out.”

“Well, that’s good,” recalled Adam, who shocked to hear Gilbert say, “Nah, they’re not. We got the Ring of Honor.”

“I thought, damn right,” Adam said. “I’ve been wanting to get this for so long.

“As far as I’m concerned, in my life and what I’ve accomplished in bull riding is complete. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted. Now that we’ve got it, in my eyes, I’ve done everything I could.

H&L

Having to wait makes it more special and does nothing to dampen the spirit of receiving the highest recognition a bull rider can earn in the PBR.

The Ring of Honor was created in 1996 to recognize those who have had the most profound impact on bull riding, both in and out of the arena.

The 38 previous members – the Carrillo brothers along with Bobby Berger will bring the total to 41 – share a common bond of courage, strength and victory, and they have shown their dedication and support while playing a significant role in helping professional bull riding become what it is today.

Each inductee is presented with a ring featuring the PBR logo along with their name and year of induction.

The Carrillos will join a long list of legends and icons that include Lambert and onetime roommate Ty Murray along with the likes of Jim Shoulders and Larry Mahan as well as former college rodeo teammate Jerome Davis.

“It’s going to be awesome,” said Adam, who hasn’t thought about his speech yet. He hopes to have all his thoughts collected by then and said he’ll likely thank everyone from when he and Gilbert first started to when they retired, including their college coach Jim Watkins, who they’ve already asked to introduce them at the Heroes & Legends ceremony in Las Vegas.

Adam and Gilbert, the two youngest boys of six, were born and raised in El Paso, Texas.

Their parents John and Anne Carrillo were both raised on ranches in West Texas and likewise, the identical twins and their brothers – Tommy, Tracy, Robert and Eddie – were brought up on a farm around animals in what Adam referred to as a “cowboy atmosphere.” The spent their childhood at 4H events.

Their father, who passed away in 1999, was in the military and as a member of the civil service he worked for the government at the White Sands Missile Range.

Their first glimpse of bull riding came watching their brother Tracy and another older cousin, who had been in rodeo and were now competing in college.

At 13, they got on their first bulls.

They could rope and ride and until then had only tied up heifers, got on and “turned them loose.” There were no chutes, just two kids having fun, but despite lacking in stature, they stood out as soon as they started competing. Both made the short round the first time they entered an organized amateur event and Adam went on to win it.

“Shoot, one thing led to another,” Adam said, “and that’s what we loved. We had tunnel vision on riding bulls.”

Gilbert added, “Ever since then we were on the trail. We did it for 22 years nonstop. … We lived on the road. We were like gypsies. We made money to pay for ourselves and put money away.”

Lambert and Tuff Hedeman, who were both older, also grew up in El Paso.

Their brothers Gary “Roach” Hedeman, a former PBR bullfighter, and Casey Lambert were the two that helped the younger Carrillo brothers get on their first bulls, which happened to be practice bulls Tuff kept with Dustin Danley.

Their dad John had driven them to amateur events until undergoing his second open heart surgery at which time their brother Robert drove them or they traveled with a few older friends until they were old enough to drive themselves.

“Any good rodeo cowboy or bull rider is an athlete,” Adam said. “They can pretty much do anything. They can be a gymnast, a boxer, you name it.”

The two younger Carrillo brothers played baseball and football until their junior year in high school when rodeo took over their lives and they were competing too often to play other sports. Gilbert, who is older by five minutes, was the 1990 National High School Bull Riding Champion and won the Texas state title in 1991. Adam also won a state title, while in high school.

“Anything you could have done in the sport of bull riding, as far as growing up, we did,” said Adam, who explained if one didn’t win the other usually did.

After graduation, Gilbert and Adam were recruited to join the Odessa College rodeo team.

Watkins, who will introduce the brothers at their Ring of Honor induction ceremony, in October, had previously recruited Jim Sharp followed by Ty Murray and the one year the Carrillo’s attended Odessa College, they were teammates with Jerome Davis.

“As a team, we were unstoppable,” Adam said.

In their one season of junior college rodeo, Gilbert qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo.

Just a few years later, all five former Wranglers would eventually make up a quarter of the 20 original founders of the PBR.

The identical twins moved to Stephenville, Texas, where they still reside today, and roomed with Murray for a year before moving out on their own.

As pros – first in the PRCA and later with the PBR – they won their fair share and that’s saying quite a bit considering they were firmly entrenched in what is arguably the golden era of professional bull riding.

Lambert said, “They would dominate today.

“Adam and Gilbert, in their prime, would be in the same conversation as Guilherme Marchi right now. They rode pretty damn good. They didn’t ride as consistent as the great bull riders of that time, but they damn sure rode as consistent as the best bull riders of this time.”

More importantly, they both rode rank bulls.

Adam and Gilbert each have two rides that rank among the Top 50 scores of all time.

Adam scored 94.5 points on Jit – a bull owned by James Harper – and two years later, at an event in Columbus, Georgia, in 2001, he was the first to ride Mudslinger before he was known as Mossy Oak Mudslinger. While his score of 94.5 points was being announced, Adam had jumped up behind the chutes to pull Ty Murray’s rope before eventually celebrating the win.

“We’ve rode some rank bulls,” said Adam, who recalled being marked 97 points at a Touring Pro Division event in Springfield, Missouri. “I was never as consistent as Gilbert, but, like Gilbert, I had my fair share of rides.”

Gilbert put up 96 points on Perfect Storm, in 2001, and another 96 points a year later, in 2002, on Blueberry Wine. Lambert said, compared to other bulls, Blueberry Wine was tiny, but with Gilbert on his back he seemed bigger than he actually was.

However, when asked about the two scores, he simply replied, “My best ride I ever made – that bull would have blown away those two – was a bull called Crossfire Hurricane.”

Bred, raised and hauled by D&H Cattle Company, the Pages hauled him up to Oklahoma City, in 2003, where Gilbert was marked 94 points.

“That put me back on the map,” said Gilbert, who was a last-minute alternate after riding his way back from injury. However, his worst injuries came in 1993 when he sustained internal injuries that resulted in doctors removing a third of his pancreas and spleen. Two years later, in 1995, he broke his leg when a bull turned out backward in the Championship Round at an event in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

That year, at the time of his injury, he was the top-ranked rider in the PRCA and near the top in the PBR. He missed the National Finals Rodeo, but returned to the PBR and battled Hedeman down the stretch before giving way.

At the Finals, Gilbert would make his way to the chutes with the help of crutches and following his rides he would pull himself and crawl to safety.

“It was a bad deal,” said Gilbert, of his leg injury.

They were 35 years old when they both decided to retire at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

Together they qualified for the World Finals 11 consecutive times – they’re two of just three riders to have qualified for the Las Vegas event every year from 1994 to 2004 – and combined to win 12 Built Ford Tough Series events (Gilbert, 8; Adam 4) and more than $1 million in career earnings.

As was typical throughout both their careers, Gilbert continued to anticipate drawing the rankest bulls and relished those moments afforded him in which the bulls helped to “show us off and if we ride him, we win.”

Gilbert added, “We didn’t worry about the competition. We knew when we showed up at a bull riding we were either going to win it or place at it.”

“How many guys can say they got to rodeo with or ride with Ty Murray or Jim Sharp or got to get on practice bulls with Lane Frost?,” asked Adam, who said he and his brother are better described as entrepreneurs. “We also did stuff outside the world of bull riding.”

2014 Honoree:

Bull riding legend Bobby Berger qualified for the National Finals Rodeo 22 times, including eight times for bull riding. He is the 1979 PRCA World Champion of Saddle Bronc Riding and a three-time National Finals Rodeo Average Champion earned in Saddle Bronc Riding (1980) and in Bull Riding (1969, 1971). Berger is also one of only six men to qualify for three events at the NFR in one year (1971) - bareback, saddleback and bull riding.

**************************************************

It looked like an air show as one by one the planes flew overhead and landed on a small private airstrip adjacent to the rodeo ground, in Red Lodge, Montana, for a 4 p.m. performance.

It was the second of three rodeos every Fourth of July.

There would be 10 or more planes all lined up. Larry Mahan and Donnie Gay would fly in along with everyone from Bob Brown and Doug Brown to Bill Stanton and Gary Tucker as well as Phil Lyne, Bill Cornell and Shawn Davis, who gave Berger the nickname Farm Boy.

And, of course, right there alongside them would be Bobby Berger.

Earlier that afternoon they all rode in Cody, Wyoming, and would then compete again later that night in Livingston, Montana.

“You just land right there, park it, jerk your saddle out of the luggage rack and crawl over the fence and you were at the rodeo,” said Berger, who spent a great deal of his career traveling throughout the 1970s with Jerome Robinson.

Good times.

That’s how Berger remembers his pro career in which he qualified for the bull riding seven times at the National Finals Rodeo and 13 times in the saddle bronc riding. In 1971, he became only the second man – Larry Mahan was the first – to qualify for the NFR in all three rough stock events—a feat that would only be equaled years later by Ty Murray. Mahan accomplished it six times and Murray five, while Berger – a self-taught bareback rider – did it the one time.

berger 1

It was a hell of career that is universally remembered by those who knew him best as competitive and consistent.

And yet earlier this summer, Berger was surprised and overwhelmed when his longtime travel partner called to tell him he had selected for induction into the prestigious PBR Ring of Honor.

“Yeah, I was real surprised and real honored because with me winning the world in the saddle bronc riding in the latter part of my career, a lot of people forgot about my bull riding days,” said Berger, who added the call made him feel good about his accomplishments.

Berger is being inducted in the Ring of Honor along with Adam and Gilbert Carrillo. The trio will be only the 39th, 40th and 41st members honored since the Ring of Honor was created in 1996 to recognize those who have had the most profound impact on the sport of bull riding.

The members share a common bond of courage, strength and victory, and have shown their dedication and support while playing a significant role in helping professional bull riding become what it is today.

Each member is presented with a ring featuring the PBR logo along with their name and the year of their induction during an annual Heroes & Legends ceremony preceding the World Finals, in October.

“I’m just surprised they’re recognizing me, really,” said Berger, pausing again in disbelief.

*****

Berger, 69, grew up on a farm in Halstead, Kansas, where his father Marlon operated a full-time farm business raising wheat and milo. He also traded cows and horses.

The younger Berger was the fifth of six kids with two older brothers, two older sisters and a younger sister.

His brothers were 10 and 11 years older and he “tagged along to watch and mimic” as they rode bulls and broncs, roped and steer wrestled locally.

After graduating from Halstead High School, Berger attended junior college in Lamar, Colorado, where he was a member of the rodeo team and the livestock judging team.

Two years later he and a friend where at a pro rodeo in Pueblo, Colorado, when Jim Houston asked if they would be willing to drive his car out to the California State Fair in Sacramento. They drove it out there, entered the rodeo, which was 10 rounds over nine days, and by the time it was over Berger had earned a full scholarship to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

berger 2

He spent the next two years competing with the rodeo team and professionally, while he earned an undergraduate degree in Animal Science and learned to fly planes as an active member of a flying club at Cal Poly.

Upon graduating, in the spring of 1968, he bought a small, economical Comanche with the call letters 177 MIKE MIKE.

“He flew his own little airplane — the bumble bee,” said Bobby Steiner, who won the world title two weeks after turning 22 years old, in 1973, and immediately retired. Like Berger, despite never competing in the PBR, Steiner was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2005.

“It was little and it looked like just a bumble bee,” continued Steiner, who chuckled. “He flew that little some-bitch everywhere. … He was all over the sky.”

“Everybody made fun of it because it wasn’t as fancy as the other pilots of the day,” said Robinson, who flew with Berger for the better part of a decade. “It would be like rodeoing in a Volkswagen compared to Bobby Steiner in a brand new Oldsmobile.”

It might not have been comfortable – there was no air conditioning and it only had an AM radio – and it wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but it was cost effective.

“If it cost him $26 to fly (to an event),” said Robinson, who referred to Berger as thrifty, “that would have been a lot.”

Berger’s bull riding and bronc riding skills were as consistent as that little Comanche.

He first qualified for the NFR in 1966.

H&L

Having twice qualified in the bronc riding, Berger qualified in the bull riding for the first time in 1969. He won the average at the NFR that year, finished second in the world standings a year later and then won the average again in 1971 when he finished second in the standings for a second straight year.

Robinson and Lambert said Berger is, perhaps, one of the two best bull riders never to win a world title along with Denny Flynn. Clint Branger would also be in that conversation.

“There are so many good bull riders,” Robinson said, “but if there’s 10 that rode better than Bobby Berger in my whole career, I don’t know who they were.”

“He was one of the most consistent rank bull riders of any era,” Steiner said. “He would have filled his pockets in this day and age right now in these PBR deals, the way they’re set up.”

Robinson compared Berger’s competitiveness to Donnie Gay and later Tuff Hedeman.

“It just killed him to lose,” said Robinson, of Hedeman. “He was a bad loser, which in Berger’s case and the thing I like about Berger was he was every bit as competitive as them, but he didn’t make an ass out of himself when he didn’t win. And those two did.”

Robinson went so far as to describe Berger as being modest, if not charming.

In fact, in 1979, when he won a world title in saddle bronc riding two years after last qualifying for the NFR in bull riding, the gold buckle was initially awarded to another rider. Berger was as meticulous with his record keeping as he was competitive and was surprised to hear them announce someone other than him as the world champion.

“He looked hurt, but quizzical,” Robinson recalled. “He wasn’t stomping around or anything. When it all shook out he had won it by like $5 or something. They had to reverse it and give it to him. It was a mathematical, clerical error.”

Robinson added, “He didn’t wear his ego on his shirt sleeve.”

Two years earlier, in 1977, Berger would have won the average in the bull riding a record third time at the NFR. However, it was one of only three years in which the PRCA to recognize the average winners because they awarded the world titles in a sudden death format during the NFR.

Had he been awarded the average title, he would have joined Flynn and later Jim Sharp as the only riders to win it three times in a career.

It was the only time in NFR history in which a bull rider rode nine of 10 bulls for a third time at the NFR.

“He was great in two events,” Steiner said, “but he was seriously one of the most consistent bull riders I ever saw in any era—consistently tough. I mean, he was a sticky cat that was hard to get on the ground.

“He was the kind of guy that took that shit seriously. He was a lot of fun to be around and a great guy, but you needed to know him at the rodeo because you weren’t going to see him at the party afterward. He was strictly about winning, being serious and focused. That was a little different than the way I did it.”

“I’m kind of a one-track-mind kind of guy,” said Berger, who recalled other riders starting the year strong but getting distracted with family issues or fishing plans. “I get onto one thing and that’s all I can think about.”

Berger went to the NFR seven times as a bull rider and three of those times he rode more bulls than anyone else in the world. He wasn’t as stocky as Chase Outlaw is today, but far more physical than Brian Canter.

Standing only 5-foot-5, Berger was one of the shorter riders, but whatever he lacked in stature he more than made up for in strength.

Robinson said Berger would clamp down behind his rope and legs wouldn’t move. Steiner likened them to vice grips. Unlike other smaller riders, he didn’t stay out over the front end and would ride with his upper body, but without getting himself back on his arm and jerked over the front end.

“He had good body control,” said Robinson. “He was pretty strong.”

berger 3

Steiner offered this observation: “Had he just been a bull rider – well, you could probably say this about Mahan too – but had he just rode bulls and gone to more rodeos, man, I really tell you, he was unbelievable and he was for a long time.”

“Bobby Steiner is right on,” Robinson said. “There’s no telling how good (Bobby Berger) could have been.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” agreed Berger. “I can remember a lot of times Jerome getting us a little overbooked on our schedule. We’d land the plane and I’d be getting out and here the announcer, ‘We’re getting ready for the saddle bronc riding.’ I’d look at Jerome and ask, ‘What time did this rodeo start?’ ‘Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you it started at 4.’

“Man he could book us.”

This October, he and the Carrillo brothers will join an exclusive list that includes the likes of Jim Shoulders and Harry Tompkins along with along with Lambert, Murray, Sharp and Hedeman as well as Adriano Moraes, Chris Shivers and McBride.

Until now, only 38 other men know how it feels – emotionally speaking – to slip that ring on their finger.

“I think that’s a great call,” said Mahan, of Berger’s induction.

“The cool thing about it is the people they got from the before eras because without a doubt the PBR has made it fashionable to have ever been a bull rider,” said Steiner, who explained the PBR has opened doors and made the spot intriguing as opposed to the wild west freak show it was when he and Berger rode. “It’s cool to have been a bull rider now and for them to go into the past and get guys like Berger, I just think it’s such an honor.”

“He was a winner,” Robinson concluded. “He knew how to win.”

2013

2013 Honoree:

Shivers, who retired in 2012 after competing in a record 15 World Finals, earned 93 90-point rides in his career while becoming the first PBR rider to reach the $1 million, $2 million and $3 million marks in career earnings. The two-time PBR World Champion won his first title in 2000. In 2003, he became the second two-time world champ in PBR history. Shivers earned two 96.5-point rides, including his first in 2000 on Jim Jam and his second on the 2012 Brand of Honor bull, Dillinger, in 2001.

Throughout his career, Chris Shivers was listed in the PBR media guide at 5-foot-5.

It was a measurement once taken clearly while the Jonesville, La., native was wearing his boots. For 15 years, Shivers was among the shortest riders on the Built Ford Tough Series.

In fact, when he made his PBR debut in 1998, co-founder Cody Lambert recalled Shivers didn't even look like he was 13 years old.

"He was a little guy," added two-time World Champion Justin McBride.

He may not have had the size of other professional athletes, but by the time he retired at the conclusion of the 2012 season he had made an undeniable impact in the PBR and established himself as a giant in the sport of professional bull riding.

A once-in-a-generation rider, Shivers is arguably among the greatest riders in the 20-year history of the PBR, making him an obvious inductee into the Ring of Honor along with the legendary likes of Jim Shoulders, Harry Thompkins, Larry Mahan and Charles Sampson. As well as Ty Murray and Jerome Davis.

"There's a pretty big list of guys that have done something special," said Shivers, who's never been comfortable being asked to talk about himself, "and that was a big part of my career, some meaning in it to be able to leave a mark."

To say he simply left "a mark" would be an understatement.
Shivers won two world titles ― 2000 and 2003 ― and recorded more 90-point rides than anyone else in the 20-year history of the PBR (94). He was also the first man to earn $1 million, $2 million and $3 million among his countless other accolades.

Dunn, 44, was the first rider to record a 96.5-point ride when he covered Promise Land at a PBR event in 1999. Shivers, 34, equaled the high-marked ride twice ― 2000 and 2001 ― when he rode Jim Jam and Dillinger respectively.

Shivers was the TPD champion in 1997 and again in 2000 ― the same year he won his first of two world titles. He won the Lane Frost/Brent Thurman Award in 1999 and did so again in 2001.

By the time he retired at the conclusion of the 2012 season, Shivers had won just shy of $4 million in the arena and set a PBR record by qualifying for 14 World Finals. He's nodded his head more than 800 times and amassed over 400 qualified rides, in which darn near a quarter of them were for 90 points or more.

"He's ridden the rank ones, he's ridden the flashy ones, he's ridden the easy ones and (did) it with a style that got the maximum amount of points out of every bull," Lambert said.

"I've never seen anyone more exciting to watch (or) look better on a bull, and he could just beat you, hands down, on a two-point-less bull-because he's that good," McBride said.

He also earned the respect of nine-time World Champion Ty Murray.

"When he was on his game and when he was winning World Championships, I don't think anybody ever looked better," Murray said.

While everyone else is reminiscing, Shivers is focused on the same thing he's always been focused on-the future.

In past years, others have been left in awe by a flurry of 90-point rides, while he amassed a record book filled with wins.

Many of those same people are still talking about days gone by, while Shivers is focused on the future of the sport. For the past few years he's been the driving force behind the Miniature Bull Riders Association and was the namesake of the 2013 Chris Shivers MBR World Finals III.

"I think people ought to be worried about the future of bull riding because it's not like it used to be," Shivers said. "You don't have 10 guys that look like they're going to make it right now, that I've seen come up and down the road, so, I think, these mini bulls are going to build a lot of confidence and give these younger guys a step up."

In addition to the MBR, Shivers conducts several bull riding schools throughout the year.

He regularly hosts small events at his own personal indoor arena and willingly schools young, would-be bull riders on the basic fundamentals of riding.

Shivers is not resting on his past accomplishments, he's determined to help preserve and improve a sport that provided him and his family ― wife Kylie and two sons Brand and Blayne ― a great life.

However, that doesn't stop McBride and others from reminiscing.
"In his prime he was awesome," McBride concluded, "and it was something really fun to watch."

By: Keith Ryan Cartwright

2013 Honoree:

Well, I was born in a small town / and I live in a small town / probably die in a small town / oh, those-communities…

In the early 1990s, John Mellencamp had a hit single singing about the virtues of living in a "Small Town."

Of course, he was singing about his own hometown of Seymour, Ind., but he could have just as easily been singing about Latanier, La., which is a small, mostly Pentecostal burrow (pop 3,215) 10 miles south of Alexandria, where Bubba Dunn was born and raised and will likely spend the rest of his life.

Unlike Mellencamp, who packed up and left the southern Indiana farm town in order to become an international rock star, Dunn wouldn't forego the virtues of Southern life along the Red River right in the heart of Louisiana in search of fame and fortune as a professional bull rider. The familiar family life was fortune enough for Dunn.

The bull rider had a dislike for life on the proverbial rodeo trail.

"Sitting in a car or a van all day long and just driving," Dunn said. "I ain't going to say I done my share of it, but a bunch of it and if you're going to live that lifestyle you have to stay gone. I don't know. I could sit in the van and think of 10,000 things I could be doing at home.

"I definitely didn't like the idea of being gone a month at a time. You'd go to one and you wouldn't come home. You'd hang out at so-and-so's house ― a buddy's house, wherever you were working events ― hang out there for a week and then go work two or three and then come home. Man that crap didn't set well with me."

He wasn't keen on flying either.

No, it wasn't as though he had any fear of flying. Dunn simply didn't want to be that far away from the ranch he grew up on and the ranch he eventually took over.

As a matter of fact, when Norman Curry called to invite him in 1995 to what would have been his first PBR event in Charlotte, N.C., Dunn wasn't so sure that it was such a good idea.

"He called me and he said, 'I want to invite you to come to Charlotte,'" recalled Dunn. "I said, 'Alright, well, what's there?' He said, 'A bull riding-a PBR bull riding.' I get to looking at a map and said, 'I'll have to call you back.' I got to looking on the map and thought, (darn), that's a long ways over there."

Curry called on a Tuesday and, according to Dunn, the cost of a flight for the upcoming weekend was "an astronomical figure."

On Wednesday, Dunn called Curry with his answer.

"I called him back and said, 'I don't believe I'll make that one. If you get an opening somewhere else, call me,'" Dunn said. "I just declined that one."

Later that season, he accepted an invitation to compete in Nashville, Tenn.

Dunn's career ― or the PBR portion of it anyway ― began as nonchalantly as it would unceremoniously end after the 2000 season; but when he was riding bulls, he rode Promise Land for a PBR-record 96.5 points and became the only man in history to ride Bodacious to the whistle twice. In fact, he only got on him twice and rode him easily each time.

"I got a late start in my career at the professional level," Dunn said. "I hung around home too long, so ― I missed my prime. Mentally I wasn't really wanting to travel when I started traveling and, yeah, I think, I spent my days going to ― ah, the PBR wasn't there yet in '91, '92, '93 and somewhere in there ― to me ― was my prime.

"In 1995, (heck), I had to ride Bodacious to get invited to the PBR."

"I don't think the world really got to see what that man could really do," said two-time World Champion Chris Shivers. "He rode Bodacious twice and, I think, people got to see spurts of him on TV, but I got to witness a lot of him in Louisiana when he did get on some pretty rank bulls that he could really ride when he was younger. I think he was a little bit late to come into the PBR, but he was something special as far as a bull rider goes."

Dunn grew up on a small ranch.

His daddy, Buddy, rode bulls and remembers seeing pictures of him on bareback horses. He once met some "old men" who told him stories. He only knows his daddy as a working man, who provided for his family.

When he was 5, his daddy's two younger brothers ― Bill and Ronnie ― started riding bulls. They gave little Bubba a cow bell to put on a rope of his own and he "was hooked then."

He got a bucking barrel and eventually Buddy took him to a local rodeo, where kids get on "wild, crazy cows."

"They didn't use flank ropes on them, and (they) would go through there like a balloon somebody had blowed up, so I started getting on them," Dunn said. "My daddy was really hardcore and if one of them would come through there that would fight in the box and all the other kids would run away from it, he'd call me over and say, 'Which one you getting on?' We picked the one we wanted. I'd say, 'I want that one right over there,' and he'd say, 'No, get your (stuff) and come over here. You're getting on this one.' I was like, oh, (darn), there's a reason nobody wants to get on it. It's trying to climb out of the chute ― that crazy-ass old cow."

It was all or nothing at the Dunn ranch.

He'd get on 13, sometimes 14, head of cattle at the practice pen and rode in local amateur events every Friday and Saturday night against 20 to 30 other riders-most whom that were older and more experienced than him.

Dunn still won.

He was a natural.

"I was always riding something," he said. "I can remember getting on in tennis shoes and a muscle shirt and just spurring the crap out of them ole bulls. It wasn't nothing like the PBR bulls, but to us we were big timing it."

Open events led to local and regional events, and in 1987 he started competing throughout the state. He won the state title in October 1990.

Unfortunately, his daddy died shortly after.

"I don't know," said Dunn, pausing, "it set me back."

He wasn't yet 20 and he had already lost his mamma when he was 16 years old. His younger brother was only 15 and both parents were gone.

"Here I am in the world by myself is the way I felt," said Dunn, which goes a long way in understanding why he never wanted to leave home in the first place. "I felt like I was responsible. I had to step up and take the reins. We had a place and what are you going to do, let it go to the birds? That's home."

His older sister took on a motherly role for his younger brother.

In the meantime, Dunn worked the ranch by himself.

He didn't ride bulls for almost two years.

But he was so good that when he finally climbed back in the bucking chute, he won the Louisiana state title in '92 '93 and '94, which is the same year he won the state all-around title. In spite of having a PRCA permit and an invitation to travel with Curry, he didn't mind staying close to home.

"They charted planes and all that crap," Dunn said. "I went about as hard as I was going to go and said, 'to (heck) with this. I'm going home.' I wasn't made to live on no blacktop."

Eventually he took the call from Curry and made his way to the PBR.

Although he competed only as often as he wanted to ― his most complete years were 1997 and 1999 ― he still has three scores ranked in the Top 25 all time.

"Three rides, huh," said Dunn, unaware of the longstanding accomplishment. "What were they?"

Of course, there's the 1999 event in Tampa, Fla., when he rode Promise Land for 96.5 points and later that year he had tied the previous record of 96 points when he rode Red Wolf in Charlotte.

Yes, he did finally venture as far east as North Carolina.

That same event, which surprisingly he did not win, he also rode Hollywood for 95 points. He's the only rider in the 20-year history of the PBR to record scores of 96 and 95 points in the same regular-season event and not win.

However, he was rewarded with his only event win ― then called the Bud Lite Cup Series ― in Tampa for his efforts on Promise Land.

"I knew I had made a good ride, at the time, but I didn't really think it was going to be something that special," Dunn recalled, "but, I mean, I knew I had made a good ride. I don't know, it was like it wowed everybody else more than it wowed me.

"I just got to the whistle and done everything I could to do it. That's the way I rode bulls. I wasn't a guy that just sat still up there. If it was a good bull or a rank bull I had to be spurring him to get him rode."

He kicked loose on a January night in Florida and made a ride that nearly 15 years later illustrates how influential his style would be for a youngster named Chris Shivers. The fellow Louisiana native, who looked up to Dunn as a hero and mentor, patterned his flashy style after him.

"Bubba was a guy that knew how to ride rank bulls," said Shivers, whose rookie year in the PBR was in 1998. "He was a guy that was flashy and he used his feet a lot. He was a guy that made bulls really look good. That's where, I think, I got most of my action from. I didn't want to just sit there and be real still and just make the whistle. I wanted to be 90 and he was a guy that I felt like that was the way he approached things, so that's the direction I went in.

In any case, just as Michael Gaffney doesn't feel as though his 96.5 points on Little Yellow Jacket was worth all those points, Dunn is still unconvinced as well.

Nevertheless, he wasn't about to give back those points then and he's certainly not going to do so now.

He remembers being in the locker room when the riders gathered round longtime PBR production crew member Jay Prestin to look at the draw for the final round. Dunn said he felt as though he had a tendency to "draw in circles," meaning if he drew a rank bull once he was likely to draw him three and four times.

Promise Land was different.

He had never been on him prior to then.

Dunn was looking forward to the matchup ― "I said, 'That'll work. We can win first on him'" ― and knew Promise Land was also in his prime.

"That sucker was huge," Dunn said. "I was like this is like getting on the hood of a truck.

"I hit my head out there. I was on the back of my neck and it kind of stunned me. I got right up, but it kind of stunned me and I walked back over to the bucking chutes and I knew I had made the whistle. Ole (Cody) Lambert, he was a back judge and he jumped off the back of the bucking chutes, down into the pen there, and he walks up to me. I'm trying to get my hat back on and he said, 'That's the best damn bull ride I ever seen.' I just looked at him and was like, 'Really?'

That's the response he had when Lambert called him earlier this year.

When the co-founder and longtime livestock director phoned Dunn with the news of his induction into the Ring of Honor, Dunn, 44, had no idea what the call was about when he answered.

At the time, Dunn and his wife, Kristy, were entertaining some guests in their Louisiana home when Lambert called.

"I was floored there for a second," Dunn said. "I talk to Cody, but not very often and I thought he was calling to talk about some bulls. He said, 'I just got off a conference call and me and the guys' ― I don't know who the guys are anymore ― and he said, 'We decided we're going to give a ring to both you and Chris at the same time.'

"I said, 'Well, great.'"

It makes it that much more special said Shivers.

"Being inducted into the Ring of Honor with him just makes it a little more special," said Shivers, 34, who later added, "I think that should be pretty special for the state of Louisiana. We were two guys that represented the state pretty well. … We're pretty good people and pretty good bull riders too and that's something that I'm proud of."

Asked what his old man would think and Dunn said, "I don't know that daddy would say anything. He'd probably just sit there and he'd probably tear up a little. That's what he done when he watched me win my first Louisiana championship.

"He wasn't a guy who was going to run out there and brag on you and pat you on the back and tell you, you done good or anything like that. He sure as hell wasn't fixing to make you feel like you really done something. He was always going to be that guy to leave a room to make you try harder."

Like father, like son.

Bubba Dunn, who with Shivers will become only the 37th and 38th riders to be inducted into the Ring of Honor on Tuesday night at a ceremony in Las Vegas, makes everyone around him try harder.

by Keith Ryan Cartwright

2012

2012 Honoree:

In 1999, the same year he won a PRCA world title, Mike White transitioned to the PBR and was named the Rookie of the Year. A fan favorite throughout his entire career, White has earned more than $1.4 million riding in the PBR and in 223 BFTS events he recorded 67 Top 10 finishes — 43 of which were in the Top 5 — and 12 event titles.

In 2002, he finished fourth in the PBR world standings; a year later, in 2003, he ranked third in the world. In 2003, he also claimed four event wins that included a stretch of winning three of four events. In 2004 he recorded 10 Top 5 finishes.

Prior to qualifying for nine PBR World Finals and three NFR appearances, White was an accomplished amateur bull rider as well. In 1995, he won the high school state championship in Louisiana en route to competing in the National High School Finals as a senior. A year later, he qualified for the National College Finals before turning pro in 1997.

Two years after retiring, the Louisiana native is as much a part of the PBR as he was when he was one of the top-ranked bull riders in the world.

In addition to hosting his annual Touring Pro Division event, White works several Built Ford Tough Series events in the arena on horseback. However, on a daily basis, White, who makes his home on a ranch outside of DeKalb, Texas, spends the majority of his time working with futurity and classic bulls along with caring for and hauling other bucking bulls.

In addition to hosting the two events White has been raising bucking bulls since before retiring from competition during the 2010 season. He’s been hauling bulls to ABBI and PBR events for the past two years.

2012 Honoree:

With access to both an indoor and an outdoor arena, Ross Coleman rode all the rough stock an aspiring bull rider could hope for. He competed in junior rodeo and high school rodeo, and went on to attend the University of Nevada at Las Vegas on a full scholarship. He won the College National Finals Rodeo all-around title in 1998, the same year he turned pro.

He made the PBR Finals his first year on the tour, 1999, and every following year until his retirement in 2011.
He’s been out on 812 bulls and had qualified rides on 402. But even with that many rides, certain bulls stand out as high points in a long career.

His career high score came on the back of the legendary bull Dillinger, who Coleman rode for 93.50 points in 2002. That same year he came in second in the world behind Ednei Caminhas.

Coleman’s personality served him well as a rider and it has served him well since his retirement from bull riding. After spending two years feeling as if riding was a job rather than a passion, he hung up his bull rope in 2011.

He and his wife, Amy, have two boys, Cooper, 4, and Cruse, 3, and they’re expecting a third child in December. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, for sure,” Coleman said about his family.

Life after bull riding has been good to Coleman. He is head of VIP Sales and Services for Back Seat Buckers, the American Bucking Bull Inc., a program that gives people the opportunity to be part of the bull industry by buying a young bull. It’s a job tailor-made for a gregarious former bull rider and he loves it.

Coleman is also part of the Ford Invasion team and has appeared twice in hunts on the television show “Ford Trucks Takes PBR Outdoors.”

2011

2011 Honoree:

As he watched the traditional Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee, Fla., as a young boy, Tater Porter yearned to strap on a pair of spurs and take on the toughest bull around.

Learning how to thrive in the dangerous sport would be a challenge for a youngster whose family had no rodeo or bull riding experience. But that didn't deter Porter from finding the right help and becoming one the world's top bull riders of the 2000s.

"I feel like I've worked my way from the bottom to the top," Porter said.

When he retired from the sport in 2007, Porter had more than $925,000 in Professional Bull Riders earnings, and a gold-and-silver trophy buckle that says he was a PBR World Finals average champion.

For that success and more, Porter was selected for the PBR Ring of Honor class of 2011. He and the late Brent Thurman, who died shortly after being stepped on by a bull at the 1994 National Finals Rodeo, were inducted during the inaugural PBR Legends Reunion on Oct. 25 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Porter, 40, grew up in Florida, a state that's not known for producing high-profile bull riders, but an area of the country that has an abundance of ranching and agricultural activity. During his early years, Porter's father drove a service truck and his mother worked for the forestry service.

But every time Porter attended a rodeo, he was captivated by the bull riding event. He began riding steers at 8 years old and climbed on his first bull at 11.

"I had access to a practice arena in Florida where they rode bulls every Thursday night and team roped," Porter said. "When they would finish roping the steers, I would run them in the bucking chutes on the other end and ride them."

During his teenage years, a bull rider named Joel Fordham, who competed on amateur level and in minor-league pro associations, began taking Porter to rodeos throughout the region along with other traveling partners. It helped Porter become familiar with the process of traveling to rodeos, making a prize-winning ride and then moving onto the next competition.

"Being in the truck with guys, and me being the young guy, I got picked on and stuff like that, but it made me to where I could get in the truck and go with anybody," Porter said. "It made me more well-rounded."

Porter said one of the main reasons he excelled was because he was teachable.

"I always realized that I'm never too old to learn something, and you always can pick up something along the way," Porter said.

Porter also made a point to compete against credentialed cowboys, and he continually aspired to move up to tougher levels of competition.

"You're only as good as the competition that you're riding against," Porter said.

"There's a lot of people who are stars of an amateur association and they dominate on that level. But then, they take that next step and they are at the bottom of the rung and they can't handle that. It's a case where the spotlight was on them, but when they take that next step and don't win, it takes the wind out of their sails.

"But in my case, I kept striving to go forward and win the whole time. I wanted to go to the next rung on the ladder. And even though they would put on the back burner at first, I would prove myself."

When he would enter a higher level of competition, Porter worked hard to make a great first impression. For example, Porter won a bull riding Rookie of the Year title in the International Professional Rodeo Association in the early 1990s. And when he competed in his first PBR World Finals in 1997, Porter entered the Las Vegas championships leading the rookie race. However, he was derailed in his attempt to finish the year as the top freshman after suffering a broken leg in an early round of the World Finals.

"I wanted to be the new guy to come in there and set it on fire," Porter said. "I wanted to be the new guy that people would look at. When I joined the PBR, I wanted to show that this old boy from Florida was here to win."

Porter rebounded from the leg injury and returned to the World Finals in 1998.

But he made his big move during the 2000 season.

In 2000, Porter won the coveted World Finals average title and finished third in the world title race (then called the Bud Light Cup Series) behind No. 1 finisher Chris Shivers and reserve champion Ty Murray.

At the 2000 World Finals, Porter had to put out extra effort during the last performance. He mounted three bulls (instead of two head) before claiming the average/aggregate victory.

In the fourth round, he was bucked off of a bull named Prime Time in three seconds. But judges ruled that Prime Time did not make a clean break from the chute and awarded Porter a re-ride.

On his re-ride, Porter barely stayed on for the required 8 seconds against a bull named Yellow One, owned by Terry Williams. He scored 87.5 and moved on to the final round, where he conquered Don Kish's Copenhagen Cash for a score of 93.

Porter won the World Finals average after finishing as the only rider who stayed on all five bulls. He received $225,000 for turning in the highest aggregate score and finished the year with $405,774.

Porter said he knew he had become one of the sport's elite when he could thrive in the PBR.

"There's no doubt about it, when you are winning in the PBR you are one of the elite bull riders in the world, hands-down," Porter said. "There's nothing that really compares to it. To be a part of that is an honor within itself. But to win against those guys, and then be in the Ring of Honor, that really fuels your fire."

'There's nothing that really compares to [the PBR]. To be a part of that is an honor within itself. But to win against those guys, and then be in the Ring of Honor, that really fuels your fire.'

Overall, Porter made nine PBR World Finals appearances. His last trip to the Las Vegas championships was in 2007, the same year he retired. All in all, Porter has $925,224 in PBR earnings.

After all those years of success, Porter gives simple reasons for regularly finishing in the money.

"The good Lord watching out for me is the first step," Porter said. "You also need to be a person who never shows weakness. A person needs to be humble, honest and try hard every time. You never know, when you get on a bull, that you might not get a next time. So, every time you nod your head, you need to be trying your hardest."

When he faced a very rank bull, Porter came with lots of determination.

"You want to get your mind set," Porter said. "You don't want to say to yourself, 'This bull's never been ridden.' Instead, you should say, 'I want to be the first guy to ride this bull and I'm excited to get him.'"

"I grew up with bull riding and never was deterred with the dangerous side of it, ever," Porter said. "I just looked at it as something that I loved to do. Even when the money wasn't great - and it was like that when we first started - we did it because we loved it."

Looking back, Porter says he finds lots of fulfillment from being among a group of cowboys who helped pro bull riding become lucrative.

"There were guys who paved the road in front of us." Porter said. "It was like they laid down the stones for us. Then, it was like we came along and help paved the surface for the guys who are going today to have a smooth road to travel on. Professional bull riding used to be a bumpy road with ruts in it, but today's bull riders have an interstate where they can win a bunch of money.

"My generation of bull riders started out traveling a bumpy road. Jim Shoulders and those guys traveled on an old gravel road that had lots of holes and bumps. But nowadays, the road has been paved by all of us for these boys to have an interstate to go win money a whole lot faster than we did."

During his years on the circuit, one of Porter's big assets was his upbeat personality and his genuine interest in other people. He was known for helping younger riders feel welcome, and he was a hit with fans.

"Tater is a really outgoing guy who never met a stranger," said former PBR World Finals average winner J.W. Hart. "You meet him once and he'll remember you from that day on. He'll always go out of his way to talk to anybody and everybody. He's been one of the best ambassadors for this sport that we've had. When it came to interacting with the fans, he did as good of a job as anybody I know."

'He's been one of the best ambassadors for this sport that we've had. When it came to interacting with the fans, he did as good of a job as anybody I know.'

Two-time PBR World Champion Justin McBride said he has great memories of Porter helping him during his early years in the PBR.

"He was always good to new guys who would come along," McBride said. "He was that way to Ross Coleman and me. He took us in. If you were driving somewhere, he was a guy who would sit up with you and would try to get to know you.

"Later in my career, when new guys would come around, it might take me a while to get to know a new guy who was fresh on tour. But Tater would get to know him the first week. He made a point of always getting to know the new guys and making them feel comfortable. "

Porter's knack for handling people well made a big impression of Murray, a seven-time world all-around champion who helped found the PBR.

"It was a pleasure to be in the locker room with Tater," Murray said. "Everybody likes Tater. He's been an asset to the sport both in and out of the arena. He's a true fan of the sport, an ambassador of the sport who has done a lot to bring fans to the sport."

Today, Porter works on the Vida Ranch near his home in Kenansville, Fla. It's a cow/calf operation and Porter has worked there for the past 11 years.

"I worked on the ranch even when I was riding," Porter said. "I was like all of the rest of the bull riders; I had a job during the week that I would go do. That's one of those humbling deals. No matter how much you make during the weekends riding bulls, it's always good to have something to fall back on."

"Cowboying is what I love to do," he said "It's in my blood. It's like the old saying: You'll never have to work a day in your life if you enjoy your job."

Porter also is raising a family. He and his wife, Ashley, a kindergarten teacher, have three children whose ages range from 5 to 10.

Ashley Porter said was no big surprise to watch her husband reach the higher echelons of bull riding.

"He was always extremely determined," she said. "I remember watching the PBR World Finals with him when he was not in the Top 45, and he said, 'I'll be there next year.' And sure enough, he was there the next year. Since he was in kindergarten, he knew he was going to be a bull rider and he just has that motivation and determination."

Prior to his induction into the PBR Ring of Honor, Porter knew it would be a neon night that he would will never forget.

"I'll say it just like J.W. Hart said it when he was inducted - it probably will be the biggest honor than I've ever gotten because I never won a world title," Porter said. "This will be like my world title. I've dedicated everything that I have to the PBR. I love the sport and I'm passionate about it. Just to be honored like this in front of my peers means the world to me."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2010

2011 Honoree:

Almost nothing went as planned on Sunday, Dec. 11, 1994.

Brent Thurman was known among his friends for having a calming presence in the most dangerous sport in the world. But that morning, he woke up anxious about his final-round matchup with Red Wolf at the National Finals Rodeo.

He nervously asked Aaron Semas for his thoughts on the bull, something his girlfriend Tara Farrell recalled as out of character for the laidback rider.

Other than that, it seemed like any other Sunday - Thurman was good-naturedly annoying everyone in the car by singing "Winter Wonderland" all the way from the Gold Coast Hotel & Casino to the Thomas & Mack Center.

He'd sing a few lines, look at his friends and laugh, then try to sing some more. That was Thurman. He was a cutup, who could make almost anyone feel comfortable in a tense situation.

As they finally arrived at the arena, Thurman joked, "The minute I get off that bull, I'm going to have a shot of tequila."

He never had the opportunity.

Farrell remembers that it took longer than usual for him to call for the gate. Four seconds later, Red Wolf stepped on him. He suffered facial and cranial injuries, never regained consciousness, and six days later passed away at a trauma center in Las Vegas.

"We went from walking in a winter wonderland to the worst nightmare you could imagine," Farrell said. "It's almost to where your brain can't comprehend something that quick. It was like, 'OK, this is not real. This is not happening.'"

At 25, Brent Thurman was dead.

Thurman was born on March 3, 1969, in Austin, Texas, the younger of two boys.

Brock, two years older than Brent, was serious like his father Will, while Brent was more like his mother Kay. Even at a young age, he took everything in stride.

When the boys were seven and nine, their parents divorced.

Brent turned to sports, but his teachers soon discovered he had a learning disability. Brent was dyslexic, and worked tirelessly with tutors for years. Kay, who had already developed a special bond with her son, worked with him on a daily basis.

By the time he was in high school, Brent played football and basketball, and ran track. He was also a natural when it came to golf, but his first love was always bull riding.

In his junior year, despite winning a city golf tournament, he focused on bull riding.

Brent planned to compete professionally until he reached the age of 30, when he would turn his attention toward the Senior PGA tour.

"I don't know," Kay said. "We'll never know if he would have really stopped at 30, but that was the plan."

"I was young when I had the boys," said Kay, who worked hard to give her boys a good home. They were short on money, but always long on love. "I guess I was just a kid raising a kid."

For all but one year, she raised her two boys in the country. The year in Austin "didn't work out so well."

"There's a vast difference in a city child and country kid," she said, "and I really didn't realize that until I took them into town."

Kay was dating Andy Carey, who proved to be a huge influence for Brent in his development as a bull rider. Carey taught him the fundamentals of the sport, and for years, if Brent needed help with his riding, he consulted Carey.

He learned how to be tough.

In high school, he and his childhood friend Dow Farrell took a job cutting firewood to make extra money. Kay worried that one of the boys would wind up getting hurt.

One Friday morning, Dow walked into the Thurman kitchen and said, "Kay, it's bad."

Brent came in with his pants leg soaked in blood.

He had cut through his knee, down to the bone with a chainsaw. Brent promised to see a doctor on Monday, but asked his mother to bandage him up so that he could compete that night.

"It looked like he got slaughtered," said Kay, who insisted he go to the emergency room immediately. "It's a wonder he didn't bleed to death. He was a tough little guy."

How tough?

Brent broke his left wrist 22 times before he finally had it reconstructed in 1993.

Thurman became part of the public consciousness as one of the top-ranked professional bull riders in the world. He rode in an era alongside greats like Michael Gaffney and Wacey Cathey, as well as Ty Murray and Jim Sharp.

But his gift, as Kay calls it, was his love for people.

"It didn't matter if you had a nickel to your name or you were the governor," Kay said. "He was going to treat you both just the same."

Friends and family joke that they never met anyone missing their front teeth who loved to smile as much as Brent.

"He was very considerate, for a man," said Tara. "Not to a sappy extent, but he had the most amazing sense of humor."

She later added, "He had a conscience, and you don't really see that in this day and age. I just loved that about him. He definitely wanted to live right - and that's not to say he didn't go out and tear it up quite a bit, but he wanted to be a good guy. He didn't want to be a guy people never thought much of.

"But you know what I really loved about Brent? You could take him anywhere, and he would be completely comfortable."

A year before his death, he met a couple in the lobby of the Gold Coast.

It was the first time he had qualified for the NFR. The couple had never been to a rodeo, and had no idea who he was, but Thurman decided to invite them along.

He got them a pair of tickets and even offered them a ride to the arena.

"He wanted everyone to see what he always loved," Tara said. "He was that type of guy. That's just who he was."

It's a personality trait that comes from Kay's side of the family.

Kay's father Merle Goodnight was a gregarious Texan. Merle's great uncle was Charles Goodnight, perhaps the most famous Texas cattle rancher of all time, known as the "father of the Texas Panhandle."

Kay described her son by saying, "He loved life, he loved his friends, he loved his God, he loved his family, and somehow or another he worked us all in to where you would have felt like a special friend. I felt like a special mother, and everybody that he drug home - and there were probably thousands of them over the years - I don't know- he had a gift.

"He truly had a gift with people."

"That child was my life," said Kay, holding back tears 17 years after Brent's death. "Nothing matters without him in it."

The death of a child is unimaginable, except for the unfortunate few who survive it. The bull riding community did what it could.

Cathey was by Kay's side for months as she dealt with the loss, as were Brent's close friends Billy Cochrane and Bo Davis. The strongest bond, however, was between Kay and Tara.

They lived together until about year before Tara married Dow Farrell.

The two looked after each other, leaning on one another for support as they learned to live with the loss.

"It's hard to cope with, right?" asked Tara. "I learned to realize that it wasn't just about me. It was an amazing lesson.

"You have to put yourself outside of what you want, and that's a hell of a thing to do."

Tara recalled the Sunday afternoon in Vegas when the accident occurred. "I remember thinking, 'Get up. Get up. This is Brent, he's going to get up,' and then thinking, 'This is not good,'" she said. "If you truly love someone - truly love them - it takes a lot to step outside of the box and say, 'What does this person want?'"

That night, the doctors prepared everyone for the inevitable.

Gaffney, who was out with an injury and not competing at the time, flew in from New Mexico to say goodbye to his friend. One by one, the others did the same. In her last words to Brent, Tara told him it was all right to go and be with God.

For two years, Kay was "mad at God," until one day she finally realized she was only hurting herself.

"It took a lot," added Tara, "but I think you also go into survival mode."

With the anger came sadness, loneliness and second-guessing.

Kay said a part of her wishes she had never put him on his first steer.

Still, "For him, I'm terribly thankful I did, because it was his love, his passion, and it made it his 25 years incredibly happy," she said.

Tara added, "He knew the dangers, but Brent was not going to change what he did. He loved riding bulls - loved it, loved it, loved it - and I've never loved anything like that other than my family - but, yeah, he loved it and he knew the risk."

He gave his life to bull riding.

In April of 1992, he was one of 20 riders who gathered in a Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room and gave his unconditional support to founding the PBR. He managed to put together $1,000 for his share of the initial investment.

"I remember him talking on the phone and saying, 'Whatever it is, I'm in. I want this. Let's do this,'" Tara said.

"He said, 'Mom, it'll give us all a chance,'" said Kay. "It gave Brent something to believe in. It was something he was very, very proud of."

In October of 1994, just two months before his death, he qualified for the first-ever PBR World Finals. As Kay put it, "He got a taste of it."

In the years since, the Thurman family has remained closely associated with the PBR. Kay's last promise to her son was to hold a Touring Pro event in his honor as a charity fundraiser. She promised him one, and 13 years later, with the help of Davis and Cochran, the Brent Thurman Foundation continues to raise money for mentally and physically challenged children and adults.

Serving the community meant a lot to Brent.

Before making his final trip to Las Vegas, he purchased a bicycle for a boy in his mother's neighborhood who was part of a special-needs program at Covington Middle School. Brent may not have delivered it himself, but Kay saw to it that on Christmas Eve, the boy received the gift from her son.

For all he gave, Brent Thurman was inducted into the prestigious PBR Ring of Honor. At a ceremony on Oct. 25, 2011 at the MGM Hotel & Casino, he and Tater Porter became just the 33rd and 34th men to earn the coveted ring.

"It's huge," said Tara.

Kay said, "I'm so thankful for the PBR giving Brent a dream. The main thing about Brent is his generosity and his love of people. … He was going to make you like him one way or another.

"He had a gift. He truly did."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2010 Honoree:

Randy Bernard was a 28–year–old fair promoter when he was hired as CEO of the Professional Bull Riders in August of 1995. In 15 years, his talents and tireless work ethic took the PBR from obscurity to global heights. He was the first and only non-rider ever inducted into the Ring of Honor.


Randy Bernard could only watch as the argument escalated in the Las Vegas conference room.

Cody Lambert and Tuff Hedeman, two prideful cowboys, were discussing how much money should be paid at an event in Tunica, Miss.

This was Bernard’s only second meeting as CEO of the fledgling Professional Bull Riders.

The first one, in Guthrie, Okla., hadn’t gone much better. When Bernard entered the room, a few of the members of the PBR board of directors didn’t even know the organization had hired him to become its new leader.

This second meeting was heading down a worse path.

Suddenly, an angry Lambert picked up a chair and hurled it across the table. It nearly hit the then 28-year-old CEO and left a hole in the wall behind him.

“What the hell had I gotten myself into?’’ recalled Bernard of his initial reaction in 1995.

He wasn’t afraid of taking risks. That’s why the PBR hired him. But enduring bodily injury was not one of them.

The PBR, in Billings this weekend, is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization began with 20 nervous bull riders pledging $1,000 each during a 1992 meeting in a Scottsdale, Ariz., hotel room.

Unlike previous organizations, the PBR was owned by bull riders, for bull riders.

The PBR now awards more than $10 million annually at events in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia and Mexico. The year-end champion receives a $1 million dollar bonus.

“It’s pretty cool,’’ said Bernard of the PBR’s phenomenal success.

A large part of that was because of Bernard’s short- and long-range vision.

Both plans had a common goal.

“To showcase the best bull riders in the world,’’ he said.

Bernard was the manager of the California Mid-State Fair when he first came across Lambert and Ty Murray. He paid them appearance fees to compete at a local rodeo, common practice to boost attendance.

A couple of years later, the two asked him about taking the rope of the PBR.

“I saw this was something that could grow,’’ said Bernard. “I felt I could be a big help.”

Bernard wanted to bring in a younger audience. Out went the brass band, in came rock and roll. His early goals also included a great sound system at events, no dust and a consistent rule book. And to make the PBR profitable.

According to the 2009 PBR documentary, “This Is Not Rodeo,’’ the organization had $8,000 in the bank and $140,000 in bills yet to be paid.

A long-standing story has Lambert telling Bernard, “One thing you really need to try and do is make sure we make $50,000 so you can get paid.”

Bernard started a PBR magazine, expanded the PBR World Finals and added the Touring Pro Division. With big financial help from Tom Teague, the PBR was able to buy back its television rights. “One of my most important decisions,’’ Bernard said.

“We needed to own 100 percent of all the facets of our sport. We needed not to just sanction events, but to own them. We needed to own our TV rights, merchandise rights, photo rights ... everything.”

He also took the PBR to major markets, like Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Change came slowly and sometimes haltingly.

“Back then, sometimes it wasn’t who had the best idea but who could yell the loudest,’’ Bernard said. “Looking back, I would say how fast we did grow (surprised him). But during that time, it seemed like it took forever.”

And there were some casualties along the way. Hedeman, an original PBR founder and spokesperson, had a falling out with other board members and hard feelings remain today.

But with the bull riders' backing, Bernard and the PBR slowly achieved its goals. It became profitable, has international events and sells out venues across the United States.

The PBR has paid out $120 million since its inception and 25 bull riders are now millionaires on money won at PBR events.

And with keeping of offering th best bull riders, the last three PBR world champions are from Brazil.

There are 26 Built Ford Tough Series events scheduled in 17 states this year. Billings is the smallest market but has the longest, continuous relationship with the PBR.

“The people of Billings are awesome,’’ said Bernard. “I always loved going up there.”

Bernard left the PBR two months into the 2010 season to become the CEO of IndyCar Racing. After a tumultuous time there, he was let go. Bernard is now the CEO of RFD-TV based in Omaha, Neb.

The PBR still follows his blueprint for success.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned in sports is that mediocrity does not sell. It doesn’t sell to the fans and it doesn’t sell to the sponsors. If you don’t represent the best in the world, your success rate is probably around 10 percent.

“The most pleasant surprise for me during my time with the PBR was the cowboys. How hard they were willing to work to build their sport. I still follow it. I’ve been to five events already this year.”

--source: BillingsGazette.com

2010 Honoree:

Jim Sharp was perhaps the most talented man to ever climb onto a bull. Sharp rode professionally for 16 years, and was a founding father of the PBR. In a career considered legendary even by fellow legends, Sharp claimed two PRCA world championships.


Born October 6, 1965 in Kermit, Texas, to a rodeo family, Sharp rode his first steer at the age of nine and never looked back. In 1981, he won his first of four (1981, 1983-85) bull riding championship titles in the American Junior Rodeo Association and went on to win the Texas High School All-Around title in 1984.

Sharp continued his dominance at the collegiate level, winning back-to-back National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association bull riding titles (1986-87), while attending Odessa (Texas) College.

As a rookie in the PRCA in 1986, he won the Resistol Rookie of the Year and Texas Circuit Rookie of the Year titles in the bull riding and set a new record for most money won in a rookie year ($100,160). He also qualified for his first of seven consecutive trips to the National Finals Rodeo.

In 1988, he rode his way into the history books by becoming the first bull rider to ride all 10 bulls at the National Finals Rodeo. The record-breaking performance earned Sharp his first of two PRCA world titles. The following year, he won the NFR bull riding average for the second consecutive year and in 1990, he won his second world title. His last year to qualify for the NFR was 1992, when he picked up his third bull riding average title.

Known as “The Razor”, Sharp has been quoted as saying, “(My favorite memory was) when I rode 10 bulls at the NFR and won the world championship.”

--source: ProRodeoHallofFame.com

2009

2009 Honoree:

J.W. Hart’s 15-year professional riding career netted a host of honors, including 1994 Rookie of the Year, 2002 World Champion, and 2004 Challenger Tour Champion. The original “Iron Man,” Hart rode in a then-record 197 consecutive BFTS events, and was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2009. He now raises bulls and works the broadcast booth as an announcer.

J.W. Hart's transition from the amateur ranks to the professional level coincided with the PBR's establishment of bull riding as a viable stand-alone sport.

In those early years, there weren't many events. In addition to the 20 founders, most included riders like Hart, who were invitees. Hart had been recommended to the others by his friend Jerome Davis, who had seen him ride, and the eager 18-year-old "burned up (the PBR) phone lines" from one event to the next to see if he had made the draw.

His then-record of 197 consecutive events became all the more astonishing, considering that he was never certain if he'd have an opportunity to compete.

One event he remembers from those early years was in Laughlin, Nev.

He rode a bull named Winchester to win the first round and a chance to ride the Mossy Oak bonus bull, which happened to be Cash. Hart had bucked off the same bull a week earlier, but this time, he recalled, "I had a game plan."

Cash had other ideas.

"I landed flat on my back as hard as you could see a man land," he said. "You haven't seen anyone hit the ground harder than I did."

The outcome wasn't as bad as the time he broke his neck in Denver a few years earlier, but he said it still ranks as one of the worst body slams of his career.

"It was ridiculous," he said.

Though he didn't win any bonus money that night, the now-36-year-old from Oklahoma fondly recalled events in Laughlin and other cities like Del Rio, Texas, and Paso Robles, Calif., at a time when the PBR still held some of its top events outside.

There was also the time a PBR event was held at the old Texas Stadium.

It had rained the night before, and because of the famed hole in the roof, the entire arena floor was "a muddy, sloppy mess."

At the time, about half the events were outdoors.

"I love them," Hart said of open-air competitions. "That's the way cowboy life started, and I love it when we get to go back outdoors. There's a mystique about being outdoors."

Later this month, the Built Ford Tough Series will resume its schedule with a rare outdoor event at the WinStar World Casino Invitational in Thackerville, Okla.

Hart said the late-July event will be hot and sweaty, "the way it ought to be" for everyone involved.

A lot of the top riders have been competing the past six weeks at various Touring Pro events - some of which have been held outside - and will be well-prepared for the Thackerville event, while those who haven't ridden since Pueblo "will be in for a shock."

The original Iron Man said riders will have to make several changes, with one key adjustment being the rosin they normally use. Because of the humidity, they'll switch to a dry rosin to keep their rope gummy as opposed to slick.

"I wouldn't mind if we used wood bucking chutes," joked Hart, "but my wife tells me I was born 100 years too late."

Today's top riders won't be climbing into wooden chutes, but the temporary arena that will be constructed specially for this event will be out in the same summer heat of southeastern Oklahoma that the late Jim Shoulders and Freckles Brown rode in years ago.

"I love it," said Hart, who said he'd be in favor of the PBR having three or four outdoor events just as they did in its formative years. He added that it would be a great way to offset the oversized events like the one held at Cowboys Stadium.

"It's the best."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2009 Honoree:

One of the most naturally talented bull riders in history, McBride set a host of records in his career. The two-time World Champion broke the single-season event wins record with eight, the most career event wins with 32, and was the richest cowboy in history, topping $5 million in career earnings. That mark was not broken until 2014 when Silvano Alves broke the $5.1 million mark with his third PBR World Championship. A year later, J.B. Mauney became the PBR's first six million dollar man.

When Justin McBride made his debut in Bakersfield, Calif., he was still a kid from Nebraska, who couldn't even believe he got to put his gear bag in the locker room.

Ty Murray was there. So were Aaron Semas, Jim Sharp, Troy Dunn, Bubba Dunn, and Norman Curry. They may not have been what they were in their prime, but each of them had an intimidating presence.

McBride recalled seeing Semas in a hotel elevator once after finishing fourth.

"I'm pretty sure he didn't know my name," McBride said, "but he recognized me from the bull riding. Of course, I knew exactly who he was. He told me, 'Good job.'"

A week later, in Odessa, Texas, McBride drew Hollywood.

Curry had ridden him a week earlier, and told the newcomer, "All you have to do is keep your head down, and he rides pretty good."

"I always thought that was nice of him to come lie to me that," McBride said, "because there was nothing easy about that bull. But he went out of his way to at least make me think I wasn't going to die that day."

McBride rode the bull for 93 points, winning the first of his record-setting 32 event wins.

But looking back, McBride said he's most proud of something entirely different: stickers.

Competing on television at the highest level of professional bull riding meant sponsor obligations. That meant that longtime PBR employee Jinx Clower had to fasten a series of sponsor stickers on the new kid's protective vest.

"That's when you knew you had arrived, when you got stickers on your vest," McBride said. "For me, it was such a huge deal. I remember I was so proud I had stickers on my vest and they were the real stickers."

McBride and fellow newcomer Ross Coleman - who both went to college at UNLV - befriended J.W. Hart. He in turn introduced them to Semas. With each event, McBride was made to feel welcome by more and more of his own heroes.

He quickly learned, though, what it meant to be a pro.

"Winning was everything. They were from a different school than guys are from now," McBride said. "It wasn't acceptable to be OK at it. They were hard-asses."

If a young rider wasn't performing up to expectations, "they didn't beat around the bush about it. They would let you know."

The founders of the PBR were at the tail end of their careers. McBride considers himself lucky to have experienced that.

It was one thing to be good, but learning how to win was entirely different.

McBride said "it was fun to walk into the locker room" as a rookie, and that from one event to another he never knew who was going to win. Bucking off three or more bulls in a row was unheard of, and on the rare occasion that it happened, he remembers those riders "getting made fun of pretty severely. They weren't afraid to hurt your feelings."

McBride was never one to make excuses. "When I did buck off, I remember always wanting to dig a hole and hide," he said. "I didn't want to face any of the embarrassment." He learned early on that the greats didn't allow others to blame their shortcomings on bad bulls.

"They were brutally honest," said McBride. If someone use the draw as excuse, "somebody would run him into the ground. That would get nipped in bud quick. It just wasn't allowed.

"If you were a sissy, a crybaby or a whiner, they wouldn't have anything to do with you."

But the new kid was thought of as tough and gritty, and in his third season he won five events.

He had always taken every opportunity to put his bag next to the greats' when he walked into the locker room, and by then he had become fast friends with Murray.

"After I got to know Ty a little bit, I would call him in the morning and see what he was having for breakfast," said McBride.

When Murray asked why, McBride replied, "You aren't getting one up on me. If you're doing it, I'm doing it."

"If he drank two beers after the event, then I drank two beers after the event," McBride said. "I just wanted to do it the way they did it."

It worked.

McBride won the world title in 2005 and again in 2007. He holds the record for the most event wins in a single season (8) and his career earnings of $5.1 million was the high water mark until J.B. Mauney broke $6 million in 2015.

While he always looked forward to the camaraderie of the locker room in the early part of his career, that wasn't the case in the later years.

In fact, he would separate himself from the other riders, and often sat alone in the shower area.

Mediocrity had never been accepted, but the younger riders hadn't seemed to have learned that lesson. Today, McBride can look at the draw and have a pretty good idea of who has a chance of winning.

In a new era, coaching may become the norm.

"I've always felt, on the coaching side of things, that a guy needs somebody to help him … who knows more about it than he does," McBride explained. "You can't have somebody who sucks as bad as you do trying to fix you. You need somebody who's great at it.

"I always had that. I always had somebody there who was better than me, understood it better than I did, and could always point things out."

McBride retired from the sport at the conclusion of the 2008 season.

He has no regrets about stepping away at the prime of his career. Nor has he lost the memories of those stickers he so proudly wore on his vest - even if he wasn't so fond of them later in his career.

"When I started, I wanted those stickers," he said, "but it's so funny because later in my career those stickers meant money, and so I was pretty tough on the guys who put stickers on your vest about where stuff went on mine. I wore the bare necessities.

"It's funny, because when I first came around, I wanted them to plaster every one of them on my vest, so, yeah, stickers used to be a big deal for me. It was like getting drafted and getting your jersey. It meant you were there. Then it was the Top 45 guys in the world, and it really meant something to me to be part of that."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2009 Honoree:

Moraes was the PBR’s first World Champion, and the first man ever to earn three world titles until fellow Brazilian Silvano Alves joined him in 2014. Moraes blazed the trail to bull riding glory for his countrymen from Brazil, serving as a mentor for dozens of talented riders who have made the transition to the United States. A man of deep faith and strong values, he continues to lend his talents to the PBR in both Brazil and the U.S.

Adriano Moraes did much more for the sport of bull riding than win three World Championships.

Before his arrival, Canadian and Australian riders had long since established themselves as perennial contenders, and even Mexico fostered a few bull riders over the years, though the sport wasn't all that organized there.

But with the emergence of Moraes, the PBR solidified itself as a viable international presence in five countries on three continents.

Moraes said until then, "nobody knew that South America had rodeos and bull riding."

He even noted, "Some people thought Brazil was another state in Mexico or something like that. It helped put Brazil on the map for the sport of bull riding."

Not only was the PBR founded to provided riders the opportunity to earn a better than living than their forebears, but it stood as a beacon of hope "to anybody and everybody from anywhere in the world."

Moraes' world title in 1994 was only the beginning.

Troy Dunn became the second international rider to win a title in the PBR when the Aussie won in 1998, a year after winning his second World Finals event.

Moraes won two other world titles (2001, 2006) and paved the way for his countrymen like Ednei Caminhas (2002), Guilherme Marchi (2008) and Renato Nunes (2010), who have also won championships.

Silvano Alves (2011, 2012, 2014) joined Moraes as the only three-time PBR World Champion when he won his third gold buckle in 2014. Many of the perennial contenders on the BFTS - Alves, Valdiron de Oliveira, Marchi and Robson Palermo - are all from Brazil.

"That's what the founding fathers of the PBR wanted," Moraes said. "They wanted to give the opportunity to anybody in the world who could ride bulls to be able to make a living and retire after the sport of bull riding. They don't have to spend 20 years of their youth riding bulls and then go be a flag man on a construction job."

There were a few Brazilian riders who came before Moraes, but none made anywhere near the lasting impact he did.

In fact, according to Moraes, there were 36 events in Brazil the year before he came to the U.S. for good. He won 12 and his rival won 12, but it was Moraes who was invited to compete at PBR events, largely because of his personal desire and dedication to the PBR.

"At the time, the PBR started out small," Moraes recalled, "but we knew that it would grow. It was not a dream, it was a project. A dream is something you just dream about. A project - you're working on it.

"It was small, but it was very well-organized."

"We stood together," he said of the riders involved in the mid to late 1990s, "not because of money, but because of what we had."

In 1994, Moraes said he saw an opportunity "to grow together."

Today he still sees the PBR as an opportunity.

But now his vision is less about seeing international riders come to America than it is about growing subsidiaries such as PBR Brazil, PBR Australia and PBR Mexico, as well as establishing standalone PBR events in European countries.

In 2001, Moraes produced four PBR events in Brazil, the winnings of which counted toward the qualifier standings for the World Finals.

Moraes, who now serves as president of ABBI Brazil, said that even though the sport was semi-organized in his home country, he never dreamed there would one day be a PBR office there, until it became a reality nearly six years ago.

Retired for nearly three years, Moraes is now focused on assuring that the PBR features the best riders from around the world.

"We don't lie when we say, 'This is a World Champion bull rider,'" he explained, "because all these guys who are professional - that ride anywhere in the world - will qualify to come to America and then they can earn points - they can only earn points at the Built Ford Tough Series - and be crowned World Champion.

"There's no doubt about it, when you watch the PBR, you are seeing the best guys in the whole world."

Moraes said he can see the PBR hosting events in Western Europe, Asia and even Russia.

A few years ago he met a Russian couple who traveled to Las Vegas not because they wanted to gamble, but because they were interested in seeing the Finals. That same year he met fans from England and Germany.

"If they're willing to fly over here," he said, "imagine when we're there."

He and Paulo Crimber have instructed bull riding clinics in Italy. Moraes said they worked with amateur riders from Spain, Italy and France, along with a few other Brazilians who traveled with them, but he admitted the quality of bucking bulls is significantly lower in other parts of the world.

But all it takes is one potential contractor to begin a breeding program.

Moraes said it's likely the PBR will host a foreign event within the next three to five years. He added, "The idea of opening more offices is to be more like soccer. … Wherever there is livestock they will ride bulls."

He believes that once the PBR begins hosting international events once or twice a year, it will encourage more foreign riders to practice. In turn, the PBR could open five to 10 spots in the draw at each event in order to scout the talent and watch their potential develop.

"Who knows, maybe in 20 years we're going to have an office in Japan, because they are already riding bulls there, or in Germany, because they are already riding bulls there, in Spain, in Italy, in France - they are already riding bulls there.

"The potential is there, but it's still very small," he continued. "That's my dream, to become the next soccer. … The world wants to see it. People are already watching us in over 85 countries."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2007

2007 Honoree:

Nafzger is one of only 18 horse trainers to have won the Kentucky Derby twice. What people may not know is that Nafzger was a world-class bull rider — qualifying for the NFR three times in a 12-year career.

Leading up to the 1990 running of the Kentucky Derby, Carl Nafzger treated "the fastest two minutes in sports" as if it were just another race.

At least that's the way he treated it in the media.

Unbridled was not the favorite to win and in the two weeks leading up to the race Nafzger made sure to move the challenge of winning from himself to squarely on the shoulders of the trainers for Summer Squall and Mister Frisky.

The first Saturday of May that year was a terrible day.

It was cold ― 48 degrees at race time ― and it had been raining, but that didn't stop Unbridled, who came from behind down the stretch to outlast both of the favorites to win the first of three marquee races that make up the Triple Crown.

He employed that same tactic in 2007 when he became only the 18th horse trainer to win the Derby twice. Street Sense was the favorite, but again Nafzger was able to deflect the pressure off of his jockey Calvin Borel.

"I said, 'Hey Calvin, you like to ride races don't you?' He said, 'Sure boss, don't you know that?' I said, 'Well, then why don't you go out and have some fun and win a race and I'll talk to you later,'" recalled Nafzger, of the only pre-race conversation between the trainer and jockey.

"That was it."

Nafzger did what he needed. He got the pressure away from Borel and got him thinking about something other than being the favorite to win.

"It's just like it's another bull," said Nafzger, comparing horse racing to bull riding, "you know what you have to do to ride him, so just go out and ride him."

And Nafzger knows bull riding about as well as he knows horse racing.

The 71-year-old from Plainview, Texas, enjoyed a 12-year career as a professional bull rider long before he ever trained thoroughbreds.

He rode bulls throughout the 1960s and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo three times. His last event was in 1971 and he officially retired from bull riding in 1972, but by then he had already begun a career as a horse trainer.

He won the Kentucky Derby in 1990 with Unbridled and then went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. Nafzger won the Derby again in 2007 with Street Sense, a year after the horse won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2006, to become only the 18th horse trainer to ever win the Derby twice.

Later that same year he was inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor.

A year later, in 2008, he was inducted into the United States Racing Hall of Fame as well as the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. In a 1991 profile published in Sports Illustrated, he was quoted as saying, "I'll always be a cowboy at heart."

On Friday, at 10:30 a.m., Nafzger will join current PBR rider L.J. Jenkins as the two take part in a first-of-its-kind animal athlete meeting beneath the historic Twin Spires at the iconic Churchill Downs for a weigh-in featuring World Champion Bull Chicken on a Chain and thoroughbred champion Capt. Candyman Can.

PBR CEO Jim Haworth and John Asher, VP of Racing Communications at Churchill Downs, will also be on hand for the press event.

Nafzger is most looking forward to this weekend's Built Ford Tough Series event in Louisville, Ky.,. Because of his schedule ― by most accounts he's referred to as being in semi-retirement although he said "I'll be 72 this year and I'm still busy" ― he doesn't make it out to events as often as he'd like, but he keeps up with the sport by watching it on television.

"It's hard to lie on television," said Nafzger, who paused before adding, "The biggest problem I see with the bull riders…is they haven't learned how to handle the pressure yet."

The past few weeks, he said he saw several riders trying too hard.

"It's the worst thing you can do in anything," said Nafzger, who, in 1994, authored a thoroughbred horse training book entitled "Traits of a Winner." "You can't make anything happen. You have to just get out there and ride."

That's what he saw in the early 70s with Bobby Steiner.

And it's the same thing he saw 20 years later when Justin McBride came along in the PBR and won a pair of world titles.

"I don't know Justin McBride," he said. "I talked to him on the phone a couple times, but he seemed like a focused son-of-buck to me."

Nafzger added, "He got down to serious brass nuts right quick."

Again, he said, McBride seemed to move the pressure away from himself. He was confident, if not cocky enough to never get caught up wondering "what if?"

But the longtime trainer realizes things are different.

In 1963, when he finished third in the world he earned $13,000 for the entire season. Nowadays riders can have a viable career and make enough money to set themselves and their families up financially for the rest of their lives.

Not even a full four months into a 10-month long season and already 50 riders have made more than Nafzger did 50 years earlier. In fact, for the second week in a row Joao Ricardo Vieira made in excess of $40,000 in each of his two BFTS event wins.

Nafzger said riders today can "do something" with the careers, but that comes with its own pressure.

"First of all, you have to know exactly what you want to be," Nafzger said. "It's hard, especially when bull riders are 21, 22. I never knew that pressure because we rode bulls because we loved riding bulls. All I wanted to do was ride bulls.

"I rode bulls because I loved it."

He said riders will have to evolve (just like the bucking bull industry has), but it will take a different mindset.

However, he added, the bulls are going to evolve a lot quicker than the riders and he's not even convinced the riders can keep up.

"How do you ride Bushwacker," he asked? "How do you ride those kinds of bulls until they slow down and they will slow down? I know (riders) take care of themselves better than we did, but I don't know what all they can do different."

Nafzger was in his early to mid 20s when bull riding became "the heart of rodeo."

He said he can recall the concept of a standalone bull riding event being discussed by Bob Wagner when Nafzger was only 25, but it took until Cody Lambert and Ty Murray came around in the 1980s for the idea to become a reality.

"And then that set the evolution of the bulls being valuable instead of just being a usable product," said Nafzger, who referred to them as a commodity. "Bulls are a magnificent animal and now we're seeing the bull evolve along with the cowboys and the bull riders."

When he rode, bucking bulls were whatever bulls came through the auction barn.

Nowadays they've gained celebrity status and no longer "something that accidentally bucks."

"I know bull riders appreciate real honest bucking bulls, they really do," said Nafzger, who said the breeding and raising of bulls is a long process that mirrors what he does with race horses.

"You enjoy them and you respect them."

He explained that his experience in rodeo helped with his transition to horse racing.

That transition began in 1966 when he sustained a compound leg fracture that required surgery in which doctors inserted a metal rod in the bone and laid him up for much of the year. Until then he rarely returned home to Odessa, Texas, unless he needed to lay off for a few days and for three weeks following the NFR.

In 1968 he married Wanda.

A year later, in 1969, he went to a race track in Ruidoso, N.M., and eventually moved back to Cheyenne, Wyo., where his wife was teaching. That's where he started breaking thoroughbreds for a polo ranch and truly transitioned into the horse business.

He started seriously looking at horse training in 1970 on a trip to Keeneland, Ky., with his brothers and his wife. With only $8,000 they bought two yearling fillies and, according to Nafzger, "just kept going."

He recalled that, in 1970, a younger bull rider named Bobby Steiner was beating him everywhere they went, "so I looked around and I said, 'Old man, you're dead to the lions. You better go somewhere else.'"

That somewhere was horse racing

He rode his last bull in 1971, in Fort Worth, but didn't officially retire from the sport until 1972 when he went to California to work with a couple horses under Tommy Bell. Wanda eventually quit teaching and set into motion a career that took them from Santa Fe, N.M., to Louisiana to Hot Springs, Ark., and they kept moving from there and until he got his first big break in 1981.

The Nafzger's have always remained Texas residents and maintain a home there, but also have places in Kentucky and Florida, where he continues to train horses.

"Once we had good horses, well, we really had a good career," Nafzger said.

Because of racing, he added, "I got to places I never dreamed I would get to. I always said I'm going where I'm being taken."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2019 PBR Ty Murray Top Hand Award Honoree:

2007 PBR Ring of Honor inductee:

Two-time World Champion All-Around Cowboy Phil Lyne of Cotulla, Texas, was more than just a great bull rider. Lyne has the distinction of being the only cowboy to win the NFR average titles in three events: Bull Riding, Calf Roping and Steer Roping.


Phil Lyne, calf roper of Cotulla, Texas was born January 18, 1947 Stories circulating around the rodeo world credit the youthful Phil Lyne with performances that would be dismissed as legendary if living witnesses did not exist by the hundreds.

The calf roper is almost entirely dependent on his horse. A well trained horse is 90 percent of the act and the champion calf roper normally has won the event months earlier in long hours of patient work with his horse.

Not so with Phil Lyne. He didn’t own a roping horse. In one year of his brief career he rode ninety-one horses in roping competition. Witnesses swear that once he dashed onto the rodeo grounds just as they announced his name. He asked a passing cowboy if he could borrow his horse, and roped his calf in a stunning 10.5 seconds, near a world record. This slow talking cowboy traveled from rodeo to rodeo in an old station wagon and two-horse trailer.

In 1969 Phil won PRCA Resistol rookie of the year, 1972 – 72 World All-Around Calf roping Championship, 1970 – 1 – 72 recipient of the Bill Linderman Award. In 1971 Phil stepped up to claim the all-around title during his good friend Larry Mahan’s absence. In 1973 Phil co-starred with Mahan in “The Great American Cowboy”, a Disney documentary featuring the rivalry of rodeo. Phil has the distinction of being the only cowboy to win the National Finals Rodeo average titles in three events: Bull Riding, Calf Roping and Steer Roping.

Phil is married to Sarah and they have two daughters, Amanda and Samantha. Phil retired at the age of 27 to spend more time with his family and operate his cattle business.

--source: TexasRodeoHallofFame.com

2006

2006 Honoree:

DelVecchio is proof that being a cowboy starts in your heart, not your zip code. DelVecchio grew up in the Bronx, but developed a passion for riding bulls. He qualified for the NFR six times, and in 1981 and 1982, was runner-up to the PRCA World Champion bull rider.


From the heart of the Bronx in New York, Bobby DelVecchio is the original urban cowboy. He embarked on a rodeo career against all odds from an area where cowboys were unheard of. Ultimately DelVecchio earned the 1981-82 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Reserve World Championship, the 1983 PRCA Texas Circuit Championship, and qualified to compete at the National Finals Rodeo six consecutive times from 1980 through 1985. DelVecchio charted new territory both in and out of the arena, and has devoted his life to the betterment of the bull riding industry.

Since retiring from competition, the gritty New York native has become a Texas transplant and is now making his mark on the booming bull breeding business. In 1988 DelVecchio had the idea to collect semen, something that was hardly commonplace in the rodeo world at that time, from Dell Hall’s 105 and Bennie Beutler’s 018 Cowtown. His plan was to raise world champion bucking bulls. Bobby and Sissy DelVecchio’s Flying D Ranch in Santo, Texas has in production, via embryo transfer, genetics representing 18 world championship titles earned by an elite group of the best bucking bulls of all time.

“I am so excited to receive this honor from the PBR. You hear the saying that ‘It’s hard to be humble,’ but it’s really not when your peers recognize you in this way. It is humbling.”

2006 Honoree:

In 1983 Snyder made history by becoming the first Canadian to be crowned the PRCA’s World Champion bull rider. He qualified for the NFR three additional times, and was the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s champion in 1986.


In 1983 Cody Snyder made history by becoming the first Canadian to be crowned the PRCA’S World Champion Bull Rider. Snyder qualified for the NFR three additional times and was the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association champion in 1986. Cody Snyder Bullbustin’ Inc. is one of North America’s premier bull riding event organizations, featuring athletes from across the world. These world-class events have been aired on TSN2, Versus, NBC, CBS and Fox.

Born and raised in Redcliff, Alberta, Snyder grew up in a world where bull riding quickly became second nature to the World Champion. Snyder’s first official rodeo experience occurred at the age of five, when he rode a calf in a local competition. Running past a barrel, knocking him off; Snyder got up, dusted himself off, and never looked back.

Snyder started riding junior steers in rodeo competitions when he was only eight years old. By the age of twelve, he finally rode his first bull. By the age of fifteen, Cody was the Canadian Amateur Bull Rider Champion. Through 1980 and 1981, Cody gained the experience he needed to lead the Canadian Professional Rodeo bull riding standings in 1982, at the young age of nineteen.

In 1983, at the age of 20, and a virtual unknown on the professional rodeo circuit; Cody beat the odds to capture the world bull riding championship in Oklahoma City, as the first Canadian to ever win the title. He returned home to Alberta to a hero's welcome. Cody also won the Canadian Bull Riding Championship in 1996, and was named Cowboy of the Year by his peers in 1994.

Ten years later, Cody retired as one of Canada’s top rodeo competitors of all time. Snyder still holds the highest scored ride in Canadian rodeo history of 95 points occurring in 1983. Snyder was a four-time National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifier. During his career he suffered a string of injuries including broken ribs, punctured lungs, broken collar bone, torn groin muscles, dislocated shoulders and a career ending wrist injury.

Upon his retirement in 1993, Cody never left the bull riding business. Along with his wife and business partner Rhonda Snyder, Cody created a bull riding production company called Cody Snyder Bullbustin’ Inc. To date, Bullbustin’ Inc. has produced over 400 events across North America.

Bullbustin has produced various events such as the PBR Canadian National Finals, charity events, private events, PRCA “Xtreme” events and many more. Over two million dollars has been raised for various charities across Canada since Bullbustin’ came to life 25 years ago. Snyder has been and dominant force in the growth and awareness of professional bull riding across the country, dedicating his time mentoring and developing the next generation of young bull riders who are shaping the sport.

Cody was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2005 and is a recipient of the prestigious Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Ring of Honor in 2006. Cody has travelled across that globe as he was selected as team Canada’s coach for the PBR World Cup in 2007 (Gold Coast, Australia), 2008 (Chiahuahua, Mexico) and 2009 (Barretos, Brazil).

You can catch Cody at celebrity autograph signings or as a color-commentator on OLN, ESPN, Rogers Sportsnet, TSN or CBC as the voice of experience bringing you coverage of the world's best rodeo and bull riding events. Cody was chosen as the colour commentator for the exclusive 11 event PRCA pro-rodeo winter tour on OLN in 2003 and 2004, as well as being the voice of the Calgary Stampede television coverage since 1997. He also produced and stared in his own half hour show called "I'll tell you what" with Cody Snyder following each performance of the Calgary Stampede.

--source: CodySnyderBullBustin.com

2005

2005 Honoree:

Steiner is respected for the way he played the game. In 1973 he won the PRCA World Champion bull rider title — and then retired. He was passionate about bull riding, but he recognized that it was just a game and retired when he reached his goal.

Bobby Steiner's family has a long history in the rodeo and bull riding industry. Read more about them at: SteinerSteakhouse.com/history

2005 Honoree:

Dunn is the only Australian to ever win the PBR World Champions and was a two-time PBR World Finals event winner, a record that was not broken until Robson Palermo won his third World Finals event title. Dunn served on the PBR’s board and was instrumental in the eventual formation of PBR Australia.


Dunn qualified for his first Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assoc PRCA National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in 1991. He was plagued with injuries during 1992, 1993 and 1994. Troy resurrected his career in 1995 with a solid performance all year on the tour and completed it winning the Professional Bull Rider (PBR) World Finals.

In 1997 after a late start to the season Dunn again made an assault on the world title. He won the 1997 PBR World Finals; this was highlighted by his memorable ride on champion bucking bull Red Wolf for 95 points in the final round of competition. Dunn also won the PBR Touring Pro title, had the highest marked ride of the year and the highest money earner for the season. 1998 was to be Troy Dunn’s year after a stellar season on tour Dunn had a convincing lead going into the PBR World Finals, Dunn was carried out of the arena with a dislocated hip in the first round of competition but the lead he had going into the finals held and he won the 1998 PBR World Championship. Dunn had fulfilled his dream and now wore the coveted Championship Gold Buckle.

After the 1999 season Dunn made the decision to move back to Australia, but still journeyed back to the USA to compete at select events throughout the year. He consistently qualified for the PBR World Finals over the next five years. In 2005 at the age of 38 Troy Dunn retired after qualifying and competing at the PBR World Finals. He was presented with the PBR Ring of Honor. Also at the finals PBR announced they were going global, opening offices in Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Australia. Dunn’s time now is shared between raising beef cattle and bucking bulls on his 3000 acre property at Bloomsbury as well as training and competing on his performance horses. He continues to work in the sport of bull riding and is deeply passionate about this and the future of bull riding in Australia.

--source: TroyDunnWorld.com.au

2005 Honoree:

During his career, Gaffney amassed thirteen 90-point rides and successfully rode the legendary Little Yellow Jacket twice in 2004, for 93.75 and 96.5. Gaffney was the 1997 PBR World Champion and retired in 2005 to bring his expert analysis to the PBR’s television broadcasts.

When Michael Gaffney walked into the Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room, he had virtually nothing.

He left having written a $1,000 check against the "hopes and dreams" of a better future, but by all accounts, he was broke.

"I needed this thing to work," said Gaffney, of the mere idea of the PBR. He, like 19 other bull riders at the time, believed there had to be a better way of being rewarded for putting their lives on the line every time they nodded their head.

"When I went there, I basically had zero in the bank… and we were living on nothing - just scraping by," Gaffney said. "It's not like we went out and bought a bunch of vehicles or anything. The winnings just weren't there.

"I had a stellar year in '91, and I was basically dead, crack broke."

Just four months earlier, Gaffney had ridden nine of 10 bulls at the National Finals Rodeo, but - as best he can recall - it had taken so much travel to qualify for the event that the roughly $50,000 he won during the season "was a wash, and I figured I was in the hole."

It wasn't until the NFR in December that he actually showed a profit for his efforts, and even then, Gaffney added, he needed those earnings to finance the travel costs associated with the early part of the 1992 season.

At the time, his wife Robyn was finishing up her undergraduate education and still had another four years of medical school at Texas Tech, followed by five more years of residency work at a local hospital in Lubbock, Texas.

"I won the average at the NFR and I finished in the Top 3 in the world, and I basically didn't have [anything]," Gaffney said. "I can look back at 1991, and the only money I really won was at places like Del Rio and the Lazy E, when we were paying entry fees of $1,000."

According to Gaffney, even then bull riders were at the mercy of promoters.

Back then, Gaffney said it was common for riders to enter multiple PRCA events and then turn out of some after seeing the draw. He explained it was "cheaper to cut your losses" and pay an entry fee - along with an additional fee charged for requesting a specific day, as well as the turnout fine - then it was to pay for the travel after learning you had drawn a bull worth 58 to 65 points.

When the BRO came along, it paid more, but it too came with a price.

Shaw Sullivan, who Gaffney described as being a dictator, tried forcing the top riders to sign exclusivity rights, but veteran riders - the likes of which included Cody Lambert, Tuff Hedeman and Cody Custer - balked at the idea and walked out of a meeting in Denver.

Gaffney said Sullivan created a "ploy and scare tactics" to get young riders like himself, Aaron Semas and Wacey Cathey to sign the contract. Sullivan needed Lambert and Hedeman to draw a crowd, but excluded Custer from the BRO events because, according to Gaffney, "he didn't like him."

In what would become the first sign of solidarity between the top riders in the world, they finally banned together and told Sullivan that no one would compete unless he included Custer.

"Everything was a precursor to get to where we were in Scottsdale that particular day," said Gaffney, who had been competing with a dislocated shoulder. "It was coming out at will, and I guess I was fortunate enough that it was my riding arm as opposed to my free arm."

He would later discover that his other shoulder had been injured as well.

However, Gaffney labored through the competitions that year and tough times were made tougher.

In the early '90s, rider endorsements often resulted in product trade outs involving clothes and gear. There were a few riders, like Ty Murray and Hedeman, who had made names for themselves and with that, they were able to command endorsement money.

Gaffney remembers being approached once and making a product deal without the knowledge that David Fournier, another PBR founder, had been holding out for a small stipend.

"I cut him off at the knees," said Gaffney, who had the same scenario happen to him a year later.

He added, "It was all an antagonist for the creation (of the PBR) to happen."

The day he wrote a check to pay for his share of the PBR, he also paid a $400 entry fee at a rodeo, and despite riding four bulls, including one that had landed Lambert in an El Paso, Texas, hospital two weeks earlier, he said he only won $400 for his efforts.

Gaffney said that, like so many others, he was "on shaky ground" and thankful that the "PBR came to pass" when it did. Even then, the meeting was in April of 1992, and the first sanctioned PBR event didn't take place until the fall of 1993, with the first season actually taking place in 1994.

He would eventually go on to win the 1997 PBR World Championship.

The year Gaffney won, there were only 18 events - compared to the 30 that make up a complete season in recent years.

During his title-winning season, which came six years before the organization began paying a $1 million bonus to the World Champion, he earned $243,251. He retired after the 2004 season, and a year later was inducted in the Ring of Honor.

The 42-year-old New Mexican ranks as one of the PBR's all-time greats.

"It was a big pipe dream like you wouldn't believe," Gaffney said, "a big hope that maybe we could change our destiny and change some of what we were having to go through - since we were the ones putting our lives on the line for little or nothing."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2004

2004 Honoree:

Sampson was the first African-American ever to win the PRCA World Champion bull rider title. He qualified for the NFR in 1981 and won the gold buckle in 1982, 18 years after his mentor, Myrtis Dightman, competed at the NFR for the first time.


We all know that the famous bull rider, Charlie Sampson, has accumulated many titles including PRCA Champion Bull Rider, PRCA Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer, Ring of Honor Pro Bull Rider, and Cowboys of Color Museum Inductee. But how did he become such a talented bull rider and how did he get there? Charlie Sampson was born on July 2, 1957. He was raised in Los Angeles, California in a small town also known as “Watts,” a mere 2.12 square-mile neighborhood. As a young boy, Sampson fell in love with horses. Little did he know that he was on his way to becoming one of the most famous cowboys there would ever be.

It all started when Charlie Sampson turned 12 years old. He became involved with horses in Cub Scouts, and by 13 years old, he owned his first steer (calf). Sampson remembers the day that he discovered a horse stable in downtown Los Angeles. He would visit the stables, sneaking through the neighborhood with cowboy clothes in his bag so that the disapproving gang members would not see what he was doing.

The wranglers and cowboys at the stable taught Sampson how to rope and ride. It was at this moment that Sampson and the Cowboys knew that he had natural talent and real potential to become a genuine cowboy. Consequently, the Cowboys at the stable took Sampson in and showed him the ways.

At age 14, Charlie Sampson rode his first bull, very well. Thus, that same group of cowboys and wranglers took Charlie Sampson to Oklahoma for a two-week trip. During this time, Sampson entered bull riding events in rodeos, hoping that his wins would provide enough gas money to get everyone back home to Los Angeles. After winning enough money to return home, Charlie Sampson was undoubtedly hooked and committed to becoming a world champion bull rider.

By age 15, Sampson began high school rodeo and in his senior year of high school, the college rodeo scouts offered him a scholarship to Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona. Charlie Sampson accepted CAC’s offer to attend, and just after two years of participating in college rodeos, Sampson turned pro. He became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and won his first PRCA professional rodeo that same year in Lovington, New Mexico. This, my friend, was just the beginning… Read more about this LEGEND at CharlieSampson.com

--source: CharlieSampson.com

2004 Honoree:

During his stellar career, Fournier qualified for the NFR seven times. In 1996, he was the PRCA Reserve World Champion, and competed in the PBR World Finals four times. Fournier has been a cornerstone of the PBR since its inception.

David Fournier said that he and the other 19 founders of the PBR thought of future bull riders like their own children.

With his $1,000 investment he hoped that at some point in his lifetime he could see a professional bull rider earn $1 million.

This coming April it will have been 20 years since those original riders banded together in a Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room. Already, 23 riders have earned at least $1 million, and another 13 have earned $750,000 or more.

"It surpassed all our expectations," Fournier said. "A lot of bull riders had ridden for 10 to 15 years and hadn't won $250,000 in their entire career, and we give that away in one night."

Fournier said that during his career, it wasn't uncommon for a rider to travel 100,000 miles or more in a single season. A rider might spend $12,000 on flights, and another $12,000 on gas, food and lodging, and that didn't even include his entry fees for the year, which could easily be another $15,000.

He recalled one year when he qualified for the final spot in the draw at the National Finals Rodeo after making between $38,000 and $40,000 for the season.

At the time, the NFR paid $10,000 per round, and what he won in Vegas equaled his net profit for the year.

Last week, by comparison, Paulo Lima won $38,000 for a two-day Built Ford Tough Series event in Milwaukee.

"Things have changed," he said. "Things have evolved.

"My point is, innocently (today's riders) don't know any better, because the PBR has grown so fast already. That's what our goal was."

In a sport as dangerous as professional bull riding, where a rider can be crippled for life or even killed within seconds, Fournier said it's unfortunate that some of the newcomers take the money for granted, and don't realize what the founders were willing to risk in the early to mid-1990's.

Fournier said in the year leading up to the formation of the PBR, the riders grew frustrated, and were willing to give up money in the interim if it meant more control of their destinies down the road.

As time passes, more and more riders become more unfamiliar with the history of the sport. In fact, riders like two-time World Champion Chris Shivers and Luke Snyder are two of the very few riders still competing who rode alongside founders like Ty Murray and Jim Sharp in their later years.

He equates the difference between then and now to the same difference he sees in his 27-year-old son Cody and his 10-year-old son Shea, who have grown up in an entirely different era.

By comparison, many of today's riders - save for a few like Shane Proctor - are not on the road 250 or more days of the year.

"It's gotten so big, so fast," he said of the organization's growth from a $20,000 investment to a $100 million juggernaut. "The PBR is the light at the end of the tunnel for bull riders."

The Raceland, La., native is a seven-time NFR qualifier, and four-time qualifier for the PBR Finals.

His best season came in 1996 when he was the reserve PRCA champion and finished third in the PBR world standings. He won a combined $250,000 that year, but traveled - at times five or six men to a single vehicle - three-quarters of the year.

He blames the failure of the BRO (Bull Riders Only) on its founder Shaw Sullivan.

According to Fournier, Sullivan was insistent upon riders getting on three bulls a night, and that after two they "didn't have anything left," but were faced with Bodacious-like eliminator matchups.

He said the PBR the founders' first thought was to form a riders union, but that ultimately they wanted a governing body to control the competition.

"There were a lot of us who thought that bull riding could stand alone, and that's why we pushed through with it, and that other events were kind of taking away from the bull riding," Fournier said.

"That's a fact, and that's why bull riding was last. If it was first, people would leave at the end of the bull riding. Bull riding is what people came to watch. … The guys who rode for a living pushed for it, and the guys we called the weekend warriors were just happy where they were.

"Had the BRO taken care of the business end of it and let the bull riders control the bull riding part of it, I think it would be what the PBR is today."

Next month, the PBR will crown its 18th World Champion.

The PBR has awarded over $100 million in prize money. Nearly 2 million fans attend BFTS and Touring Pro events each year and more than 100 million viewers annually watch the PBR on Versus, NBC, CBS and other networks around the world.

"That's pretty phenomenal," said Fournier, who added that it's amazing to see how "a no-big-deal situation changed the world."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2003

2003 Honoree:

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when skin color determined if a cowboy could enter an event. But Dightman persevered, and in 1957 got his PRCA card. He qualified for the NFR in 1964, and finished third at the event in 1968. He won both Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Calgary Stampede.

Heroes & Legends: Myrtis Dightman
By Keith Ryan Cartwright

Myrtis Dightman still remembers when he won the Calgary Stampede.

He remembers Calgary as a wonderful place - not just because he had never been there, but because of the warm reception he received.

Dightman, a black man, wasn't always welcome when he came to ride bulls.

Dightman, described as the Jackie Robinson of professional bull riding. He was the first African-American to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, and in 2003, was inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor.

"I just couldn't believe it," he said of his Calgary experience. "If I needed anything, they would help me. People in Calgary are real nice people. They would take me in and let me stay with them. The guys that were living up there would take me over to their house and let me stay right with them."

That hospitality was in stark contrast to most other rodeos.

Despite his incredible talent, Dightman was often made to ride after the events were over and the crowds had left.

"It wasn't always easy," he said. "It wasn't the rodeo people. It was the stock contractors."

Some bull men weren't thrilled at the idea of a black man covering their prized stock.

Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said that because of the prejudice he encountered, Dightman probably only won a third of what he was due.

Quite often, when the draw was announced, Dightman would be matched up with bulls that had never been ridden. Only years later did he learn that those draws had been fixed.

"I didn't know. I thought that's the way it was drawn up," he explained, before laughing. "It didn't make a difference. I won anyhow."

Dightman, like his late father O.D., grew up working cattle on a ranch outside his hometown of Crockett, Texas.

The family never owned a ranch of their own. His father was a hired laborer, and taught his son what it meant to earn his keep. The younger Dightman was rewarded with the opportunity to take part in trail rides.

Later on, he started working as a bullfighter before deciding on a bull riding career.

He faced the racism with his chin held high. It wasn't that he was particularly tolerant, but he was determined to win over doubters and detractors by proving he had the same characteristics as any other American cowboy.

He remembers receiving a call once from a rodeo secretary, asking if he had encountered any problems.

Surprised by inquiry, he replied, "No ma'am."

He was confused when she asked about when he rode, and if anyone else rode with him after the events had concluded.

"After that, if they held me back, they had to hold three white guys back," he said. "That's what broke it."

Ty Murray and former NFL great Walt Garrison, both of whom have befriended Dightman and his family, are saddened by the stories they've heard about Dightman's challenges, and have worked to see that the he is recognized for his accomplishments.

"In every account that I've ever been told, Myrtis always got hosed just because he was a black guy," Murray said.

Despite the obstacles, Dightman twice finished third in the PRCA world standings, and in addition to the Calgary Stampede, he also won Cheyenne Frontier Days.

But according to Dightman, his finest hour as a professional bull rider came long after he finished his career.

In 2003, Murray contacted Dightman's son with news that the PBR planned to induct his father into the Ring of Honor. But as far as Myrtis knew, they had merely invited him out to Las Vegas for an event.

"I said, 'OK,'" he explained. "I wondered where he got the money from, and Ty Murray still never told me anything. They just said, 'Come on, let's go to the Finals.' They kept me in the dark."

That night, Dightman listened to Murray address the crowd. He talked about a great bull rider who had never gotten what he deserved.

"I was looking around and thinking, 'Who is he talking about?'" Dightman said. "Then he said, 'Myrtis Dightman.' I could have cried.

"I put that ring on and I never did take it off."

It didn't end there. The much-loved Dightman was honored with a bronze statue in his hometown - a project that was spearheaded by Garrison. It was an event that, according to Dightman, tongue firmly planted in cheek, "even the white people enjoyed."

"It's nice to see Myrtis get the recognition," Murray said.

To acknowledge the 40-year anniversary of his win in Calgary, Dightman had hoped to visit the event for the first time since.

But his mother Ada Lee Polk, 95, was in a nursing home, and his older sister Early Mae, 79, had passed away earlier.

"I just hate that I couldn't make it," said Dightman. "I would have gone to Calgary, but the good Lord gave me something else to do.

"You know, He's kind of in charge of everything."

2003 Honoree:

As a World Champion, family man and spiritual leader, Custer is a true role model. In 1992, he won the PRCA World Champion bull rider title, and after a long and successful career, retired from the PBR in 2003.

The Custer family never had any kids-sized saddles for their horses. So Cody Custer learned to ride bareback.

Only years later would he realize that it would have a profound effect on his bull riding career. It was one of two important lessons he learned in the 1970s.

"I didn't have the luxury of having my feet in the stirrups," he said, "so I really think that helped develop my ability to shift my weight around, use my legs and learn how to ride with my lower body."

Custer said learning to ride that way was in effect "survival mode," and that he was less focused on bull riding and concentrating instead on staying upright on the back of his family's horses. He and his brother Jim Bob would jump logs, and learning to push with their feet was something both came by naturally.

They would later apply the same techniques while practicing on a stationary barrel.

"Then you're not relying so much on your spurs and your rope," he said. "If you're riding bulls properly - from the waist down - your spurs are just an enhancement."

Even well into his professional career, Custer would practice during the week on what he called nice jump kickers. The key was that he practiced without wearing any spurs, which was a constant reminder to "ride the animal" as opposed to just grabbing hold with his spurs.

The technique also helped with posture and balance.

He got on his first calf in 1970, and two years later started riding steers.

His father let him try his first junior bull two weeks before his 14th birthday. Cody said that by not accelerating to bulls at an early age, he and other legends of his era were able to build a foundation of skills, mechanics, style and form.

While he was growing up, his father, who was as influential in his development as Cody has been for his 13-year-old son Brett, owned 30 head of roping steers, which they also used as riding steers.

"Every opportunity I had to get on them, I was getting on," said Custer, who grew up in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Custer got his permit in 1983, filled it a year later and was considered a PRCA rookie in 1985 alongside fellow PBR co-founder Clint Branger. Early on, he learned a lot from traveling with Ted Nuce, another co-founder.

In 1985, he was still competing in all three rough-stock events when, as he said, bull riding sort of took off for him, "and that's just kind of where my focus stayed."

He missed qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo that year and again in 1986 before beginning a streak of six consecutive trips to the Las Vegas event, which culminated with his winning a world title in 1992.

He started off that year by winning a rodeo in Denver, and was still doing well when he and 19 others voted to invest $1,000 each into forming the PBR. Later that season, he won again in Salinas, Calif., to take the lead in the world standings, and never looked back.

Custer said his success was made all the more meaningful knowing he won his title while competing against the likes of Ty Murray, Jim Sharp, Tuff Hedeman and Wacey Cathey.

"I just started the year real good," he said. "I got a good start and then the year just kept going real well."

Riding against that kind of talent made him better, but Custer said that he was able to hold his own because of the childhood lessons of how to ride from the waist down.

A year after winning the title, he got hurt, starting a series of injuries that kept him from ever truly contending again.

The PBR started hosting events in 1994.

In 1998 and again in 1999, he qualified for both the PBR World Finals and the NFR. In 2000, he decided to focus solely on the PBR. His best finish came in 2001 when he ended the year ranked eighth in the world - his only Top 10 finish. He retired in 2003.

Custer was inducted into the Ring of Honor later that same year, along with Aaron Semas and Myrtis Dightman.

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2003 Honoree:

Semas is one of the founding fathers of the PBR and served on its board for over 10 years. When he retired in 2003, it was as one of the most consistent and toughest bull riders the sport has ever seen.

2002

2002 Honoree:

In 1990, his first year as a Pro, Daryl Mills from Pink Mountain, British Columbia took the Pro Rodeo world by storm, winning the Rookie of the Year Award and the Canadian Bull Riding Championship. He did not compete the next year due to injuries but came back in 1992 to win a second Canadian Bull Riding Championship.

Daryl qualified for the Canadian Finals again in 1993 and rode the first five bulls but was thrown off the last one. In his three trips to the finals he has set a record for the most consecutive bulls ridden, a total of 17, placing on all but three. He considers this as one of his greatest personal achievements.

In 1993 Mills was the aggregate winner at the National Finals in Las Vegas and set a record for the most money won ($74,112) in the bull riding event. The following year, 1994, he won the title “World Champion Bull Rider”

Before turning Pro, Daryl won the B.C. High School Rodeo bull riding and bareback riding championship in 1987 and was the FCA and Northwest Rodeo bull riding champion in 1989.

He considers his most memorable event was making a qualified ride on “Chainsaw” in Australia in 1990. A founding member and part owner of the PBR, Daryl was inducted into the PBR “Ring of Honor” in 2002 .

Mills once said during an interview, “Rodeo has meant not only a way of life, but an opportunity to travel and meet people of similar interests. Rodeo is a sport requiring a great talent with little pay. The challenge, competition and buckles make it all worthwhile”.

--source: CanadianProRodeoHallOfFame.org

2002 Honoree:

Flynn qualified for nine straight NFRs, from 1974-1982, and he shares the record for most NFR bull riding average victories with three. Flynn earned a score of 98 points on Red Lightning in 1979, the second-highest score ever awarded.


Often identified as the most talented bull rider never to win a world title, Denny Flynn of Charleston, Arkansas qualified for the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) 10 times (1974-82, 1985) and set a record for most bull riding average titles won at the NFR (1975, 1981-82), later equaled by Jim Sharp. Denny won his first NFR Bull Riding title in his second full year of riding (1975). The following year, he began a 7-year stretch where he finished 4th or better in the world rankings and won NFR titles in 1981 and 1982. Flynn finished second in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) season standings three times, losing the 1980 world title to Don Gay by a mere $188 and the 1978 PRCA title by just $283. His 98-point ride aboard “Steiner’s Red Lightning” is 2nd best in PRCA history. Flynn’s 92-point score on a bull named Ed Pivik at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1974 stood as the arena record for 15 years. Flynn was legendary for his toughness. He nearly died from being gored by a bull in Salt Lake City in 1975, but came back to compete two months later. He suffered a concussion in the 6th round of the 1981 National Finals Rodeo (NFR) when a bull fell on him, but went on to ride 9 of his 10 bulls to win the average. A year later, he broke his ankle in the 9th round, but returned in a cast to mount his 10th bull, which he needed to win the NFR average again. In 2010, Denny was inducted into both the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Rodeo Hall of Fame.

--source:ArkSportsHallOfFame.com

2002 Honoree:

Murray is the greatest all-around cowboy who has ever lived. His seven PRCA all-around titles, his two PRCA bull riding titles and his remarkable career in the PBR earned the PBR co-founder the appropriate moniker “King of the Cowboys.”

At 13, Ty Murray went to live with Larry Mahan for the summer.

He traveled from his childhood home in Arizona, arriving in Colorado thinking Mahan was going to spend the better part of three months teaching him everything there was to know about bull riding.

Mahan had other ideas.

"He never taught me one thing about riding," Murray said, "but he taught me about the more important things of being a champion and what goes along with that. Learning how to talk in public, learning how to talk to the media, learning how to give real thoughts and not just, 'Yeah, everything worked out good.' To give real answers. And he gave me a ton of great advice."

Mahan was the one who told Murray to secure an agent, so that he could focus on competing and let his representatives worry about the business side of being a professional athlete.

It was Mahan's belief that if you're not doing it in the arena, you don't need an agent.

"My only focus needed to be in the arena," Murray explained, "and that's invaluable advice."

The advice about making himself available to the media also served him well, even in retirement.

Murray said the PBR was born as a means of making the sport better for its fans, and a huge part of that comes from storytelling. That wasn't always the case. When he retired from bull riding, he was simply known as a nine-time World Champion with the nickname "King of the Cowboys." No one really knew him.

"When you get to know somebody - good, bad or indifferent - it makes all sports more interesting," he said. "It takes away that thing where you feel like you're just watching a red team and a blue team. You have a vested interest."

For years, riders were identified by the buckles they wore. Only a few wore the gold buckle of a World Champion. There were also those who wore black hats, brown hats or white hats.

There were very few fans who knew all the memorable rides and wrecks.

It wasn't until years after Murray had given up riding, and well after he had co-founded the PBR, that PBR fans and casual observers got to hear the stories behind his amateur titles and the dedication it took resume his professional pursuits after sustaining three consecutive career-threatening injuries.

It wasn't that he was being cagey. He simply hadn't been asked to about himself.

"I would say that's fair," Murray said. "I don't even know if I thought about it then. I don't even know that that even crossed my mind. I tried to do a good job with the media. I never turned anything down. That was something that Larry Mahan taught me when I was 13.

"He said, 'Make time for them. All it will ever do is help you and help your sport.'"

"That was some of the best advice that I ever got," he continued, "and it's something that has helped me in my career tremendously, and it's helped the sport a lot, I think. I wasn't inclined to be that way without him giving me a heads-up to that when I was 13."

The 41-year-old, who makes his home in Stephenville, Texas, with his wife Jewel and their son Kase Townes, is focused on giving the tried-and-true fans a deep understanding of what the sport is about, and growing its popularity.

The challenges remain.

It's still hard for some to appreciate a sport they don't fully understand.

As Tommy Lasorda once explained, a coach can easily make baseball players out of bull riders, but the reverse isn't necessarily true.

"I'm passionate to get more people to see and understand that," Murray said, "and I'm passionate to see the guys that do this sport get the credit that they have due. It's hard.

"This goes back to the ESPY (awards) thing and how it chaps my (rear), because what is athleticism? What is sport? This has it in spades. This has it in ways that other sports can't even dream of."

The ESPYs have yet to nominate a bull rider in any category, while snowmobilers and surfers have made the list. Bowlers and jockeys even have their own categories.

Murray said it's not about belittling other sports, but if someone considers speed, quickness and reaction time to be athleticism, then professional bull riding has it. If they want to talk about coordination, body awareness and air sense, it has that, too. It also has pressure and the need to compartmentalize the fact that it's the most dangerous sport on earth.

He compares teaching those elements to a bricklayer building a house. Every opportunity with the media is considered a brick.

Whether it's him or another rider appearing on television or doing an interview with a national magazine, each media hit represents a building block.

Last year, during the Fourth of July weekend, he and Jewel played a major role in hosting a John Wayne marathon on AMC. Murray is about to film an episode of a new Discovery Channel series called "The Real Deal," which is about a family that deals in sports memorabilia.

However, according to Murray, his stint on "Dancing with the Stars" brought more eyes to the PBR and the western way of life than any other opportunity. For several weeks during his time on the ABC series, it was the No. 1 rated program on television.

"I'm not saying it gained more fans," he said, "but it put this sport in front of more people than this sport has ever had, and that's a brick. That's a big brick. That's several bricks."

When it comes to television, Murray said he's most proud of the weekly telecast from each of the Built Ford Tough Series events.

Back when he rode in the PRCA, television was virtually nonexistent - aside from a few special telecasts. And in his words, the early PBR telecasts were atrocious.

"It's no longer: 'This is a good guy from Muscle Shoals, Ala., and he's a great family man. There he goes. Aw, it didn't work out too good for him,'" he said. "I feel like we've grown a ton there, and I feel like you almost have to go back and watch an old telecast to truly appreciate it."

In recent years, it's become a real sports broadcast with up-to-date statistics and storytelling. The BFTS has become one of the most visually captivating sports on TV, and the storytelling has become a true, honest depiction of the competitors.

Good, bad or even embarrassing, Murray said every sport, including the PBR, has characters, and it's important to him that viewers get to know the cast while becoming familiar with the nuances of the sport.

"When you say 'storytelling,' you're not saying telling stories," he said. "You're saying you have real information and real data pertaining to the individuals. It just gives you a reason to care. It's the simplest way to put it and it's the most important."

Murray noted that just this weekend, with the help of a translator, he was able to sit with Silvano Alves and really get to know the No. 1 ranked bull rider in the world.

What he discovered and what he can share this weekend when the BFTS is broadcast on CBS is the fact that Alves is shy - if not outright bashful - and is clearly uncomfortable talking about himself as the top contender for this year's world title.

At the same, Murray also learned that Alves' goal is to win four gold buckles.

Without sharing that kind of information, "it's just a red team and blue team," or in the case of the PBR, it would still be nothing more than 40 riders wearing black, brown or white cowboy hats.

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2001

2001 Honoree:

Cathey qualified for his first NFR in 1976 and his last in 1991. He qualified for the NFR 14 times, a record he shares with Ted Nuce.


He May Look Soft, But He Rides Hard - LA Times article

There are lots of places I would not want to be. The 3-yard line of the Chicago Bears, for example, with the ball, 1 minute to play, trailing by 4 points. In the ring with Mike Tyson when your mouthpiece has fallen out. On the track at Indy with your brakes out and the steering gone. On an ice floe with a polar bear or a pond with an alligator. Facing a charging lion when you're out of ammo.

And, high among these also would be on the back of an enraged 2,000-pound brindle bull with only a hat, gloves, a hunk of plaited rope and the Lord's prayer.

I don't know why guys climb 25,000-foot mountains, jump cars in motorcycles, balloon the Atlantic solo or swim channels. But, riding bulls with horns like daggers, hooves that can chop trees and a temper of a drill sergeant whose shoes are too small, ranks right up there with all the other life-shortening hobbies you can conjure up.

You would think you had a mental picture of a guy who would ride a bull in a rodeo. A wild-eyed, wild-haired, hare-brained young kid with the leather skin and chapped lips of a guy who never slept in a bed in his life or drank coffee out of anything but a can. A hundred years ago he would have been holding up stagecoaches or drawing down on frontier marshals and he would have the life expectancy of a sick coyote.

Then, you meet Wacey Cathey and you think somebody's putting you on.

If someone saw Wacey in a lawyer's office on Park Avenue, he would take him for a junior partner of the firm. If they told him he rode Brahma bulls for a living, he would edge away from them. Wacey doesn't look as if he could get onto anything more ferocious than a BMW.

First of all, there are the glasses. Wire-rimmed, owlish, they make him look like something out of Bush's cabinet. He isn't even sunburned. He would look OK under a Homburg hat and wearing a briefcase and bench-made shoes. He puts his cowboy hat on and you figure he's going to a square dance, not a bull session.

Yet, he's the oldest and certifiably the best bull-rider in the National Finals Rodeo, the Super Bowl of the cowboys-and-Indians set, up here at the Thomas & Mack Arena this week. The best 15 bull-riders in the world qualify for this event on the basis of money won and Wacey has won more than any of them--$70,413 to date in 150 rodeos this year.

You wouldn't think to look at him that he spends his life on bull-back. As a matter of fact, you know these mechanical bulls they have in those campy Texas gin mills and elsewhere today? Well, my life's ambition is to get Wacey in one with me one night and have him order his sarsparilla and push his glasses up on his nose--and then go around and offer to bet any of the hotshot bar-stool cowboys in the joint that this tenderfoot can outride them.

I'd do a land-office business, I'd make more money than a guy on a river boat with his own deck. Because Wacey, frankly, looks as if he'd have trouble staying on an exercycle. They'd just figure him for a bookworm who'd read too much Louis L'Amour or seen too many John Wayne movies.

Wacey wouldn't be cocky about it because he's not the type to be cocky about anything.

Those mechanical bulls can be jacked up electronically to make a boozy rider think he has been caught in a crashing plane or in a barrel going over Niagara. But, Wacey points out, they have one flaw.

"They can be hyped up. But they can't do one thing a real bull can do--which is to suddenly jump from here to that wall without warning. And to take off on you just when you think you're settling in," Wacey reminds you.

Also, they can't try to stomp or gore you to death when you get bucked off. One of the real ones did that only this year--opened up an artery in the neck of a rider in Nevada till he bled to death. Another one chopped the ear off a veteran bullrider, Charlie Sampson, in a spill earlier in the season.

Have you ever seen a Brahma bull up close? When their hind hooves are high in the air and you can seen their entire underbelly trembling with uncontrolled rage, their tiny demented eyes rolling malevolently in their massive heads, their mouths flecked with rabid foam, it's like looking into one of the inner circles of hell. Eight seconds can seem like a year in an interrogation cell in the Lubyanka.

Bulls and riders get to know each other. They are like a canny old pitcher and a home run slugger who face each other scores of times over the years. It's Lefty Grove against The Babe, Koufax against Henry Aaron. The bull is the heavy hitter, the rider tries to guess which way he will spin, when he will jump, on which leg he will come down and tries to gauge his ride accordingly. It's like trying to guess which paw a grizzly will swat you with.

On opening night of the rodeo, Wacey drew a knife-backed serial killer so anti-social he's known only by the number E-2 in the program but called Death Row in the pen area, and E-2 wasted no time in throwing Wacey over the horns.

In some other events, no time or no score on a ride would be fatal in a go-round. Not in the bullriding. "Nobody has ever gone though all 10 nights without getting bucked," Wacey advises.

The second night, he drew a horned nightmare named Cobra. Cobra's trick is to spin you into a wall where he has a chance to flip you into the seats or just down into dropkick position on the arena floor. Cathey not only managed to stay aboard but racked up a respectable 72 in the process.

Cathey, going on 36, is the oldest cowboy in the bullpen. This is not so much because bullriders don't get a chance to grow old--the patriarch of the breed, the late Freckles Brown, always used to go around looking like something they found in a tomb on the Nile--as that most cowboys give up the bulls after a few years as soon as they realize putting out oil well fires is an easier way to make a living.

Wacey's secret is not hard to guess: The bulls take one look at him and they figure this is one of those midnight cowboys who thinks this is just a video arcade game. They figure they'll throw him up in the lights. The next thing they know, the horn has sounded and he's sitting there like a guy on a bus reading the financial pages. He rides the bull like a commuter. Even to the bull, he looks like one.

--source: LATimes.com (by Jim Murray – 12/6/88)

2000

2000 Honoree:

Branger was the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association bull riding titlist in 1985, and then turned pro. Despite that auspicious beginning, he retired in 2000 without a world title. His peers agree that he may be the greatest bull rider never to wear the crown.

Heroes & Legends: Clint Branger
By Keith Ryan Cartwright

Every morning, Clint Branger wakes up, looks out the window, and sees what he calls "a gift from God."

He lives on the ranch where he was born and raised, at the base of the Beartooth Mountains just outside of Roscoe, Mont.

The land has been in the Branger family since the late 1800s. Four generations of Branger men have sacrificed much through the years to keep it.

It's where Branger knows he belongs.

"I worked my whole life riding bulls so that I could come back and be where I'm at," he said. "Where I am right now is my gold buckle."

The first of the Branger men found his way to Montana in 1890.

He and three sons - John, Dave and Chris - turned what was once an unsettled piece of land into a working ranch. The firstborn for each of the younger men were named after their fathers - Johnny, David and Chrissie.

At some point "the beaver colony got a little large" for all the people living in the old rock house, so Chris bought out the homesteaders at the base of the mountain and moved his family to another house on the property.

In the summer, there were 100 head of horses, and people would come from all over take part in trail rides. But to the dismay of family members, Johnny wound up selling the upper portion of the guest ranch.

Clint's grandfather Chris died in 1959 at the age of 62, and that's when his father Chrissie put aside his bronc riding career. He wasn't ready to quit competing, but it was either that or sell the rest of the ranch.

"He chose to stay here," Clint said proudly of his father's decision.

That decision has kept the Branger name on the mountain all these years.

Ranching is hard work, and in those days, it was especially hard. Clint's father used to put up hay using a wagon. Clint remembers when his father finally got a machine: "It was the most decrepit Brigs & Stratton bailer with an engine on it.

"I would just beat it to death because it was so frustrating trying to bail hay with that darn thing," he said.

Some folks called Clint's father tight, and in some ways he was. Clint thinks of him as frugal. Growing up in the Depression and having gone through the Korean War, he wasn't about to spend money if he didn't have to.

For years, a framed photo of Clint's great-grandfather has been standing inside a granite arch hidden high up in the mountains. No one knew exactly where that arch was located, but last summer Clint found it.

"It was a feeling comparable to a 90-plus-point bull ride," he added. "It was a feeling comparable to the best feeling I ever had in my life. It was a very proud moment - very spiritual, very Godlike, very humbling and very exhilarating.

"Life came around full circle."

Clint said he found it at 9,800 feet with the help of a friend, who had done some research.

Now, hanging next to the 100-year-old is photo is one of Clint, taken one year ago, standing in the same place.

"I won the lotto when I was born and raised on this place," Branger said.

Branger graduated from Absarokee High School in 1983, and two years later won the national collegiate bull riding while attending Northwest College in nearby Powell, Wyo. That same year he turned pro, but it took until his third season to qualify for the first of his eight National Finals Rodeo appearances.

In 1988, he began traveling with Lane Frost, Tuff Hedeman and Jim Sharp.

Two years later, he nearly won a world title when Outlaw Willie bucked him off in the 10th round of the NFR. He finished second in the world standings behind Jim Sharp. He was third in 1992, the same year he and 19 others agreed to invest $1,000 each to form the PBR.

In 1994, Branger was poised to win the first PBR title when he drew Bodacious in the final round.

Although he would ride him a year later for 92 points, that particular day in Las Vegas he slapped the bull at 7.8 seconds, and Adriano Moraes won the gold buckle. Under the current point system, though, Branger would still have won the title despite the buckoff.

"To be honest with you, I think I wanted it so bad that when it came down to it, it just never happened," he said.

Despite never having won a world title, Branger is considered a giant among giants.

He competed during the most competitive era in the sport's history.

Ted Nuce, Ty Murray, Troy Dunn, Jerome Davis, Sharp, Moraes and Hedeman all won titles during his career, and still Clint Branger means as much to bull riding as those who wear a gold buckle.

He's long been considered the greatest rider never to win a title, and is often compared to Dan Marino, the record-setting NFL quarterback who never won a Super Bowl. However, Cody Lambert only partially agrees.

"I think he was better than that," said Lambert. "I don't think that does justice to Clint."

Lambert likens Branger's career to Karl Malone's 1997 season, in which he was named the NBA's Most Valuable Player, but still lost in the NBA Finals to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.

"He could have just as easily been a many-time World Champion," said Lambert, who called that particular era of professional bull riding "a different kind of competition. He just happened to come along when Tuff, Lane, Jim and Ted Nuce were in their prime. Everyone has great respect for Clint."

A four-year series of injuries - two broken ankles, a broken leg and a shattered eye socket - culminated in 1995 with a broken neck.

Branger said he should have retired then. After missing the better part of the entire '96 season, he returned, but was never the same. He was still capable of making the occasional 90-point ride, but he never regained the same sense of balance on his left side.

"I just wasn't the same bull rider anymore," he said. "Because of that, I was wanting to come home, told to come home."

In '95 he had begun leasing the ranch from his parents. Bull riding was no longer a priority. It became harder to leave home and easier to admit that his career had come to an end.

A big reason he rode for five more years was that he didn't think he could afford to quit. Looking back, he said he's lucky not to have injured himself any more than he did. "My mind wasn't on bull riding," he said, "it was back here."

Still wiry in stature, he'll always be remembered for being fundamentally sound and for rarely getting pulled out of position. He was able to ride every type of bull he drew. Even today, many of the top riders look up to Branger - Dustin Elliott among them -pattern their own careers after his, and try to emulate his picture-perfect style.

He retired in early 2000.

That same year, he was inducted into the Ring of Honor.

In the decade since his retirement, Branger has been relatively absent from PBR events.

He's been known to come to the annual event in Billings, a 70-mile drive from his ranch, but said he tends to head home by the time the rider introductions take place. Every now and then he'll go to Las Vegas to see old friends, enjoy a steak dinner, and share stories and laughs.

"What place do I have in the sport of professional bull riding as a 47-year-old, washed-up, ex-bull rider?" he asks himself. "What place do I have? Where do I fit in?

"The less I have to talk about my past, the better off I am. To be very clear with you, I did it from the time I was 12 years old until I was 34 years old. I got it out of my system. I got bull riding out of my system. I don't sit around and wish I did this and wish I did that. I don't sit around and wish I'd a won that. I just don't do it. I have not missed it one single day.

"Life went on in a very positive direction."

Life is great for Branger today, but shortly after his retirement, alcohol ruined his personal life in much the same way that the neck injury cut short his professional career.

He separated from his wife Amy, and according Branger, they eventually divorced for no other reason than they had spent so much money on lawyers and legal fees. "I just signed the papers," he said.

Eventually he sought the help of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"That's been a huge gift," Branger said. "It's truly a gift given to me by God that I can live at peace with myself and with everybody else."

Sober for the first time in years, he was able to reconcile with his ex-wife, and they remarried. They live together on the family ranch with their 11-year-old son Jake, a fifth-generation Branger who will one day inherit the ranch.

Full circle

"I am thankful today that I didn't (win a World Championship), because I don't have any pressure," he said. "I'm not pulled. I'm not called and asked to go and sell the sport - to make it better - and I would feel obligated to do it.

"I can just be who I want to be. Not really a hermit, but you have to be here, you have to be on the land or else you're not going to know what's going on or you're going to fail. You can't be in town petting the brass monkey."

Branger sees the world differently than he has at any other time. "I'm more at peace with myself and what life deals you," he said.

Although it might be from afar, Branger sees what the PBR has become, and appreciates it.

But the 12-step program, which is ongoing, also taught him to be thankful for what he has - a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices of his own father made on behalf of the family.

Chris Branger turned 80 years old last month.

"I told him that day, 'I love you and thank you for everything you did,'" Clint shared. "'I can remember when I look out the window, it's your gift to me.' I don't know how much of that he can understand, but he - that same day I almost broke down, but I said, 'You're the toughest (SOB) I ever met.' That brings tears to my eyes just to say that, because he truly is.

"He gave everything he had his whole life just to be a cowboy."

The elder Branger is physically worn down from years of work. Eight months before his birthday, doctors feared he had pneumonia. Clint said the chest X-ray of his father, which he plans to keep, was more knotted up and shattered-looking than any X-ray of a bull rider he had ever seen in his life.

He's now in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and suffers from dementia, but still recognizes his son.

They spent a day together earlier this spring.

Clint picked his father up from Cedar Wood Villa, in Red Lodge, Mont., where he now lives, and took him back to the mountain for what will likely turn out to be the last visit. Clint raises bucking horses and took his father to see them, and watched a herd of elk come out of woods. They shared a burger and an ice cream sandwich for lunch, took a nap and went back to town.

On the drive, the elder Branger asked his son, "What country are we in?"

"We're in Montana, Dad," he replied. "Montana."

Lost in his thoughts, Clint's father smiled. To no one in particular, he said, "Sure good to look at some familiar ground again."

"For him to say that to me was one of the greatest days of my life," said Clint, adding how happy it made him knowing his father still recognized the land he ranched, hunted and lived on his entire life.

It's the same land that Clint Branger sees every morning when he wakes up, looks out the window and remembers, "Of all the places I ever went, I never thought I was going to somewhere other than back to here. I never had a doubt in my mind about it.

"This is my gold buckle. I'm here with it every day. I don't abuse it, I shine it, I polish it, I have good days and bad days, but I work on it every day to make it better, more productive. The reason I'm here is because of my career in the PBR and what went on here."

1999

1999 Honoree:

Hedeman, the 1995 PBR World Champion, won three PRCA World Champion bull riding crowns, and was the NFR average winner in 1987 and 1989.


Four-time World Champion and ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Tuff Hedeman is a living legend…and the most recognized cowboy in the world. Bull Riding is America's original extreme sport. He is a staunch supporter of the bull rider as a professional athlete.

Hedeman’s hands on approach has him coordinating every element of the events which brings action packed performances that keep fans and competitors on the edge of their seats.

In addition to 27 years of producing great family friendly events he is known for his historic clashes with the bucking bull Bodacious and his friendship with the late Lane Frost which was depicted in the 1994 film, 8 Seconds.

--source: TuffHedemanBullRiding.com

1999 Honoree:

Lane was born on October 12, 1963. At that time, his parents lived in Lapoint, Utah. However, Lanes Father Clyde was rodeoing at the time and Lane's mother, Elsie went to stay with her parents in Kim, Co., while she waited for Lane to arrive.

Lane was born in the hospital at La Junta, Co., the closest hospital to Kim. His full name is Lane Clyde Frost.

Lane has an older sister, Robin, and a younger brother, Cody. When Lane was killed in Cheyenne he was 25, he was 5' 11"and weighed 145 lbs Lane, at the early age of 5 months, was interested in the bull riding events at the rodeos his parents attended.

Mrs. Frost is fond of the memory of Lane awakening during the bull riding event, and he would cry when his parents stood up to leave early, If they returned to watch the bull riding he would quiet down.

His mom made his first pair of chaps for him. She admits to hoping he "would out-grow this bull riding thing."

Lane started riding little dairy calves on the family dairy farm in Randlett, UT when he was 5 or 6. He was 9 when he first got on a bull.

However, to the relief of his family, he met Don Gay around that time, and Don told Lane that he should just ride calves and steers until his bones were more fully developed.

Mrs. Frost says that they had been telling Lane the same thing, but of course he listened to Don! At the age of 15 Lane started to ride bulls on a regular basis. Before that, he had been competing on calves and steers.

Lane's first rodeo awards were won in 1974, when he was 10, at the "Little Buckaroos" Rodeos held in and around the Uintah Basin of UT.

Lane stayed on a bucking Shetland Pony to win first in bareback, took second in calf roping and rode a calf in the "bull riding" event to place third.

While rodeoing wasn't the way of life his parents exactly wanted for him, (especially the bulls!) they never discouraged him, and helped him whenever they could.

Lane spent his first 14 years in Utah, doing chores on the dairy farm his parents owned, and later competing in various rodeo events. When Lane was in junior high school (7th & 8th grade), in Vernal, Utah he was very good in wrestling.

He wrestled at about 75 pounds. During these two years he had 51 matches with 45 wins, 4 losses and 2 tied matches.

Lane also continued competing in the "Little Britches Rodeos", and any other rodeo he could enter, until his parents moved the family to Lane, OK. in 1978 to escape the harsh Utah winters.

Lane Liked the fact that there were more youth rodeos in Oklahoma then in Utah. Lane's mom says that, while they did not encourage Lane to ride bulls, they did support him in his decision.

Lane began his freshman year at Atoka High School, his sister Robin began her senior year there, and Cody was in 4th grade at Lane Elementary.

continue reading about Lane and his career at LaneFrost.com

--source: LaneFrost.com

1999 Honoree:

After qualifying for the NFR an impressive 11 times, Robinson eventually became involved the business side of the sport. He realized that traditional rodeo was using archaic ideas and systems, and helped to modernize the sport.

Heroes & Legends: Jerome Robinson
By Keith Ryan Cartwright

There's a decades-old story about Jerome Robinson that is shared among bull riders.

It seems Robinson, who turned pro in 1967, was driving all night from one rodeo to another. In the morning, he pulled off the highway to find a place to shower and clean up before continuing on his way.

He wanted to avoid being charged a room fee for little more than an hour's use, so he walked the halls of the motel looking for a room where the occupants had already left.

Eventually he came upon a door cracked open for the maid service.

"I get the credit for that," said Robinson, "but it wasn't really me.

"Well, we may have done it once, but somehow the story got around that we were doing it all the time. I can kind of remember (Jody Tatone) doing it one time, but it made me too nervous."

Tatone was a social science major in college with aspirations of attending law school.

A gifted athlete, he didn't get on his first bull until he was 20 years old. He never did become a lawyer, but he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo four years in row from 1978 until 1981, and again in the mid-80s.

The true story is that Tatone's parents owned a motel, and he was the one who hatched the plan for the two of them to shower up after a night of driving without paying for a room. One morning they went into a Marriott, and Tatone walked the halls, touching each door until one swung open.

"We traveled a lot," Robinson said, "so somehow I got the notoriety for it, but it wasn't me."

Over the years, Robinson has seen plenty.

He was in the arena the night of Tuff Hedeman's infamous matchup with Bodacious.

Robinson was the second man to reach him as he lay on the dirt. He still remembers the ash-white pallor of Hedeman's face moments before blood sprayed from his nose like a faucet.

He still recalls - with vivid details - how the skin on Hedeman's face looked as though it had been burned. He was conscious and mad at himself. Once they applied compression to his nose to stop the bleeding, Hedeman stood up and walked out of the arena.

"He didn't get his name Tuff for being a sissy," Robinson said. "There are not too many people who would have walked out of there. He's tough."

Robinson was also in Las Vegas in 1999 for what he believes was "the best night of bull riding I ever saw" - perhaps the greatest night of bull riding in PBR history,

It took place on a Friday night, and the pen featured the same 15 bulls that would be used two days later in the championship round of the Finals.

Looking back on it, he figures that if the same scoring scale used today was used then, there would have been 10 or more rides marked 90 points or more. The one he remembers most is Jaron Nunnemaker's ride on Panhandle Slim.

Nunnemaker rode him that night for 94 points.

Robinson, who said his own style would have fit Little Yellow Jacket, was in awe of Nunnemaker, and eventually Ty Murray, for how easy they made it look. Murray rode the bull later in the short round for 94 points to win the Finals average.

"Both of them were outstanding rides," said Robinson, who in 17 previous Finals said that "If I missed seeing 20 rides, I think that would be a lot."

He saw his first bull riding at the age of 3, when his grandmother drove him from Brandon, Neb., to Denver for the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo.

After nearly 10 years of riding calves, steers and cows, he got on his first bull when he was 13 at a junior rodeo in North Platte, Neb. For the first jump or two, it was a lot like riding a cow.

"But as soon as he turned back," Robinson recalled, "all I saw was his belly going up over the top of me."

He attended Colorado State University and was a sophomore when he got his PRCA card, but said he wasn't ready for pro rodeos. That year he went to 10 events and earned between $700 and $800.

His two best years as a pro came in 1974 and 1975, when he finished fourth in the PRCA world standings.

He estimates he got on more than 3,000 bulls throughout his career, and there were years where he was attempting as many as 250 in a single season.

Since retiring in the early 80s, he's been just as busy.

For years he held a bull riding school at his ranch outside Fort Collins, Colo. Cody Lambert attended when he was 13 years old. Michael Gaffney and Owen Washburn were even younger when they first came to Robinson's school.

"The truth of it was when Cody was 13, he knew how to ride," Robinson said. "He had been on enough stock at 13 that he was making the right moves."

Lambert has credited Robinson as an early influence.

Robinson said the PBR co-founder is being generous, but later admitted that if he indeed had any influence on him, it had to do with stressing the importance of chute procedures.

According to Robinson, a rider can't control what happens once he nods his head. However, he can control almost everything that happens in the chute. He taught his students that by rehearsing their chute routines over and over, they wouldn't have to think about it once they climbed in, and that eventually it would become automatic.

He said Lambert already had a routine, but that he helped to hone it into one he would use throughout his career.

Robinson, who was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 1999, has plenty of other memories to share. He tells each story as if it happened yesterday.

He's been to so many cities and events through the years he can't remember them all, but he has two maps hanging on a wall in his office.

One map is of the United States, and "well over 200 pins" represent all the cities in which he's ridden during his career. Some of those cities he's been to 10 to 15 times as rider and even more as a producer and promoter of PBR events.

The other map shows the entire world, and has pins stuck in Japan, Finland, France, Italy, Venezuela, Oman, Costa Rica and other countries where he's helped produce what he calls "wild west" bull riding events. Two more pins stick out from Peru and Columbia - two countries he never visited, but to which he sent his own personal crew.

Once he relayed this information, it was time to go again. "OK, I've got to get on this plane," he said abruptly.

After spending a week in Costa Rica, Robinson had been home only a couple of days before heading off to Wisconsin for the first of six Built Ford Tough Series events in six weeks' time.

Then he's heading to Las Vegas for what will be his 18th consecutive World Finals as arena director.

1998

2019 Ty Murray Top Hand Award Honoree:

1998 Ring of Honor inductee:

An 8-time World Champion Cowboy with 6 All Around World Championships and 2 World Champion Bull Riding Gold Buckles, Larry remains the All Time leading NFR qualifier in the rough stock events. He is a member of various Halls of Fame, including: PRCA, Texas Cowboy, Oklahoma City National Rodeo, Pendleton, Cheyenne, Ellensburg and St. Paul. The PBR Ring of Honor, PRCA Legend of Pro Rodeo and the Ben Johnson Memorial medallion are among the awards lining the office walls.

As a lifelong student of the magnificent horse, Larry is committed to sharing his passion and knowledge. Horses are an important aspect of the Mahan ranches. From the hill country of Kerrville, Texas to the North Texas headquarters and Central Oklahoma to the Colorado division nestled at the base of Pike's Peak, most days will find Larry astride-starting colts, checking broodmares, gathering cattle or working with the seasoned ropers and cutters.

A 30 year member/breeder of the AQHA, Larry is an avid team roper (3 Steer Champion 2011 Reno Invitational) and successful cutting competitor-NCHA Derby non-pro Reserve Champion & Super Stakes finalist. He is also a member of the Western Dressage Association. A closely knit family rounds out the picture with wife, Julanne-2 daughters, Lisa & Eliza and son, Ty.

--source: Prefiert.com

1998 Honoree:

Davis was the 1995 PRCA World Champion bull rider and a top PBR athlete. He is now a top bucking bull breeder, and mentor to a new generation of PBR stars.

Heroes & Legends: Jerome Davis
By Keith Ryan Cartwright

In April of 1992, Jerome Davis was just happy to be in the same Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room as his heroes. He hadn't been out of high school for a year when he became the youngest of the 20 founding members of the PBR.

Sitting toward the back of the room, the 19-year-old from North Carolina was all smiles.

"I had a vision, kind of like they did, but I was so young - it was my rookie year - and so fresh that I was just going to do whatever my heroes (did)," said Davis, who joined with established legends like Ty Murray, Ted Nuce, Jim Sharp and Clint Branger. "All (those) guys were guys I looked up to. They were my Elvis."

"For them to ask me to be part and to think that I had a future made me feel good."

Davis graduated from high school in June of 1991. A few days later, he packed his gear bag and drove his van from Archdale, N.C., out to Odessa, Texas.

"My daddy was out back cooking hamburgers and I told him I was heading to Texas," Davis recalled. "He kind of knew that I was going sometime, but he didn't know when. He said, 'When will you be back?' I said, 'Probably Christmas.' He said, 'Bear down and win a bunch.'

"That's all that was said and I was gone. That's just kind of the way it was."

Davis traveled from one PRCA event to another with Cody Custer and David Fournier, while sharing a trailer home with five other members of the Odessa College rodeo team.

Rent for the outdated trailer in a rundown mobile home park was $200 a month.

"Ours was the only one anybody lived in," he said. "The others (were) too ragged out, and ours probably didn't need anybody in it, but we were in college and it was good. That's the time when I forked the money over."

Davis said, "It's so far back, sometimes it's hard to put it all together." He doesn't recall hearing anything about the meeting of the PBR's eventual founders until Custer and Fournier invited him to join them that day.

At the end of the meeting he didn't have enough money in his bank account to write out a check for the full $1,000. Instead he gave promoter Sam Applebaum a check for $500 with the promise of paying the balance a week later.

Afterward, he didn't think much of it - he likened the meeting and the plans that came from it to planting a seed and hoping it would grow. But a year later, they began planning the first PBR event.

In 1993, at the National Finals Rodeo, the PBR founders who qualified for the bull riding event all agreed to don PBR jackets - which were easily identified by the distinct red and black sleeves - for the entire week.

"I thought, 'Man, I'm not going to get to wear my NFR jacket,'" Davis said, "but I was excited to wear that PBR jacket. We were trying to make a statement, and I guess we did, but you could tell there was a lot of jealousy."

In 1994, the PBR began hosting events.

All 20 founders agreed that while they would continue competing at PRCA events, none of them would enter BRO (Bull Riders Only) events.

Davis said for a kid like himself, who couldn't even write a check for $1,000 a year earlier, it was financially difficult to turn down the $3,000 show-up fee he was being offered by the BRO, "but it was the right thing to do."

"Things like that, back then, got sacrificed that people never did get to see," he continued, "and it wasn't just me either. It happened with everybody.

"In all, I think, it's been good for everybody. It's been good for rodeo and certainly good for the PBR."

1997

1997 Honoree:

Don Gay is an American eight-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world champion bullrider. Born in 1953 to Neal Gay and Evelyn “Cookie” Foster, he was only a year old when his mother died of leukemia. Neal then married Kay Gay, who raised Don and his brother Pete as her own. Don grew up in Mesquite, Texas, and started rodeo at age 6. His father, Neal Gay, was a well-known rodeo competitor and rodeo producer. Don was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1979; his father was inducted in 1993, becoming the only father and son to receive that honor. Don retired from professional rodeo in 1989.

Gay does television commentating for pro rodeo and pro bull riding events throughout the country . He has also commentated for Professional Bull Riders (PBR) big-league events on TNN from 1994-2001, as well as the Championship Bull Riding (CBR) big-league events on Great American Country from 2009-10. However, he continues to be involved in CBR, providing live announcing at some events, including the CBR finals. In 1997 he received the PBR’s Ring of Honor.

In 2007 Gay was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame along with his brothers Pete and Jim.

Awards
- Earned membership in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Assoc. (PRCA) in 1970 while a sophomore at Mesquite High School
- Graduated Mesquite High School in 1972 and qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Oklahoma City, OK in bull riding
- Qualified 13 years at NFR in bull riding (11 consecutive)
- Won record 8 PRCA world bull riding titles: 1974-77, 1979-81, 1984
- Broke PRCA’s bull riding single season earnings record eight consecutive years, 1974–81
- First rodeo cowboy to receive Special Achievement Award by All Sports Association (ASA) - 1975, 1981, 1984
- Scored career high 97 points on RSC’s famous bull ‘Oscar’ at Cow Palace in San Francisco, CA in 1977; the bull was retired at 1978 NFR after Don rode him in the final time
- Retired from bull riding in 1989
- Owner / Stock Contractor of All Star Rodeo, 1989–1996
- PRCA Board of Directors (Stock Contractor), 1995–1996
- An original inductee in Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado Springs, CO in 1979; joined by his dad Neal in 1993; The only father-son team in rodeo shrine
- TV color analyst: ESPN, TNN, OTDCH, RFD
- Wrangler Endorsee
- Boyd Gaming Rodeo Ambassador
- National Finals Tonight Show, Las Vegas, NV – Host since 2007

--source: FrontierRodeoCompany.com

1996

1996 Honoree:

In the span of 12 years, Harry Tompkins won five bull riding world titles, as well as one in bareback riding and two in the all around. According to various accounts, Tompkins needed the 12-year span because he hit a dry spell from 1952-60 where world championships were concerned, although he made a good living from rodeo during that time. Tompkins was born Oct. 5, 1927, in Furnace Woods, N.Y., as well as raised in the up-state New York town. He got his start in professional rodeo at Madison Square Garden. One of the original hard-chargers in professional rodeo, he flew his own plane and made 75 or more rodeos on an average per year, which was a grueling schedule at that time. He won his first championship at 21 years of age.

World championships: 8 (bull riding, 1948-50, 1952, 1960; bareback riding, 1952; all-around, 1952, 1960)

--source: ProRodeo Hall of Fame

1996 Honoree:

PBR co-founder Cody Lambert was not only an exceptional bull rider, but a top-tier saddle-bronc rider as well. He qualified for the NFR seven times in bull riding and three in bronc riding, and appeared in the PBR World Finals every year through 1996.

He currently serves as the PBR's Director of Livestock.

Heroes & Legends: Cody Lambert
By Keith Ryan Cartwright

In 1982, Cody Lambert was an impressionable young rodeo athlete traveling with Bobby Brown.

He was only a few years into a career that continues today as livestock director of the PBR, while Brown, who was in his 30s at the time, was nearing the end of his.

The two were in Greeley, Colo., headed to St. Paul, Ore., when bad weather conditions forced Brown to land his single-engine plane in Salt Lake City. It was then that Lambert learned a lesson he carried with him until he retired from riding in 1996.

The forecast indicated that there was no way they were going to be able to continue in Brown's small plane, so they checked with the airlines - there were two first-class tickets available on the next flight to Portland, but the $600 or $700 price was steep even by today's standards. Lambert was recently married and short on money, so he told Brown, "There's no way I can go."

Brown, who qualified for the National Finals Rodeo more than a dozen times, and had been runner-up for the world title in saddle bronc riding a year earlier, wouldn't take no for an answer.

He explained that Lambert had one of the best horses in the draw - one with which he could win - and that he could not afford to miss the event.

Lambert went.

"I felt sick paying for that ticket on my credit card," recalled Lambert, who maxed out the card, and who didn't even plan to spend that much for fuel costs during the entire Fourth of July run.

He wound up winning. Brown took second.

"When you draw those good ones, you make sure you're there to get on them," was the lesson Brown shared with Lambert.

To this day, every time Lambert looks at that St. Paul buckle, he thinks about the trip and what it took to get there.

Concentrated talent

Lambert eventually went on to travel with Tuff Hedeman, Lane Frost and Jim Sharp.

In the later part of the 80s, after turning 18, Ty Murray joined the troop - a band that is widely considered to have been the most talented group of travel partners in the history of the sport.

The things they accomplished are the stuff of legend.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we were the best bull riders," Lambert said, "we being Tuff, Lane, Jim, Ty and I wasn't that far behind. I knew that no carload of bull riders was going to win more than we were."

They knew they were going to win, and on the rare occasion one of them didn't, it was "disappointing and strange."

Hedeman won the world title in '86, followed by Frost and Sharp. He took a second title in '89. Sharp won again in '90, and Hedeman won his third title in '91. That year, Murray won his third of six all-around titles. He added a seventh in '98 to go along with the bull riding titles he won in '93 and '98.

"There was respect and admiration for what everybody could do," Lambert said.

They're proud to have come from rodeo.

The PBR wasn't meant to compete with the PRCA, so much as it was an attempt to put bull riding on a bigger stage with a larger audience.

Of course, it would also provide the best bull riders a chance to earn the money they deserved.

Then and now, the PBR has made a conscious effort to protect the history of July rodeos like the Calgary Stampede. Dates for the Built Ford Tough Series are scheduled so they don't overlap, and riders like Shane Proctor and LJ Jenkins have an opportunity to travel to historic events that have been in existence for nearly 100 years or more.

In the '90s, Lambert and Murray traveled separately from Hedeman and Sharp, who had added Clint Branger to the fold. While those three focused on bull riding, Lambert and Murray competed in multiple events.

Because of that, Lambert and Murray were generally entered in single rodeos on back-to-back days, or had to make two trips to the same event days apart. In bull riding, a rider would only come in for one day.

The bull riders would travel at a fast pace, and although Lambert and Murray were at an event every day, about a fourth of the time it was at a rodeo they had been to already.

Two for the show

Years after traveling to St. Paul with Brown, Lambert joined Murray to head to a rodeo in Pecos, Texas.

They flew to Dallas, where they planned to catch a connecting flight to Odessa and then drive 76 miles to Pecos. As planned, they had a couple of hours to spare. But the flight to Odessa was delayed by two hours, and it was too far to drive.

After delaying it for two hours, the airline canceled the flight.

Lambert had drawn the best bronc (Sensation) and one of the best bulls (Cadillac). He was determined to make the event.

Murray, who would go on to win his fifth all-around title that year, made a few calls to find a private jet, but there was nothing available. Lambert found DFW Charter Service in the Yellow Pages.

The company agreed to fly them for $2,800. They nearly missed the bareback competition when the pilot overflew the Pecos airport and had to circle back.

Murray's draws weren't as good, but give an athlete like Murray three opportunities, and he's going to win something.

By the time they arrived, Murray's bareback horse was in the chute. Lambert got his rigging ready while Murray changed. From what Lambert remembers, it was the one time Murray rode without his knee braces. He won the last hole in both bareback and saddle bronc riding, which along with day money in bull riding paid enough for his share of the charter.

Lambert won first in the saddle bronc and second in the bull riding.

"I offered to pay for the whole thing because I knew he just made the trip because he knew I had the good ones," Lambert said. "I wasn't going to turn out when I had the good ones, and Ty wouldn't hear of that."

1996 Honoree:

Nuce qualified for the NFR 14 years in a row — an unmatched record. He was the 1985 PRCA World Champion bull rider, finished second in the world four times and won the 1994 PBR World Finals.

Looking back at his storied career, Ted Nuce said that one of the most important talents of a successful bull rider is knowing how to get off a bull and get away safely.

The 50-year-old native of Escalon, Calif., employs that same philosophy today.

Although he hasn't ridden bulls professionally in nearly 20 years, he is as passionate now about playing the stock market as he once was about climbing into a bucking chute and nodding his head.

"Trading and riding bulls have a lot in common," he said. "The most important thing is you manage your risk."

Four years ago, he and his family relocated from California to Stephenville, Texas.

He and his wife Stephanie, who has a real estate license, felt as though their home state had become overregulated and overtaxed. They opted for a more business-friendly environment, and chose to raise their family in the Cowboy Capital of the World.

"I like the commonsense way of Texas life," Nuce said.

Stephenville is a fitting place for the one of the most celebrated bull riders of all time and his family to call home.

Nuce began his professional career in 1982. Three years later, he won a world title, and four times after that he would finish second in the PRCA standings.

A year after winning the gold buckle, he battled Tuff Hedeman all season before finishing runner-up for the first of three years in a row. In 1987, he went to the National Finals Rodeo with a lead, only to lose out to Lane Frost.

Jim Sharp beat him in 1988 - the same year Nuce won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

The Olympic bull riding event came down to the final round, with Hedeman in the lead and both Nuce and Frost close behind. Nuce drew Hill Street, a bull who had bucked off Frost in an earlier round, and made the whistle to take the lead. Frost rode as well, but was still third in the average when Hedeman bucked off, giving Nuce the gold medal.

One of the most "incredible moments" of his career came later that night, when he stood on the podium in front of 80,000 sports fans and had the gold medal hung from his neck.

In 1991, he finished second in the world to Hedeman for a second time. A year later, he and 19 other legendary riders each invested $1,000 to form the PBR. In 1994, he won the first PBR World Finals event to cap a career in which he set a record by qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo 14 years in a row.

It's a record Cody Lambert said will never be broken.

"I rode against a lot of great bull riders," said Nuce, who was a member of the inaugural class of the PBR Ring of Honor in 1996. "It happens in all different eras, but I think in our era, in my era, I rode against some really tough bull riders. There were some real legends."

Early in his career, he rode against the likes of Donnie Gay and Denny Flynn, as well as his travel partner Charlie Sampson. In the second half of his career, he rode with Hedeman, Frost and Sharp.

Nuce also rode with Ty Murray, Troy Dunn, Adriano Moraes and Lambert.

Often, people will talk about having been born a decade or even a century too late. Other times they're said to have been ahead of their time.

Not Nuce. He's thankful to have come along when he did.

His rookie year, he watched and learned from Sampson. He not only saw a great bull rider win a world title, but he took note that Sampson was always positive. It was a lesson he had previously been taught by Larry Mahan and Gary Leffew.

"It's an attitude that when everything is going wrong, you're prepared to win," Nuce said. "I picked up on that stuff early, and really took it to heart."

There was a passion that drove him to ride. If there was rodeo or bull riding event with $1,000 or more available to the winner, Nuce was there.

"I truly loved riding bulls," he said. "I loved it so much, at one point, if I couldn't ride bulls, I didn't care if I lived. I had very strong emotions about riding bulls."

Those deep-seated feelings, which he said lasted from 1984 through about 1992, made it difficult to quit.

"Fortunately, now I have a family, and my family is very important to me," he explained, "and I love trading the stock market."

His latest passion was fueled by the success of the PBR.

As he watched it grow and "turn into a real nice business," he became more and more fascinated in how other businesses worked.

"I'm interested in how big money moves in and out of the market," he said.

Today, he can honestly say he has no regrets. And he's maintained a professional and personal life driven by passion.

"It has to come naturally," Nuce said. "That's something that has to come from within. You have to love something so much that practice is play - when you're practicing, all you're doing is playing. You love it so much that you would rather do it than anything else in the world.

"If you don't have a true passion, when tough times come you won't last. You'll quit. If you have real passion, it only makes you stronger, it makes you better, it makes you go home and practice harder."

--Keith Ryan Cartwright

1996 Honoree:

The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award is named for perhaps the greatest western-sports athlete of all time. Jim Shoulders was a giant in and out of the arena, winning 16 world titles and becoming a household name in the process. The award recognizes some of the many whose efforts have built the PBR into a global phenomenon – stock contractors, contract personnel, employees, and more.


June 20, 2007 - June Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) mourns the passing of celebrated cowboy and bull rider, Jim Shoulders, who passed away today at his home in Oklahoma at the age of 79. Shoulders is one of the most decorated rodeo cowboys in the history of the sport and will be missed by all. He passed away during the early hours of the morning with his loving wife of 60 years, Sharon, by his side. "It was during the worst thunderstorm we have had in years," she said. "It's just like Jim to go out with a bang."

This legend's rodeo career began in 1942 at the young age of 14 when we won his first bull riding competition in Oklahoma. He continued his professional career as the winningest cowboy of all time in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) where he won 16 world championships. This included the World All-Around Rodeo Cowboy championship five times (1949, 1956-1959), the World Champion Bareback Rider title four times (1950, 1956-1958) and the World Champion Bull Rider title seven times (1951, 1954-1959). Injuries put an end to his rodeo career and he retired to his ranch in Oklahoma with his wife Sharon where together they raised four children. He was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1979 and today is the only cowboy ever to be inducted into the Madison Square Garden Hall of Fame.

Shoulders was also an avid supporter of the PBR over the years, lending his knowledge and experience to the organization. He was in attendance at as many PBR events across the country as possible. Shoulders was recognized for his bull riding accomplishments when he was inducted into the PBR's Ring of Honor-the highest honor the world's top bull riding organization can bestow-in 1996. Most recently he gave the pre-event pep talk to the competitors prior to the PBR's U.S. Smokeless Challenger Tour Championship presented by Dickies held in February 2007 in Oklahoma City, Okla.

"Jim Shoulders' legacy will live on forever. He was the epitome of a true cowboy," said Chief Executive Officer of the PBR, Randy Bernard. "Jim Shoulders embodied the true cowboy spirit and I realized every time I was with him how important he was to the western culture. I looked up to him not only for his ability in the arena, but also for his kindness in life, his respect for others, his love for his family, and his humor and ideas that helped shape rodeo and bull riding around the world. There will never be another Jim Shoulders or anyone to fill his boots. Whether you were 10 years old, 20 years old or 70 years old, you were drawn to his charismatic personality and knew he was a friend.

It saddens me deeply to know that Jim won't be sitting in the first couple of rows at PBR events or won't be there to give his quick witted comments on the sport. But, his memory inspires me to try to continue to build the western culture in the way he viewed and lived it. Jim was definitely my hero."

Not only did Shoulders leave an impact on the business segment of the sport, his influence on the cowboys has resonated for several generations.

"This morning when Ty (Murray) called me I thought, there goes one of the greatest pieces of rodeo history who's ever lived," said world renowned rodeo champion, Larry Mahan. "Rodeo was a lot tougher back in those days but Jim Shoulders was one of the greatest champions there ever was. He set the bar in rodeo competition for a lot of young men, including myself. Through his greatness he set the standard for success in the sport and made all of us younger guys work that much harder, which to me is what sport is all about. He was the foundation of the sport of bull riding and certainly my hero.

"My first recollection of a stand alone bull riding was in 1965 or '66 when Jim put on a matched bull riding with Freckles Brown. That was the start of someone taking the most outrageous event in rodeo into a stand alone event. He set the foundation for the PBR. It's been interesting to watch the young guys who started the PBR turn to Jim when he's attended their events for his advice and inspiration."

"Obviously this is a sad day for me and the world of rodeo, bull riding and cowboys in general. Jim is the Babe Ruth of our sport. I think he personified being tough and being a cowboy. He was a tough man his entire life. You just hate losing a man like that," said PBR co-founder and 9-time World Champion Cowboy Ty Murray. "He was a huge supporter of the PBR, the riders and the vision that we [PBR] have. He set a great example for a lot of generations of cowboys after him.

"Jim lived a good long life the way he wanted to live it; no nursing home for him. I saw him not too long ago and he was as funny, irascible and tough as always.

‘It's sad to see him go, but he lived a good life the way he wanted to. My heart goes out to Sharon. She is a great lady and about the sweetest lady you'll ever meet. We look at her as much a part of the PBR family as we did him," continued Murray.

PBR co-founder and livestock director, Cody Lambert expressed similar memories about Shoulders. "It would take me all day to tell all the stories I know that show how tough Jim Shoulders was.

"One thing he recently did was go into the locker-room at the Challenger Tour Finals in Oklahoma City earlier this year to give the bull riders a pep talk. He talked about his life rodeoing and how the most money he remembered making in one year was $50,000 after paying all the travel costs, hotels charges, entry fees and expenses. He was proud of and liked the way the PBR was growing the sport and told the young riders that they should be happy to be riding for such an organization. It was a great honor to have someone like him giving them a pep talk. Then he told them 'Remember, this sport is a lot more fun if you hear that whistle when you're still on the bull'. He always had something funny and witty to say.

"One thing that I will always remember was when Jim told me that I would have fit right in during his days of rodeoing. Coming from him that was the best compliment I have ever had."

Brand of Honor

Brand of Honor

The PBR Brand of Honor is bestowed upon the legendary bulls of the PBR. From the beginning, the organization has recognized that there are two great athletes in every ride, and the bulls are the natural extension of that recognition, honoring those animals whose spirit and skill have surpassed even the highest expectations of the bull riding world.

The PBR Brand of Honor, created in 2011, is the highest honor a bovine animal athlete can receive. The honor is based on the animal athlete’s display of consistent championship caliber performances and career statistical records.

2019

PUEBLO, Colo. – 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi headlines the list of honorees to be feted at the 2019 PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration at South Point Casino & Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

Marchi will be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor, and 1995 World Champion Bull Bodacious will be presented the PBR Brand of Honor, the sport’s highest recognition for a bovine athlete.

The Ty Murray Top Hand award, introduced last year for athletes from the rodeo world exemplifying excellence and traditional cowboy values, will go to rodeo legends Phil Lyne and Larry Mahan. The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Neal Gay and Mack Altizer. Kylie Shivers will receive the Sharon Shoulders Award.

Heroes & Legends Celebration tickets will go on sale on Monday, June 3 and are available for $40 through PBR Customer Service (800) 732-1727 or by calling the South Point Showroom Box Office at (844) 846-8689.

BRAND OF HONOR

Bodacious (Andrews Rodeo Company / Sammy Andrews), the 1995 PBR Champion Bull, will be bestowed the Brand of Honor, the highest honor for a bovine athlete in the sport. To some, the powerful 1,900-pound yellow bovine was also the greatest ever to buck. As a two-time PRCA champion bull (1994, 1995), he and Bruiser are the only two bulls to have won both PBR and PRCA titles. He is also considered the world’s most dangerous bull. After Bodacious seriously injured several bull riders, his owner Sammy Andrews retired the notorious bovine in 1995. Bodacious passed away in 2000.

South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa is the Official Host Hotel of the PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration. Special room rates and packages, starting at $75 and $119 (plus taxes and resorts fees), respectively, are available to fans at South Point by using the code FAN1101. For reservations and information, call 866-791-7626.

The 2019 PBR World Finals, the richest bull-riding event in the world, will take place Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The five-day event will crown a $250,000 event champion and also determine the overall 2019 PBR World Champion, who will receive a $1 million bonus and the coveted world championship belt buckle. The 2019 PBR World Finals are preceded by the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Nov 2-3 at South Point Arena, with some of the best riders in the world chasing a $100,000 purse, and five riders receiving an invitation to compete at the 2018 PBR World Finals.

2018

2018 Honoree:

Pearl Harbor was going strong until the very end, passing away in late April on stock contractor Chad Berger’s ranch in North Dakota. Just 6 years old at the time of his passing, Pearl Harbor was 61-6 at all levels of the PBR and was unridden on the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast in 2018, including three 47-plus bull scores in his last four outs.

“If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to ride the best,” 2017 PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood said. “So whenever you get the chance at bulls like Pearl Harbor, that’s the ones you want.”

Berger purchased Pearl Harbor when the bull was 5 years old, but had his eye on him since he was a 2-year-old.

“I’ve flanked a jillion bulls in my life and none of them made my hair stand up like that one, every single time,” Berger said. “I was just like a dad throwing his kid in the wrestling ring when he was about 5 years old and just cheering him on. My heart just swelled when I watched him buck and buck them guys off.”

While Pearl Harbor did plenty of bucking off, on the rare occasion he was ridden, the sky was the limit when it came to the score. The highest was a monster 94.25 points courtesy of J.B. Mauney in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in April of 2016. Berger thinks that ride is better than some of the highest-scored rides in PBR history.

Pearl Harbor was in contention for the World Champion bull crown at the time of his passing and went on to win the 2018 regular-season title.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that bull and how much he’s going to be missed around here,” Berger said. “I’d give everything you see here in front of you and start over with him.”

2017

2017 Honoree:

2004 World Champion Mike Lee remembers it like yesterday.

It was 13 years ago when the 21-year-old bull rider from Decatur, Texas, was making a stunning come-from-behind run at the 2004 World Championship inside the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert recalled earlier this month that no one had thought Lee was truly in the running for a world title that year.

“He wasn’t one of the guys we were really talking about until a couple days into the Finals,” Lambert recalled.

Yet after riding his first three bulls at the Finals, Lee was ready to show the world what the third-year bull rider could really do.

With the World Championship on the line, as well as the 2004 World Finals event title, Lee lowered himself into the bucking chute aboard the D&H Cattle Company superstar bull Mossy Oak Mudslinger.

Lee knew he had one of the greatest bulls in PBR history underneath him, but that didn’t faze him one bit.

Instead, he went to work on Mudslinger for a career-high 93.75 points. The massive score helped him become the first bull rider in PBR history to win the World Championship and the World Finals event title in the same season.

“He bucked every time,” Lee said. “He wasn’t nasty. He didn’t do anything real bad. He wasn’t real bad in the chute. He just went out there and did his job. He bucked honest. He was a great bull to win off of. He wasn’t easy, but you could win some money if you stayed in the middle of him.”

Lee won $1.3 million thanks to that ride aboard Mossy Oak Mudslinger, and he was one of 27 riders that ever reached the 8-second mark aboard this year’s 2017 Brand of Honor recipient.

Mossy Oak Mudslinger was honored on Tuesday night at South Point Hotel & Casino during the 2017 Heroes & Legends Ceremony. Also honored were Ring of Honor inductees Lyle Sankey and Ricky Bolin, Jim Shoulders Award winners Doug Scott and Bill Selman and Sharon Shoulders Award winner Julie Carrillo, who's daughter Cheney received a standing ovation as she accepted the award in honor of her mother with a heartfelt speech. Julie passed away in June from stage-4 colon cancer.

Two-time World Champion Justin McBride acknowledged Cheney as the "strongest teenager girl" he knows prior to introducing Mudsligner Tuesday evening.

The 2006 World Champion Bull is the seventh bovine athlete to receive the Brand of Honor, which is awarded to a bull for his exemplary performance throughout his career.

"He was that first bull to step into that role of being a star," McBride said. "The Pages have been bringing great bulls you could win on for a long time. Mudslinger was one of those bulls."

H.D. Page said, "I want to thank the PBR for recognizing Mudslinger with the award. Mudslinger means the world to us. Mudslinger came along at a time in my life whenever I was down in the dumps and I couldn't ride bulls anymore and I was struggling to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I didn't want to farm. I can just remember bucking that bull when he was a calf and the energy. I got goosebumps like I used to get when I crawled on top of one. I never felt that until that moment.

"It is something we get addicted to as stock contractors when you have great bulls like that. It is an adrenaline rush that you can't experience like getting on a bull."

Mossy Oak Mudslinger was 66-27 in 93 Built Ford Tough Series outs with an average bull score of 45.88 points. He was a bull riders loved to get on as well. In his career, he carried a cowboy to a BFTS round win 15 times.

“Mudslinger was a bull that came on the scene as a 3-year-old and was spectacular,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said earlier this month. “He was only ridden once that year. He brought it every time. He had a great style of bucking. He was in the air spinning and kicking.”

A year after Lee won the world title, Mudslinger went on to be named the high-money bull of the season, earning the most money for the riders that made 8 seconds on him.

“There were not a lot of bulls like him,” Lee said. “Back then the genetics weren’t there, but he was part of the genetics that got us here. He had a lot of suck back, and he would pull guys over the top of his head. He fit me. I liked him. He was into my hand, sucked back and was pretty to watch.”

Every rider knew payday was awaiting when they got in the chute aboard Mudslinger.

In that same season, a young, bull riding superstar by the name of Guilherme Marchi went on to ride Mudslinger for 92 points in Kansas City, Missouri, for his second career victory.

The Leme, Brazil, bull rider was one of seven riders that conquered Mossy Oak Mudslinger in 2005. Every one of them was 90 or more points.

“He was right there, away from hand, and he was very consistent,” Marchi said. “All the time he was right there to the left. Everybody wanted to get on him. You knew if you ride him, you would be 89-plus.

“He was a really good bull. He was a good producer. H.D. and the fans miss him a lot.”

Lee and Marchi were two of the many riders, including three-time World Champion Silvano Alves and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, that were in attendance for Tuesday's ceremony.

After failing to win a world title in his first five years, Mossy Oak Mudslinger was able to go out on top in 2006 by being voted the World Champion Bull.

The last rider he faced was Marchi.

The end result?

A 5.1-second buckoff and a 46.5-point bull score at the 2006 World Finals.

“He deserves the Brand of Honor,” Marchi concluded. “He was a very special bull for a long time.”

2016

2016 Honoree:

PUEBLO, Colo. - Julio Moreno knows there will be a flood of emotions when he pulls up to the South Point Arena and unloads Bushwacker for the Heroes & Legends celebration.

The three-time World Champion Bull is this year’s recipient of the Brand of Honor, which is awarded to a bull for his exemplary performance throughout his career.

“It is awesome to be able to retire him and all of a sudden he can come back in there and win,” Moreno said. “He has accomplished everything now in this sport. Hopefully, (his late handler) Kent Cox is smiling about it.”

Moreno has shed tears of happiness and sadness in Las Vegas throughout his lifetime as a PBR stock contractor, but in November he will likely cry tears of pure joy once again as he watches his bull get honored.

“Last time we were leaving Vegas a couple of years ago, I thought that would be the last time he would see Vegas,” Moreno said. “Now to bring him back that is pretty good. A lot of times you hear horror stories about this bull or this horse getting inducted somewhere and they are not alive.”

There is also the possibility of Bushwacker actually receiving his award on stage at the South Point Arena. And, yes, it makes complete sense for there to be a spectacle surrounding Bushwacker one more time in Las Vegas.

During his six-year Built Ford Tough Series career, Bushwacker brought the sport of professional bull riding to new levels and became a world-famous superstar. At the time of his retirement in 2014, PBR co-founder and Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said Bushwacker was right up there with other legendary animal athletes Secretariat and Seabiscuit.

However, Lambert took Bushwacker’s impact on the PBR one step further when asked about what the champion bovine has meant to the PBR. Without hesitating, Lambert placed Bushwacker in an elite class of PBR legends.

He rambled off names like the PBR’s first World Champion and three-time champ Adriano Moraes. He then brought up two-time World Champions Chris Shivers and Justin McBride when trying to put into context just how important Bushwacker has been to the organization.

“He is as important to the sport as any of the riders we have ever had and more famous than most of them and more well known,” Lambert said. “We will have all of the great bulls from now on, and all of the great bull riders from now on, and we will never replace Bushwacker or Chris Shivers or Justin McBride or Adriano.”

“We have fans that don’t know any of the riders’ names that know Bushwacker,” Lambert said. “Lots of them. It’s a level that no animal has taken it to so far – until Bushwacker.”

Part of his popularity stemmed from a dominance like no other bull in the history of the sport.

Bushwacker’s record speaks for itself. He bucked off 64 of his 66 opponents in six years on the BFTS, and dumped 84 of his 87 foes since his first out in 2009. He won World Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2014 to join Little Yellow Jacket as the only three time World Champion Bulls.

Then, of course, there were the 42 consecutive buckoffs on the Built Ford Tough Series – a PBR record – until J.B. Mauney’s historic 95.25-point ride in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in August 2013.

Bushwacker’s rivalry with Mauney also added to the bovine athlete’s legendary status. The two went head-to-head 13 times at all levels of competition and all but one time did Bushwacker not embarrass Mauney.

The legendary bovine’s rivalry with Mauney will forever remain historic for PBR fans past, present and future.

The two squared off 13 times at all levels of competition and only once was Mauney successful.

It was a rivalry that turned into a battle between two foes with the utmost respect for the other. Call it David versus Goliath or Beowulf versus Grendel. No matter what analogy is preferred, the two formed one of the sport’s biggest rivalries.

Bushwacker’s saga really took life against Mauney in January 2011 in Anaheim, California. Bushwacker made Mauney look like a helpless Cirque de Soleil performer. Bushwacker (47.75 points) erupted high into the air and tossed the 2009 World Finals event winner toward the rafters of the Honda Center, before gravity saved Mauney in mid-air and brought him crashing back to earth in 2.67 seconds.

“He really, really fired and got in the air as high as he could, and J.B. was riding as good as he can be, and Bushwacker spun him like a ragdoll,” Moreno recalled of his favorite memory. “Flung him like an airplane.

“They all took notice. That is really what caught everyone’s attention.”

Bushwacker has bucked off four World Champions in his career: Mauney, Mike Lee, Guilherme Marchi and Silvano Alves.

“The bull bucked for a long time, so he deserves it,” Mauney said.

According to Probullstats.com, Bushwacker has the third-highest average bull score in PBR history. His 46.16-point average marking ranks only behind Dillinger’s 46.83 points in 49 outs and Bodacious’ 46.4 points in five outs. Bushwacker’s average score is also slightly better than Little Yellow Jacket’s (46.13).

Bushwacker’s son Clifford recently made his BFTS debut last week in San Jose, California. Chase Outlaw rode Clifford for 82.75 points.

Bushwacker is the sixth bull to be honored with the Brand of Honor. Little Yellow Jacket (2011), Dillinger (2012), Red Wolf (2013), Bones (2014) and Chicken on a Chain (2015) are previous winners.

Bushwacker and Little Yellow Jacket are the only three-time World Champion Bulls.

Moreno didn’t even blink an eye when asked if Bushwacker could still compete for a World Championship.

“Oh, yeah,” Moreno concluded. “By all means, especially right now.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

2015

2015 Honoree:

Weighing in at more than 2,100 pounds, it didn’t take a lot for Chicken on a Chain to make his presence felt at BFTS events.

He was near impossible to miss.

His horns have been described by those who have been hit by them as baseball bats.

His size and angry demeanor intimidated many of the top PBR riders in the world, but he was a freak of nature. Despite being the biggest, he wasn’t only strong. He was equally athletic.

“I have a couple scars,” said Robson Palermo. “One under my chin and one on my head.”

Chicken on a Chain was arguably a-once-in-a-lifetime bull for his owner Jeff Robinson, who partnered with Larry the Cable Guy and Mike Tedesco.

“You’ve heard me say 1,000 times, it’s a good thing he has broad shoulders,” said Robinson. “He’s carried me a long way.”

Chicken put Robinson and his Mars Hill, North Carolina, ranch on the map virtually overnight.

This year, the PBR will honor the soon-to-be 15-year-old Chicken on a Chain with the Brand of Honor next week in Las Vegas.

Created in 2011, the annual award honors legendary bulls from throughout PBR history. From the beginning, the organization has recognized that there are two great athletes in every ride – the rider and the bull – and the Brand of Honor is the natural extension of that recognition.

Previous winners include Little Yellow Jacket (2011), Dillinger (2012), Red Wolf (2013) and Bones (2014).

“This puts him where I think he deserves to be alongside the all-time greats,” Robinson said. “There will be a World Champion (Bull) every year, but that doesn’t mean all those will end up in the Ring of Honor.

“That’s pretty elite company.”

In a seven-year career, Chicken on a Chain recorded more than 125 total outs

“I would dare say there’s never been a bull hauled as many miles as that bull either,” Robinson said.

He lived in North Carolina and was hauled from South Florida up to Maine, out to California and Oregon, Idaho, Montana and, of course, Las Vegas. He earned his way to the World Finals seven times.

And everywhere else in between.

“There are not many bulls that can go that long, travel as many miles as he’s traveled and still be that good,” said J.B. Mauney.

Robinson bought him in 2006 and nearly sold him by season’s end. However, he held onto the future legendary bull and in 2007 he was voted the World Champion Bull.

Nowadays, the top riders vote for World Champion Bull contenders, who then compete for the title in two outs at the World Finals.

Chicken on a Chain finished his career with 130 outs – 80 of which were at Built Ford Tough Series events. He holds a career average of 45 points per out. He’s the only bull in PBR history with more than 100 outs and an average career score of 45 or higher.

He’s fourth on the list of all-time 90-point ride producers and he was the high-marked bull 41 times out of his 80 BFTS. Thirteen of the 27 times he was ridden in his career, the rider won the round.

“I have the best memories ever,” Robinson said. “They rode him for 93 in Detroit and they should have been 96 or 97 on him, when (Justin) McBride won the title for the first time (in 2005), to the last out on him when (Chris) Shivers got on him. He’s had all the greats on him.”

His most famous outing was likely the time Renato Nunes rode him in St. Louis for 95.75 points.

Nunes was in the prime of his career – he won the title in 2010 – at the time of the 2008 matchup that still ranks among the Top 15 scores in the 22-year history of the PBR.

“That’s right when Renato came on the scene and that bull fit him perfect,” Robinson recalled. “That’s one of those special times in history.”

Despite the recent popularity of three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker, the legend of Chicken remains one of the single most popular figures – man or beast – in the PBR.

Since his retirement, he’s been hauled to various PBR events in a personal trailer meant to allow fans to see him and have their photo taken with him.

Robinson said despite being eight years removed from Chicken’s title, people still ask about the bull wherever he goes.

Robinson said that Chicken on a Chains receiving the Brand of Honor is “all about him,” but that that it will also “be right up there with the two or three biggest things I ever had anything to do with.”

Longtime PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert called Robinson with the news this past summer.

That too was a special moment for Robinson, who said Lambert called him in 2007 when Chicken was voted World Champion Bull and again in 2010 when he won his first of four consecutive Stock Contractor of the Year awards.

Nevertheless, he was not expecting the call.

“There were some other bulls in the conversation,” Robinson said. “Bushwacker could have got it this year. Mudslinger could have got it.

“I knew it would come sometime, but when you have a bull of the year or you’re in the running for Stock Contractor of the Year you sort of expect certain things. This one, I wasn’t expecting to get that call. No.”

Robinson admitted he does daydream about days gone by.

From time to time, he’ll ask himself, “What if?”

What if Chicken on a Chain was competing today with the publicity the PBR has? What if he had a chance to compete against Bushwacker and Asteroid? What if he was competing this year?

“Yeah, you always think about the great ones, but you can’t get caught up in the world of what ifs either,” Robinson said.

Mauney added, “He’ll go down as being one of the best bulls ever.”

2014

2014 Honoree:

His career was brief, yet illustrious.

Bones competed for just four years – only three of which were on the Built Ford Tough Series – and yet he managed to win two World Champion Bull titles.

From start to finish he was bucked only 45 times, which includes a mere 34 times at BFTS events. However, it was enough to forever leave an indelible mark in the minds of the best bull riders in the world.

“He’s one of the few bulls I can actually say that I got on more than one time that I didn’t ride,” said two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who was 0-for-2 in 2008. “There’s not very many of them.”

In fact, there are only two: Blueberry Wine and Bones.

McBride first matched up with Bones in 2008 at the second to last regular-season BFTS event in Columbus, Ohio.

Aside from a 47-point mark two months earlier when Bones bucked off McKennon Wimberly, in Nashville, Tennessee, McBride was unfamiliar with the then 5-year-old bull. Actually, most people were unfamiliar with Bones and wondered if the high-marked outing was something of a fluke.

He had made his BFTS debut a year earlier, in March 2007, when Clayton Williams earned a re-ride.

Bones didn’t return to the BFTS until June when he bucked off former World Champion Ednei Caminhas in Orlando, Florida, and when McBride selected him in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, Bones had bucked off all five riders he faced in 2008, including eventual World Champion Guilherme Marchi.

Aside from the 47-point effort, Bones was consistently marked between 44.25 and 45.25 points.

“I thought it would be a good time to see what he was made of,” McBride recalled. “I felt really good, at that point, and pretty confident and, ah, he was the real deal. He was big time stuff.”

As would be his trademark, Bones got steep and his front-end dropped out of sight.

McBride went 6.6 seconds and as was habit by that point his career, he vowed it would never happen again, but, according to McBride, the comment proved to be a bigger mistake than the one he made that caused him to get rocked back on his arm and ultimately bucked off.

“I rolled into the Finals and picked him in the draft and he bucked me off even quicker,” McBride said. “He had done nothing, but gotten better. I mean, he really handed it to me at the Finals.”

Truth be told, he “handed it” to all three riders who got on him Las Vegas that year.

McBride chose him in Round 2.

Bones started to the right and once again got steep, raised McBride up and just like that brought the Nebraska-native over his shoulder onto the dirt in 4.7 seconds.

“It had been a long time since a bull had treated me that way,” McBride said.

Zack Brown bucked off in 2.8 seconds in Round 4 and then Marchi lasted only 4 seconds in the final round. More importantly, Bones collected scores of 47 points, 46.5 points and a career best 47.25 points to win his first World Champion Bull title.

Bones was no longer unknown or unproven.

He was a World Champion Bull.

According to longtime PBR livestock director Cody Lambert, Bones drew tough riders and proved he was the best bull.

He certainly stood out.

Two years later, Lambert said it wasn’t a shock, but it was a surprise when he out-performed the heavily favored Bushwacker to win his second title in 2010. Everyone, including Lambert, thought a young Bushwacker was going to win the title, but Bones beat him with a strong finish.

He had been ridden four times in the past years, but flawless against the best when it came to the World Finals.

Bones took care of J.B. Mauney, who had been the first to ride him in 2009 for 93.5 points, in 4 seconds flat and judges marked him 45.25 points. Some will argue he was underscored and that, perhaps, the judges were anticipating an 8-second ride from Mauney and were caught off guard.

But in the final round it was déjà vu all over again when Bones and Marchi met up—again.

J.W. Hart said that, at the time, Marchi tied his hand so far down the side of his bulls he was never going to be able to keep up with a bull like Bones whenever he made the direction change back to the left – away from Marchi’s hand – that had bucked off all but four riders in his career.

Marchi was 0-for-3 at that point and the right-hander had little confidence in himself. Bones bucked him off in 2 seconds and was marked 47.25 points for the surprising world title winning score.

“For him to be able to come back and win the other one,” McBride said, “is what was really impressive.

“They’re both really cool, but for different reasons. The first because he come out of nowhere and won it, and the second one he kind of come out of nowhere to win too because there were other bulls that people were really high on. He showed up to the Finals and was the best bull.”

Owner Tom Teague announced Bones’ retirement at the start of the 2011 season.

Four years after being retired in the prime of his career, the three-time World Finals qualifier and two-time World Champion Bull with an average score of 45.56 points on the BFTS will be awarded this year’s Brand of Honor at the annual Heroes & Legends Ceremony in Las Vegas.

The Brand of Honor was created in 2011 to honor legendary bulls of the PBR.

From the beginning, the organization has recognized that there are two great athletes in every ride and the Brand is the natural extension of that recognition, honoring those animals whose spirit and skill have surpassed even the highest expectation.

Bones follows previous honorees Red Wolf (2013), Dillinger (2012) and Little Yellow Jacket (2011).

“It’s no surprise,” Lambert said. “He’s one of the best bulls the PBR’s ever seen.”

Lambert added, “There are very few bulls that physically have what Bones had and then can put it together time after time and use that physical ability. I don’t know if people take them for granted or not, but I know that people forget them very fast once they’re not there anymore. It’s hard for people to remember how good they were physically. They remember, ‘Yeah, that was a great bull,’ but it seems like years and years ago and it was just a few years back.”

In winning a pair of titles he beat out bulls like Bushwacker and Voodoo Child. Lambert also compared him to other greats, the likes of which include Mr. T and 105 of Dell Hall.

McBride lists Bones among the best he’s ever matched up with.

In fact, he said Bones was harder than Mossy Oak Mudslinger and that although Little Yellow Jacket is currently the only three-time World Champion Bull, McBride feels like Bones was harder than him. He compares Bones with Rampage, Hollywood and other big bulls capable of getting steep.

“Bulls that could jerk a rider down,” he added.

Like Lambert, McBride was not surprised to hear Bones was being honored this year.

“Absolutely not,” he said emphatically. “Bones is every bit as good if not better than those bulls.

“He’s still in the conversation with the greats. Today, I think, he’d be in there pushing Bushwacker. … I think Bones would be right there in the conversation with those bulls each and every weekend. Bones had days where he got the 47.5 marks.”

Lambert added, “He has moves that only Bushwacker has. He had ability that only Bushwacker has right now.”

The legend of Bones was made all the more spectacular given his yearling year.

Lee Holt, who worked with Teague, gave him his name because the 10-month old was nothing more than a “bag of bones” when he arrived in Graham, North Carolina, which is about 30 minutes east of Greensboro.

Holt said, “He was the poorest little thing.”

Born March 31, 2003, they had to move Bones from the pasture with other calves to the barn, where he was alone, because he wasn’t big enough to either defend himself or get enough to eat. With each passing year he filled out into a muscular 1,550 pounds.

Bones’ mother was a daughter of White Water. His father was Bone Collector, who was also known for his jumping ability.

Throughout his career, Bones had the same mentality and chute demeanor as Bushwacker. He was relaxed and wasn’t a mean bull either.

During his final season, Lambert exclaimed that Bones excelled in all five categories: buck, kick, direction change, intensity and degree of difficulty.

Lambert noted that Bones was able to get his front feet three or four feet off the ground, while he was in the air, and then break over. Bones also had a feel for knowing what he was up against and, like Bushwacker, was only at his best when he faced guys like McBride and Marchi or Mike Lee.

In describing Bones as a true competitor, Lambert said, “He had his best days when he was against the best riders. He looked as close to impossible to ride as Bushwacker.”

Lambert added, “In my mind, he’s the second best bull we’ve ever seen in the PBR.”

Coming from Lambert, that’s saying a lot.

Teague, who had previously been part of five World Champion Bull titles – Little Yellow Jacket, 3, Mossy Oak Mudslinger and Big Buck – had a special place in his heart for Bones. In the past, he was a part-owner in the title-winning bulls and had bought into them, whereas, he had raised Bones from.

This was different.

“What I like about (Bones) is that bull was born and raised on a Teague ranch,” said Boyce Knox, who handled and hauled Teague’s bulls for years. “He wasn’t a bull that (Tom) went out and bought and paid a bunch of money for. That makes it real special—to raise one, it takes more than money to do that.”

“Everybody told me that it would be different,” Teague said. “They were right. It’s totally different.”

Bones was only 7 years old when Teague announced the retirement.

Teague said, “I had kindly made my mind up that if he did win it, I was going to retire him.”

“Tom and Bobby and Sid Steiner are all real good friends,” Lambert explained, “and Tom related it a lot to their careers. I know that’s what he was thinking about.”

In 1973, Bobby Steiner had turned 22 only two weeks prior to winning the PRCA title in bull riding. The last round of the National Finals Rodeo was broadcast on Wide World of Sports and when they asked him what was next and the flamboyant Steiner replied, “I’m hanging up my rope.”

Steiner went home to Austin, Texas, where he and his bride Joleen raised two sons Tommy Shane and Sid.

Three decades later, Sid won a world title as a steer wrestler, in 2002, and did the same in an interview with ESPN2.

“I think that always meant something to Tom,” McBride said. “Bobby Steiner has always been a good friend of Tom Teague and that’s how Bobby’s career was. He won one and quit.”

However, McBride said the comparison is apples to oranges because “Bobby got to make that decision for himself. I don’t think Tom ever wanted anything taken away from Bones. He didn’t want to see him at the top and then lose a step and lesser bulls beat him. Tom’s a very prideful guy.”

Lambert agreed.

He added, “(Teague) was worried if something happened and (Bones) got hurt bucking another year after he already won two Championships, he’d have felt bad. He would have felt greedy for doing it, so he wanted to retire him when there was no doubt he was the Champion.”

“He had a great rider on him and he had a great score,” said Teague, when talking about the decision to retire Bones after his second title, “and what more can you ask for out of a bull? That was just it and I couldn’t be happier with him.”

Like McBride, who retired in the prime of his career with two titles to his name, some have argued Bones would have tied or even beaten Little Yellow Jacket’s record of three titles. Instead, Bushwacker will try and match the record in his final season.

But no one will ever know for sure.

“The big difference is, I get to make that decision for myself and when you’re talking about a bucking bull somebody – the contractor or the owner – is going to make that decision for the bull,” McBride said. “I think Tom was attached to Bones a little more than he ever was any other bull. I mean, he was a part owner of Little Yellow Jacket and a part owner of Mudslinger – some great, great bulls – but Bones was the one he raised. He was very attached to Bones and he didn’t ever want to ask too much of him.

“He was really special to Tom and he wanted him to go out on top.”

Teague concluded, “I’m tickled to death with the way it ended and it’s a great ending.”

2013

2013 Honoree:

Owned by Herrington Cattle Co., Red Wolf placed second in 1997 for PBR Bull of the Finals and PBR Bull of the Year. He had one of the longest careers of any high-level bucking bull, being born in 1988 and not retiring until the age of 12 in 2000. The 2000 PBR World Finals, where Red Wolf made his last out, marked his sixth consecutive appearance at the Finals. Red Wolf had a career buckoff percentage of 58.97 percent in Built Ford Tough Series events. He was ridden 16 times in 39 outs, including seven round wins, and his average bull score was 45.54 points. Red Wolf is among the Top 20 bulls in PBR history in terms of both average bull score and average ride score, as well as Top 10 in number of 90-point rides produced.

2012

2012 Honoree:

Owned by Herrington Cattle Co., Dillinger was the first back-to-back and two-time World Champion Bull in 2000 and 2001. One of the most-recognized athletes in the PBR, the black bull with the white face retired in 2002 after sustaining a leg injury.

“We say we’ve never had a back-to-back champion, but that is only in the human category,” said PBR Founder and Livestock Director Cody Lambert, who was inducted into the Ring of Honor as a member of the inaugural class in 1996. “Dillinger won two years in a row, and he was battling with Little Yellow Jacket, Blueberry Wine, and Mossy Oak Mudslinger when injury took him out of the game. He was a lot bigger than those bulls, weighing about 1,800 pounds in his prime.

“He had the same tools that they had with lots of speed and agility with power added in. All great athletes come in different sizes and shapes or even different species, but they all have one thing in common and that’s competitive desire. Dillinger brought that on every trip.”

Dillinger had a career buckoff rate of 85.11 percent in Built Ford Tough Series events. He was ridden only seven times in 47 outs, including four round wins, and his average bull score was 46.83. He is a member of the www.ProBullStats.com Hall of Fame, and ranks first with an average mark of 46.888.

Dillinger was ridden for 96.5 points by two-time PBR World Champion Chris Shivers at the 2001 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals — the highest score in World Finals history — and tied for the highest score in the PBR record books. Dillinger was also part of five of the 50 highest scores in PBR history, including 95.5 points for Jim Sharp at Fort Worth, Texas, in 2002; 95 points for 2002 PBR World Champion Ednei Caminhas in 2001 at Columbus, Ga., 94.5 points for Caminhas at the World Finals in 2000, and 94.5 points for Corey Navarre at the World Finals in 2001. He was a part of three of the Top 10 scores in World Finals history.

2011

2011 Honoree:

Little Yellow Jacket knew when the lights were bright and the cameras were rolling.

The PBR's only animal to earn three World Champion Bull titles, Little Yellow Jacket, a 1,800-pound brownish-red rapid-fire spinner, was a primetime competitor who just sensed he was special.

From the night he debuted on the Professional Bull Riders' top-tier tour in 1999 at Billings, Mont., until the afternoon he was retired at the 2005 World Finals in Las Vegas, Little Yellow Jacket either would help a rider earn a score in the elite 90s or he'd serve up a dirt sandwich.

And then, after each stunning performance, it was like he'd take a bow by singling out his owner.

"He would find me, come right to me, and he'd look up, and I would in effect say: 'Good Job!' And then he'd turn around and walk off," said Joe Berger, a longtime North Dakota stock contractor who raised and co-owned Little Yellow Jacket during his highly remarkable seven years on the circuit. "That's why I say he was almost humanlike."

Little Yellow Jacket died on Sept. 19 in Graham, N.C, at 15 years old.

However, his legend lives on. The late Little Yellow Jacket became the first recipient of the Brand of Honor, which is presented each year to a bull for exemplary performance. He was honored in Las Vegas prior to the Oct. 26-30 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.

Owned by Joe Berger, Tom Teague, and Bernie Taupin, Little Yellow Jacket won the PBR World Champion Bull title in 2002, 2003 and 2004. He is immortalized in a statue located in front of the PBR headquarters in Pueblo, Colo., along with Adriano Moraes, the PBR's only three-time World Champion bull rider.

Teague, a thriving North Carolina businessman who eventually bought the bull outright and cared for him during his later years, also remembers Little Yellow Jacket being enamored with his stellar performances.

"They'd put him in the chute and he'd go out, throw the guy off and would prance around, and it was like he was saying, 'I knew I could bust your rear,'" Teague said. "But if a rider happened to ride him, he'd better look out, because Little Yellow Jacket just might try to hook him."

Little Yellow Jacket transcended his sport in 2003 when he bucked off two-time world champion Chris Shivers in less than 2 seconds on a live NBC broadcast from a PBR tour stop in Colorado Springs, Colo. He earned his owners $50,000 for his victory while keeping Shivers from collecting $1 million.

Though Shivers took being dumped hard at the time, the legendary cowboy views the bout as a great promotion for pro bull riding.

"That's probably one of the biggest moments in PBR history, and I'm just glad that I was involved in it," Shivers said.

Little Yellow Jacket competed in the PBR from 1999-2005. He had a buckoff rate of 84.4 percent, and an average buckoff time of 2.66 seconds. The 14 riders who made a qualified ride on him had an average score of 93.

Michael Gaffney, the 1997 PBR World Champion, rode Little Yellow Jacket for 96.5 points at Nampa, Idaho, in 2004, tying the PBR record for highest score.

"He was the ultimate bull," Gaffney said. "He had the attitude and the heart and everything else."

Little Yellow Jacket also commands respect from Ty Murray, the seven-time world all-around champion and a PBR co-founder. Murray turned in a 90.5 at the 1999 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas - the first time Little Yellow Jacket had been ridden on the PBR's marquee tour.

"He then was a young bull that I had no idea about," Murray said. "And when I got off of him, I told Cody Lambert, 'Wow! That bull is the real deal!"

Little Yellow Jacket's first outing on the PBR's top tour was in 1999 when he bucked off Eddie Fisher at a regular-season tour stop in Billings. His last performance was during the 2004 World Finals when he disqualified Gerardo Venegas in the final round.

Little Yellow Jacket also was on the card during the second round of the '99 World Finals, and helped Cody Whitney score 94.75.

Lambert, the PBR's longtime livestock director, said he was impressed with Little Yellow Jacket's longevity. Lambert pointed out that the bull would help riders score in the 90s despite getting older.

"He's the greatest bull that the PBR has ever seen," Lambert said. "He won three world titles, and no other bull has ever done that."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

Jim Shoulders Award

Jim Shoulders Award

The PBR Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes those who throughout their life and professional career have contributed to the advancement of the sport of bull riding and rodeo. Their efforts include significant contributions that have had a positive and continued impact on the development and growth of the bull riding and rodeo industries. The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award, created in 2011, is named for perhaps the greatest western-sports athlete of all time. Jim Shoulders was a giant in and out of the arena, winning 16 world titles, and becoming a household name in the process.

2019

Mack Altizer, the founder of Bad Company Rodeo, will be honored by the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) at the 2019 PBR Heroes and Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 5. Altizer will receive the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award.

Altizer was a pioneer in the rodeo world who revitalized bull riding almost singlehandedly. He introduced high-energy and modern marketing techniques into rodeo events beginning in the early 1980s.

Today, no rodeo is without rock-and-roll music excitement, lighting, and announcing during the bull riding go-rounds. To Altizer, rodeo was all about the fan experience, and he saw traditional rodeos back then as in need of more “show business.”

Texas Monthly said Bad Company Rodeo was “where the Wild West is partnered with a little Hollywood” in their March 1991 issue. “Cowboys compete to rock and roll tunes, and a stable of clowns, trick riders, Frisbee-catching canines, and other acts regale audiences between events,” Texas Monthly announced.

Altizer turned his bulls into rodeo stars themselves. All of them were named after a well-known rock-and-roll song. It was the bull “Takin’ Care of Business”, a bull named after the 1970s hit by Bachman Turner Overdrive that Lane Frost rode that fatal day in July 1989 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days. Frost had just completed an 85-point ride. When he was bucked off after the 8-seconds were up and landed on the dirt of the arena, the bull struck Frost in his back with its horn, breaking several ribs while severing an artery. He was rushed to the hospital to no avail. The movie “8 Seconds” chronicled the career of Frost and his tragic death. The movie catapulted rodeo into modern popularity. Garth Brooks’ 1990 hit single “The Dance” was reported to be a tribute to Frost.

For Altizer, the incident with his bull and Frost was not how he wanted to be remembered. When working around Altizer, one never mentioned what happened in Cheyenne.

Into the 1990s, Altizer and Bad Company Rodeo dominated the southern rodeo circuits with the Bad Company Rodeo tour. Altizer was a prolific fundraiser for small town rodeos, like the rodeos in Pecos; Liberal, Kansas; Silver City, New Mexico; Stephenville; Brady; Sonora, and Del Rio. His bulls were showcased in Del Rio’s “Granddaddy of them all” stand-alone bull riding event called the “Super Bull” that honored fellow Del Rioan and bull rider George Paul who died in a solo plane crash in the late 1960s when traveling the rodeo circuit. The George Paul Memorial Bull Riding event continues to this day.

In 1998, Bad Company Rodeo was recognized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) as the Stock Contractor of the Year. Bad Company was named the Professional Women's Rodeo Association (PWRA) Stock Contractor of the Year in 1999 and the Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) Stock Contractor of the Year in 1994 and 2000.

Rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus talked about Altizer’s legacy at the 2014 San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo. Before Mack Altizer came along, bull riding was a slow event. The bulls were large and slower moving, he said. “Then Mack starts naming all the bulls after rock-and-roll songs. So every time [a bull named] ‘Funky Cold Medina’ bucked, you’d hear Tone Loc singing ‘Funky Cold Medina,’” he said.

Integrating rock music into rodeo was revolutionary, Polhamus said, because back in the 1980s, rodeos exclusively played old Nashville country music, like George Jones and Merle Haggard.

“Mack incorporated a type of music that elevated the level of the entertainment,” Polhamus said. “He made it more exciting.”

Altizer was known for pushing for higher payouts for performing cowboy contestants. Stock contractors began breeding their bulls and in order to obtain the highest price for the bull’s sperm, those bulls required a high level of fame. Instead of having the rodeo committee at a particular rodeo pay a stock contractor to bring his bulls, stock contractors competed with each other to bring their bulls for free.

Polhamus explained that is how the futurity purse was used to increase the prize money for bull riding events. In a futurity, stock contractors would pay into the pot of prize money to get their bulls bucking in the rodeo, and with that, the exposure was marketing the breeding of the particular bull. This is why stand-alone bull riding events and associations like the PBR gained prominence.

“To compare bull riding of 1985 to bull riding of 2015 is a complete metamorphosis,” Polhamus said back in 2014.

In the early 2000s, Altizer broke his neck in a swimming accident in Pecos. As the years passed while Altizer recovered, Bad Company Rodeo faded in dominance. In 2010, Altizer assembled some of his old team together to attempt a reboot but it failed. Five years ago, Altizer mused about bringing the same excitement he generated with bulls to the saddle bronc and bareback bronc riding events. Health issues and an accident that led to a long hospital stay blocked him.

Many of Altizer’s Bad Company Rodeo team went on to improve professional rodeo. Casey Duggan, who was the operations guy and Altizer’s right hand, is today the Director of Special Events for the PBR. Boyd Polhamus, whose rodeo announcing was instrumental in framing the brand of all of Bad Company Rodeo’s bulls to audiences all over the south central U.S., is today the announcer for the PRCA’s National Finals Rodeo in addition to many of the marquee rodeo events around the country, including the Houston rodeo and San Angelo’s rodeo. Famed bullfighter Chad Beavers retired after 2012’s season after a storied career in front of thousands of fans and hundreds of 2,000-pound bulls.

Some of Bad Company Rodeo’s team gained notoriety in other ways. Ryan Bingham worked for Bad Company Rodeo in the 1990s. “Those guys, even though they were cowboys, were all hippies. We were always the black sheep of the rodeo world,” the singer and songwriter told Texas Monthly in an interview in March 2019.

Much of how our website and news platform San Angelo LIVE! markets itself has origins from tactics we deployed when I worked for Altizer in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the digital marketing consultant. Altizer saw early on how communications through the internet would transform the rodeo industry. Bad Company Rodeo had an email list of 1000s of subscribers and two very high trafficked websites in 1997 when even the PRCA struggled with having its own website. Sales of its popular line of clothing, Bad Wear, was always brisk online in the early days of ecommerce. After every performance on the Bad Company Rodeo tour, the company emailed the results to subscribers as soon as each performance’s numbers were posted online. Back then, this was “breaking news.”

Altizer is the son of the late Jim Bob Altizer who is considered the greatest match roper of all time. Jim Bob was inducted into the PRCA Hall of Fame in 1979.

“By thinking outside the box as a stock contractor, competitor and promoter, Mack Altizer built Bad Company Rodeo into a bull riding dynasty that has lasted decades,” the PBR stated in their announcement of the award.

--source: SanAngeloLive.com

PUEBLO, Colo. – 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi headlines the list of honorees to be feted at the 2019 PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration at South Point Casino & Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

Marchi will be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor, and 1995 World Champion Bull Bodacious will be presented the PBR Brand of Honor, the sport’s highest recognition for a bovine athlete.

The Ty Murray Top Hand award, introduced last year for athletes from the rodeo world exemplifying excellence and traditional cowboy values, will go to rodeo legends Phil Lyne and Larry Mahan. The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Neal Gay and Mack Altizer. Kylie Shivers will receive the Sharon Shoulders Award.

Heroes & Legends Celebration tickets will go on sale on Monday, June 3 and are available for $40 through PBR Customer Service (800) 732-1727 or by calling the South Point Showroom Box Office at (844) 846-8689.

JIM SHOULDERS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Neal Gay is a true living legend whose career began as a contestant in 1945. He rode bulls, saddle broncs and barebacks, and wrestled steers. Gay would make an even bigger mark on the sport as a stock contractor and promoter. In May 1958, he put Mesquite, Texas on the map with the opening of the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. At 93, he says he has loved every single day devoted to his industry and sport and still holds the title of managing director of a rodeo that has its own stock and performances seen globally on cable television.

South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa is the Official Host Hotel of the PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration. Special room rates and packages, starting at $75 and $119 (plus taxes and resorts fees), respectively, are available to fans at South Point by using the code FAN1101. For reservations and information, call 866-791-7626.

The 2019 PBR World Finals, the richest bull-riding event in the world, will take place Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The five-day event will crown a $250,000 event champion and also determine the overall 2019 PBR World Champion, who will receive a $1 million bonus and the coveted world championship belt buckle. The 2019 PBR World Finals are preceded by the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Nov 2-3 at South Point Arena, with some of the best riders in the world chasing a $100,000 purse, and five riders receiving an invitation to compete at the 2018 PBR World Finals.

2018

2018 Honoree:

In 1979, Dr. J. Pat Evans was working a competition called Rodeo Superstars with athletic trainer Don Andrews when he realized something.

Rodeo athletes didn’t have the same type of treatment options as athletes in other sports.

It was a conversation that sparked something of a revolution in Western sports and changed the face of how cowboys receive medical treatment.

Today, if you see a cowboy at a PBR event being worked on by a member of the sports medicine team, you’re witnessing the impact of Dr. J. Pat Evans.

The Texas native is considered the grandfather of Western sports medicine and was the first physician to treat cowboys as what they are: professional athletes.

Evans will be honored with the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award at the PBR’s annual Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, RideTV’s series “PBR Heroes & Legends” will feature the 2018 honorees with an episode each week. Evans’s airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

Evans attended Whitworth College on a football scholarship, becoming an athletic trainer after an injury ended his competitive career. He went on to attend the Grady Vaught School of Physical Therapy, and then the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and became a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon.

It was Evans’ football background that ultimately led him to the Western world.

He was the team physician for the Dallas Cowboys from 1970-1989 and served in the same role for the Dallas Mavericks from 1980-1992.

Evans began covering rodeos in the ‘70s for Walt Garrison, a fullback for the Cowboys who also competed as a steer wrestler at pro rodeos. It was at one of these events that he and Andrews began to envision true sports medicine for the rodeo athlete.

It became a reality in 1980 at the National Finals Rodeo: with the blessing of the PRCA and the financial backing of John Justin Jr., the Justin Sportsmedicine Team was born.

Sports med
Dr. J. Pat Evans (third from right, back row) and the Justin Sportsmedicine Team. Photo: Dan Hubbell.

Though initially viewed with skepticism, Evans eventually gained the trust of the athletes he worked with.

“It caught on and they realized we could help them and do something for them,” Evans told Ride TV.

Evans believed that pain means your body’s talking to you. If you listen to it, and take the appropriate amount of time, you can heal it correctly. His philosophy quickly caught on with even the most hard-headed cowboys. They knew he was looking after their best interests and, ultimately, extending the lifespan of their careers.

“He should’ve been born 100 years earlier and have his office above the livery stable in one of those old west towns,” Bill Ziegler, an athletic trainer on the Justin Sportsmedicine Team, said. “That’s just the way he was and that’s where he fit in.”

Ironically, this old-fashioned rodeo doctor helped bring the rodeo world into the 21st century.

His desire to build relationships with the athletes was his calling card, one he passed on to Dr. Tandy Freeman, who was brought on in Evans’ stead after his retirement. Freeman has been the official on-site doctor for the PBR since 1995 and is himself a Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award honoree.

Evans’ work has resulted in first-class medical care at more than 150 rodeos across North America and a network of physicians and therapists treating thousands of cowboys.

“It meant a lot to me for these guys to be able to compete and continue their activities,” Evans said.

Thanks to him, cowboys are treated like Cowboys.

2018 Honoree:

Though his office was on the dirt in an arena full of people, Joe Baumgartner’s job was to be invisible.

One of the best bullfighters in PBR history, Baumgartner’s modus operandi was to stay out of the way for as long as possible. His reasoning? If a bull spots bullfighters too early, some will come after them during the ride. So he would stay off to the side, making himself small until the ride was over.

And even when the ride was over and it was time for Baumgartner to step in, he wanted to be in and out. Sneak in, get the bull out, help the rider up.

Simple. Invisible.

He’s not quite invisible anymore.

Baumgartner will be honored with the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award at the PBR’s annual Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, RideTV’s series PBR Heroes & Legends will feature each honoree with an episode each week. Baumgartner’s airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

It’s an auspicious honor for a man whose career didn’t necessarily start off that way.

While many cowboys grow up on the back of an animal of some sort, Baumgartner didn’t get into the rodeo world until he was a teenager. When he was 16 years old, he began working for a man who owned bucking bulls and had a rodeo.

There was a need for a bullfighter. Baumgartner figured he’d give it a shot.

He found it exciting and pretty easy – if putting one’s life and limb on the line to protect cowboys from 1,800-pound bucking bulls can be considered easy – and the rest, as they say, is history.

Baumgartner retired in 2011 after 23 years of bullfighting, 18 consecutive PBR World Finals and 14 National Finals Rodeo appearances. He fought tens of thousands of bulls – he’s estimated to have fought 6,000 bulls in Las Vegas alone – and won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Bullfighter of the Year Award from 2004-2007. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2013.

When he retired, Baumgartner wanted to do so quietly, a mindset befitting a man who spent his career focusing on others.

He never paid any mind to how badly he could be hurt; as long as all the bull riders could walk out of the arena and do it again the next day, he was happy.

Baumgartner managed to keep both himself and the riders out of harm’s way for the majority of his career. He avoided injuries in the early part of his career because of his height and long limbs. According to Shorty Gorham, who Baumgartner mentored and worked alongside, he had a long stride, enabling him to stay back until the last possible second and get his hand on a bull in three steps, reaching out and getting his hands on a bull’s head quickly.

"When he got to be an old fart he sustained a few injuries," Gorham told PBR.com in 2011, "but they were old-fart injuries, and he was able to outlast a lot of guys. If there's an Iron Man of bullfighters, I would have to say that Joe would be the man."

Joe Baumgartner 2

Baumgartner’s injuries include broken ankles, broken legs, pinched nerves in his back, broken bones in his eye sockets, concussions and a torn ACL and PCL. His hands were constantly getting beat up but, as he didn’t need his hands to run, he would often play through the pain.

But as long as all the cowboys could go home to their families unscathed, he was content.

When Baumgartner first started bullfighting, salaries were low enough that it was difficult to make a living doing it. Nowadays, an elite bullfighter can make a comfortable living, and Baumgartner takes pride in improving the conditions for the next generation.

For his part, Gorham stuck to Baumgartner when they were teamed together at an event in the late ‘90s. After a mishap in the arena – Gorham’s rookie mistake caused a pileup that Baumgartner had to step in and save – Gorham spoke to the older bullfighter about his mistake, and a mentorship was born.

"I was like a stray dog," Gorham said. "He fed me once and I never would leave him, so he finally felt sorry for me and started helping me.

"He's been a hero of mine and helped me throughout my whole career."

Two decades later, Gorham is one of the premier bullfighters in the world. He joined the PBR in 2006 and has worked the PBR World Finals each of the last 13 years. He also founded American Freestyle Bullfighting, an extreme sport that pits one freestyle bullfighter against a Spanish fighting bull, intent on creating a new generation of Western sports superstars.

With his legacy carrying on in such a way, it’s possible that Baumgartner’s biggest contributions to bullfighting haven’t even come to fruition yet.

Not bad for a man who wanted to stay invisible.

2018 Honoree:

Very few cowboys or PBR fans have heard of Barry Frank.

Yet the man set to receive the prestigious Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award at the PBR World Finals in November has impacted professional bull riding in ways far beyond what most could ever imagine.

“Barry helped put the spotlight on our sport like no other at a time when, to most fans, PBR stood for ‘Pabst Blue Ribbon’,” said former PBR CEO Randy Bernard.

Back in 2001, Bernard was in a pickle. PBR was carried on TNN, but Bernard wanted more.

He planned to bring PBR’s television rights back in house, allow the cowboys to control their own fate, and go mainstream.

The entity that owned the rights was demanding an exorbitant fee.

A colleague at NBC suggested Bernard call Barry Frank over at IMG.

Frank was already a legend – one of the sports industry's most influential and prolific content creators, television rights negotiators, and talent representatives.

(Years later, in bestowing a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 39th Annual Sports Emmy® Awards, the committee would proclaim, "It’s safe to say that no one man shaped modern sports television more than Barry Frank.")

Frank read the league’s broadcast rights contract, quoted Shakespeare, and told Bernard he’d take care of it.

True to his vaunted reputation, Barry won back the PBR’s television rights at less than half of the original asking price.

He then brought the 8-year-old sport to CBS. Frank’s reputation, enthusiasm, and vision sealed the deal. The band of maverick cowboys riding wild bucking bulls joined a powerhouse portfolio including the NFL, PGA Golf, SEC football and NCAA basketball.

The PBR had entered the big leagues and now sometimes pulls Sunday ratings second to only the NFL.

“Barry is a tremendous matchmaker who put the two of us together,” explained Dan Weinberg, Executive VP of Sports Programming, CBS. “With Barry’s help, guidance, and passion, a marriage happened that is still together in large part because of his original vision.”

“I didn’t do it just for the money,” Frank said. “I got involved in the sports I like and admire.”

Frank had done deals for all the major leagues, and is credited with launching Olympic rights into the stratosphere after his seismic deal for the Olympic Winter Games Calgary 1988.

Yet he’s always been drawn to sports perceived as off the beaten path. He especially admires unsung athletes outside the traditional stick-and-ball games.

“In PBR, these cowboys are the toughest athletes in sports,” he said. “They take a terrible beating and get back up every time. If I can help their (financial) means, I’ll go do that. It’s been a pleasure and privilege to work with the PBR.”

In a truly illustrious career, Frank says negotiating PBR’s TV deals has been “one of the things I’m most proud of.”

Looking back, the legendary executive characterizes his long career as a fortunate accident.

That story will be chronicled tonight on PBR Heroes & Legends hosted by Rob Smetz, another Jim Shoulders Award recipient following his career in bull fighting. The show airs on Ride TV at 8 p.m. ET.

Frank, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, fondly recalls smelling the gasoline and hearing the squeal of rubber at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a five year-old boy. He loved open-wheel auto racing, but wanted nothing more than to be an actor.

He was drafted into the Army but rejected due to a heart murmur. After earning degrees at Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard Business School, Frank wound up in Chicago.

Unable to land any acting roles, opportunity beckoned at the ad agency J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, working with Ford, then the biggest advertiser in sports.

“I never thought I’d wind up in sports or TV but I fell in love with it,” he said.

He was fortunate to join ABC Sports and learn at the knee of geniuses like Roone Arledge, the creator of “Wide World of Sports” and “Monday Night Football,” and smart enough to soak in the wisdom circulating in a hothouse sports programming shop.

“Roone Arledge keenly understood what audiences wanted, even if they didn’t know it themselves, and he taught me everything I know,” Frank said.

Observing how Arledge created masterful emotional drama and “up-close-and-personal” sports storytelling, Frank developed shows that resonated across America like The Superstars, The Skins Game, The Tiger Woods Primetime Challenge, and World’s Strongest Man for CBS, the longest running sports show on TV.

“People like to see others doing things they can’t do,” he said. “It’s why World’s Strongest Man has been successful for 41 years, and I think it’s part of the success of PBR. Riding a bull is one of those things you and I can’t ever imagine doing.”

Even as the PBR now operates tours in five countries and continues to set attendance records in arenas across the U.S., Frank believes there’s room for more growth.

“People really like cowboys. They’re considered good people, honest guys, tough as nails,” he said.

Now 86, Frank can be seen several days a week in his Endeavor (parent company of IMG) office on Madison Avenue, wearing a splendid suit, a spiffy pocket square, and a broad smile.

The advice he gives young agents is more every day Main Street than textbook Harvard Business School.

Everything starts and ends with relationships. Always be honest and upfront with people. Con or hustle someone once, and they’ll remember it for a lifetime.

His brand of old-school relationship building is built on a genuine concern for others, creating real human connections rather than spamming contacts on LinkedIn.

Frank will always take the long plane ride. No phone call can ever replace meeting in person.

“Barry truly cares about people and does not have one single enemy,” said his wife, Elizabeth.

After hundreds of often tense, high-stakes negotiations, that’s no easy feat.

At the negotiating table, he has been a wizard. His secret strategy: you don’t want to slaughter your opponent. In fact, he always tries to lose the last negotiation point.

“I want the guy on the other side of the table to know he beat Barry Frank,” he said. “I want him to go home to dinner to his wife and kids knowing he had a good day.”

Today, and for years to come, anyone having a good day in the PBR – from the fan on a Sunday afternoon enjoying a 15/15 Bucking Battle on CBS to the cowboy taking the million-dollar bonus at World Finals – can thank the man they probably have never heard of, the one and only Barry Frank.

2017 Honoree:

Doug Scott is one of two recipients of this year’s Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award. Scott is the architect behind the F-Series Truck’s relationship with PBR, making Ford a brand now synonymous with the toughest sport on dirt. In the early 2000’s, Scott chartered a plane for a contingent of executives to travel to the Grand Rapids, Michigan PBR event, which converted the group into avid believers in the value of the growing sport. The experience set in motion a plan that has since transformed Ford into an authentic western lifestyle brand, highlighted by its title sponsorship of the elite Built Ford Tough Series. As a corporate pioneer, his support of an effective brand partnership between Ford and PBR has helped elevate professional bull riding to the global phenomenon it is today.

2017

2017 Honoree:

Bill Selman is one of two recipients of this year’s Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award. As a corporate pioneer, his support of an effective brand partnership between Anheuser Busch and PBR has helped elevate professional bull riding to the global phenomenon it is today. Selman is regarded as the first person in corporate America to recognize the value of bull riding as a stand-alone sport. Selman’s relationship to PBR dates to the rodeo days of the founding fathers, sponsoring the Bud Light Six Pack of riders, and later expanding their efforts to contribute to the founding of PBR. As the original title sponsor of PBR’s Bud Light Cup, Anheuser-Busch aggressively marketed bull riding nationally, with point of sale programs at retail across many markets and dedicated TV spots highlighting PBR talent.

2016

2016 Honoree:

Dr. Tandy Freeman had no idea why the voice on the other end of the phone was congratulating him.

Then he heard something about Jim Shoulders and an award.

It quickly became clear, Freeman had been selected as this year’s Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award-winner.

It was summertime and no one from the Heroes and Legends committee had been able to reach Freeman prior to the call he received inquiring about who he might want to have introduce him at the ceremony.

“Well, I kind of found out by accident,” recalled Freeman, chuckling over the miscommunication. “I was like, ‘I don’t know anything about this.’”

The annual award, which was first given in 2011, recognizes a non-bull rider who has made a significant contribution to the sport of professional bull riding. Freeman, one of the most highly regarded orthopedic surgeons in the sports world, has been associated with the PBR since 1995.

This year’s Heroes & Legends Celebration will take place at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Other honorees include 1996 World Champion and PBR co-founder Owen Washburn, who will be enshrined in the Ring of Honor, this year’s Brand of Honor winner Bushwacker and LeAnn Hart will receive the Sharon Shoulders Award.

“To be honest with you,” Freeman admitted, “I didn’t know such a thing existed and that’s not anybody’s fault but my own.”

He added, “But Jim Shoulders is one of those people that he was the kind of guy who could be your hero. Fortunately, I got to know Jim and Sharon, and he’s a guy that I really admired. To get an award that’s named after him is really a special deal.”

Freeman doesn’t use the word hero lightly.

Aside from the military, firefighters, police officers and the like, he reserves “hero” for those he knows personally and, more importantly, and people he looks up to.

He named two.

One was Walt Garrison, a hardnosed fullback for the Dallas Cowboys. Long before Freeman met and befriended the former All-Pro, he had a photograph of Garrison hanging in his room.

Garrison wasn’t big, nor was he especially fast, but he was tough.

“He was a guy you couldn’t make him quit,” said Freeman, who compared Garrison’s toughness and reputation for playing with injuries to that of his other hero—Shoulders. “Jim would walk by the training room and go, ‘How’s everybody doing in the sissy room?’ And it didn’t matter if it was at a PBR event or the (National Finals Rodeo) or some rodeo somewhere, he would never fail to stop, come in and say hi to everybody in the sissy room.

“And tell a joke.”

Freeman recalled one year when Jim and Sharon invited him and his wife to their ranch following a PBR event in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Freemans spent an afternoon with the Shoulders family. They showed Tandy and Maureen their mementoes and shared personal stories from throughout their lives.

“To be in their home and have them tell us about their life,” Freeman said, “that was pretty special.”

He added, “I’m humbled to be recognized with an award that has Jim Shoulders name on it. I just hope this isn’t a retirement award.”

Tandy Rice Freeman III was born in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 24, 1957.

After graduating from Junction High School, he attended Baylor University, where he majored in biology, and eventually went on to earn his medical degree from Southwestern Medical School at the University of Texas – Dallas.

Freeman completed his internship at the University of Utah and his residency in Birmingham, Alabama, where he also completed a one-year fellowship program with the American Sports Medicine Institute.

After returning to Dallas, he worked as an assistant team orthopedist with the Dallas Texans of the Arena Football League and the Dallas Freeze of the Central Hockey League.

Then he met Dr. J. Pat Evans.

Their friendship and Evans’ mentorship forever changed the course of Freeman’s career.

Evans, a longtime physician with the Dallas Cowboys, had been introduced to the sport of rodeo by Freeman’s hero Garrison.

In the 1980s, Evans looked after bull riders like Ty Murray and Donnie Gay. After a couple years of observing and taking notes, by the 1990s, Evans began referring rodeo athletes to see Freeman.

“Tandy didn’t stumble into this deal,” said Murray, in a previous profile of Freeman for PBR.com. “J. Pat saw what he needed to see in him and brought him along.”

PBR founders Cody Lambert, Tuff Hedeman and Murray sought out the services of Freeman when they began hosting events.

Freeman started with the PBR in 1995, while also serving as the head team physician for the Dallas Mavericks from 1996 until 2001.

“I was lucky,” said Freeman, of his mentor.

Among his closest friends over the years are Clint Branger and Tater Porter, Murray and Hedeman, former PBR television producer Joe Loverro along with Justin McBride and Brendon Clark.

Clark developed a friendship with Freeman in 2005, when he tore his PCL.

His trust in Freeman was cemented four years later, on a rainy night in Omaha, Nebraska, when he struggled to catch his breath after a bull named Black Smoke had stepped on his midsection.

Clark, an Australian native, who thinks of Freeman as his overseas dad, managed only to say, “Help me. I’m going to die.”

Time was of the essence as Freeman and his staff tended to Clark.

Doctors later determined Clark had suffered a lacerated liver, contusions of both lungs and numerous rib fractures.

“The guy saved my life,” said Clark, “that’s the reality.”

That’s what Freeman means to Clark and every other bull rider, who has competed in the PBR and the PRCA.

“I took him for granted every weekend,” said McBride, who felt as though Freeman’s presence gave him the willingness to take a punishing blow if meant making the 8-second whistle. “I knew he was going to be there.

“There are a handful of guys that I can attribute my success to as a professional bull rider,” continued the two-time World Champion, “and Tandy Freeman is one of those guys. I never had to worry about doing the most dangerous thing or how bad I could get hurt because I knew no matter what it was, he would fix me.”

McBride recalled breaking his leg in 2004 with the World Finals fast-approaching.

McBride was upset and “pretty crushed about it.” And he verbally let that frustration out in the sports medicine room. Freeman simply told him it would be OK. One plate and 11 screws later, Bride was competing in Las Vegas.

The injury might have cost him a world title shot in 2004 – he finished fourth in the standings – but it didn’t affect 2005 and the Nebraska native won the first of two world titles.

McBride won again in 2007 despite a shoulder injury that required surgery.

With Freeman’s assistance, McBride was able to return for the second-half of the 2008 season and retired in Las Vegas.

“Tandy was always that calm for me because he’s a pretty calm guy when it comes that stuff,” said McBride, referring to recovery and rehab, “but don’t catch him in the rental car line. (laughing) In medical terms, he’s very calm and he always brought that to me – he calmed me down – but rental cars, airlines and things of that nature, not the calmest guy.

“I call it the zero tolerance policy.”

The 2016 PBR Heroes & Legend Celebration will be held on Nov. 1 at Las Vegas' South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa. Tickets to the ceremony are on sale now at the South Point Showroom Box Office. Fans can also check out the offical site for PBR Finals Week for special deals to the biggest bull riding party in the world.

2015

2015 Honoree:

Brett Hoffman has been passionate about Western culture and religion for his entire life.

For as long as he can remember, he’s enjoyed traveling, and the West Texas native has been working as a journalist since writing his first rodeo story for his high school newspaper back in the mid-1970s.

“He was writing about cowboys when it wasn’t cool,” said nine-time World Champion Ty Murray. “He loves the sport and when I say he loves the sport, he loves cowboy sports. He loves rodeo and he loves bull riding.

“He has done a lot for (the PBR), but it’s done just purely out of loving it. I’m not trying to get cheesy, but that’s the whole key to life. Like my kid, that’s my hope for my son. Brett Hoffman has made a career and carved out a career based solely off what he loves and that’s awesome. He took the things he loves, combined them and figured out how to make a living doing it and that’s my wish for my son.”

In October, Hoffman is receiving this year’s Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award.

Named in honor of Jim Shoulders, this award was created in 2011 to honor those who have built the PBR into a global phenomenon. The award is named for, perhaps, the greatest Western sports athlete of all-time, who was a giant in and out of the arena.

Shoulders won 16 world titles in becoming a household name before turning his attention to stock contracting, as well as producing and promoting rodeos. Shoulders was also an early supporter of the PBR.

“I’m honored to have an award that has his name on it because he’s the rodeo and bull riding equivalent of Babe Ruth in Major League Baseball,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman was in the seventh grade when he wrote Shoulders a letter explaining that he was a young bull rider competing at Little Britches Rodeos.

In the letter, Hoffman asked Shoulders if he could have a signed photo of the legend and his son Marvin Paul Shoulders. A short time later, he received a manila envelope with four signed photos. In 1988, when Hoffman wrote one of the many stories he’s penned about the Oklahoma legend, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram used those photos to illustrate the story.

Hoffman got to know Shoulders and his wife, Sharon, four years earlier.

The board of directors for the annual Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo would entertain Jim and Sharon in their box suites, which was located near where the journalists would watch the event.

Hoffman has covered that event every year since 1984.

“Not only was he a great competitor, he was the consummate rodeo person,” Hoffman said. “He was credited with having the first (bull riding) school and definitely the first rough stock school, which was really part of the new era of rodeo.”

PBR co-founder Cody Lambert said, “Brett knows what this award means.”

Hoffman was born and raised in Paducah, Texas, a city of just more than 1,000 people.

Growing up, all of his school papers were about rodeo and, in fact, his senior paper was a progressive look at the development of rodeo schools and clinics.

He graduated high school in 1978 and attended Vernon Regional College before transferring to Oral Roberts University, where he graduated in 1983 with a degree in telecommunications.

He then attended graduate school at Texas Christian University where he earned a Master of Divinity.

While a student at TCU he took a job at the Star-Telegram, where he still writes today.

“At one time, I did rodeo and religion together in early 2000s,” Hoffman said. “We called it the R&R beat.”

He has traveled extensively during his journalism career.

He has covered and written about the Billy Graham Crusade and Joel Olsteen — a beat that has taken him from the old Texas Stadium to Yankee Stadium in New York.

However, he’s best known having written a weekly rodeo column.

At its peak, the column filled a half-page in the Sunday sports section.

Today, his column still runs every Tuesday in Fort Worth and it is syndicated to Texas newspapers in Lubbock, Amarillo, San Angelo, Hunstville, Athens, Vernon and Paducah, where he’s currently a pastor at a local church.

“He’s been writing about this sport for as long as I’ve been around and he’s unwavering in his love for it,” Murray said. “In my mind, he deserves some acknowledgment because he’s always done it for the right reasons — he loves it. Everything I know about Brett, at the end of the day, he’s just genuinely a good person.”

Murray said he doesn’t recall the first time Hoffman interviewed him, but added, “I know that he’s interviewed me about a million times.”

Murray was 17 and moved from Phoenix to Odessa, Texas, when Hoffman spoke with for the first time.

As a matter of fact, Hoffman has written stories about nearly all 20 of the PBR founders while they were competing in the PRCA.

“When we started the PBR, and we told him what we were trying to do, he got it,” Lambert said. “That was a good thing because there were lots of rodeo people that laughed at us — Brett got it from day one.”

Hoffman said, “Even when they had a small number of events the first year, I took it very seriously in the way that we covered it.”

He added, “They were doing things right. They had the world class guys there, they had world class bulls and it was a field day for a writer like me to come and cover that.”

Hoffman was in Las Vegas for the first World Finals in 1994.

He remembers the total purse that year was $275,000 compared to nowadays when the event winner receives $250,000 and the World Champion is awarded a $1 million bonus.

Since its inception, Hoffman has covered PBR events in several cities throughout Texas — Arlington, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and others — as well as in California, Florida, New York, Washington, Oklahoma, Georgia and Louisiana. He’s been to Australia four times, down to Brazil and frequently traveled to Canada.

“When I showed up in Tucson or Vancouver it made an impression on them,” said Hoffman, who in addition to the newspapers has contributed to PBR.com and several PBR publications. “They appreciated that I was willing to do that.”

“It’s a neat thing to talk about – how long our paths have crossed – but it’s also a neat thing that he’s written about our sport and the western lifestyle for that long,” Lambert said. “He’s been doing it his entire career as a journalist.”

2014

2014 Honoree:

David Allen, a man who has supported the PBR since its beginning, was behind the PBR’s first event in Kansas City, Missouri, and also hired PBR Entertainer Flint Rasmussen to work a PBR event for the first time. Although he was asked to help the organization with sponsorship, the PBR, as a startup, could not afford Allen’s services. Instead, Allen was offered the opportunity to co-promote select PBR events, which included bringing and establishing the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

*********************************************

David Allen is as unassuming a person you’ll ever meet.

As a matter of fact, typically dressed in khakis, a plaid button-down shirt, vest and ball cap, he looks more like the owner of a local hardware store or, perhaps, a fly fishing shop in his native Montana than he does the CEO of one of the most influential conservation organizations in the world.

Those who know him best – PBR cofounder Ty Murray and fellow Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) executive Steve Decker – use phrases like laid back and casual.

He’s reserved enough that those who haven’t met him might underestimate Allen, but to do so would be to miss an incredible opportunity.

“Don’t always read a book by its cover,” said Decker, who agreed that Allen isn’t the most fancy executive. “Spend a few minutes to flip through a few pages because it might be the best book you ever read.”

Decker added, “I would tell anyone who meets David to take a few minutes and listen to what he has to say because more often than not he there’s wisdom in his words. He’s not the most outspoken person. He kind of rolls along with things. Don’t underestimate who you’re talking to. There’s a lot of wisdom and a lot of experience.”

Allen has co-promoted the Ty Murray Invitational, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the past 18 years. According to Murray, despite all the growth in the PBR organization and its popularity, changes in executives and personnel along with the marketing and PR needs, the one constant has been Allen.

In addition to the annual event with Murray, which is the second-longest standing event and third-most attended, Allen is also responsible for bringing the PBR to Kansas City as well as introducing the organization to Flint Rasmussen.

Allen also initiated the longstanding relationship between the PBR and its yearly Touring Pro Division event held in Denver, Colorado, in conjunction with the Western Stock Show.

“The PBR was just a fledgling entity at that time,” Allen recalled. “These guys are trying to get it off the ground. Tuff (Hedeman) was kind of ramrodding things at that time and he had asked me, ‘Hey, could you help us with some sponsorship stuff?’ I did and then he said, ‘Oh, by the way we don’t have any money to pay you, but if you’re interested in promoting some of our dates or something like that, we could try to work something out.’”

Allen, who partnered with Murray because he felt his name had more equity than other cowboys because of his accomplishments, added, “I don’t know why, but I picked Albuquerque. I just knew bull riding would be big here just because of the demographic.”

Murray said he admires Allen’s sense of humor and his tendency to tease and the fact that both like pranking one another as well as pulling pranks on other unsuspecting victims, if you will.

To that end, Allen jokes, “I have to credit Ty for paying my kids’ way through college because that’s what I’m doing with the money from this event.”

Allen is currently the CEO of the RMEF.

Ah, but the lesser-known stories are those of a charmed life he usually lets others tell.

He was roommates with Rick Sutcliffe, who won the National League Cy Young Award with the Cubs in 1984, while they lived in Chicago, and was close friends with former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

Allen not only toured with Willie Nelson for three years, while representing Wrangler, but he was also on the tour bus when Nelson penned the country classic “Redheaded Stranger.” That same role as a promoter with Wrangler eventually led to a decades-long business partnership with the late-Dale Earnhardt in which they dominated the souvenir merchandising market in NASCAR from 1980 until Earnhardt’s untimely death in 2001.

H&L

Allen moved to Montana shortly afterward and sold his company two years later.

“David has lived one of the most charmed lives of anyone I’ve ever met,” Decker said. “There are so many of those things that you don’t know because David doesn’t talk about that stuff like he has to prove who he is. You have to spend time with him and when you run into old friends they talk about the days with Walt Garrison, the days with Rick Sutcliffe, the days with Willie Nelson and the days with Dale Sr.

“He truly has lived an extraordinary life,” Decker continued. “There’s no arrogance about him with that stuff. You really have to spend time to figure it out. I’ve spent a lot of time with David over the last seven, eight years and there’s still a pile of things I don’t know.”

Born and raised in Deadwood, South Dakota, Allen studied journalism at the University of Wyoming.

As his RMEF bio stats, Allen is a lifelong conservationist with a deep passion for elk and hunting. He began his professional career in the early 1970s as a rodeo photographer for the PRCA before becoming their first Media Director and building the organization’s first media department.

He left the PRCA in 1979 and became the Director of Special Events for Wrangler Jeans before opening his own sports marketing company, in 1987, and has also served on the board of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Of the 10,000-plus volunteers that help with the RMEF, Allen said, “They are the kind of conservationists Theodore Roosevelt would brag about.”

Allen lives in Billings, Montana, with his wife and two sons.

This October, Allen will become the fourth man honored with the annual Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award following Rob Smets (2011), Tom Teague (2012) and Cotton Rosser (2013).

Named in honor of Jim Shoulders, according to the PBR, this award was created to honor those who have built the PBR into a global phenomenon – bullfighters, stock contractors, contract personnel, employees and more.

This award is named for, perhaps, the greatest western sports athlete of all-time, Jim Shoulders, who was a giant in and out of the arena by winning 16 world titles and becoming a household name in the process.

“I think he’s very deserving,” said Decker. “David is one of those guys, who oftentimes can be overlooked because he’s not pushing himself in front of the spotlight. He’s always the guy behind the scene a little bit that makes things happen.”

Decker added, “In the early days he was one of those guys who helped the PBR get established and on the right track. What the Jim Shoulders Award represents and what David has contributed, it’s very appropriate.”

Although Allen might not be a cowboy, per se, Murray said he has all the traits of a great cowboy.

He’s sincere and genuine. Vision and leadership often come up in conversation.

His kindness and compassion are always mentioned as well as conviction and faith.

Decker described Allen as having an uncanny knack for putting the right people in the right place to be successful – more importantly, he allows them to experience their successes – and, for as long as he’s known him, he said Allen has been guided by good morals, principals and values.

“He’s what I see as the real deal,” said Decker, who added, “I think he’s massively loyal. He possess a lot of great qualities that make a great man.”

Murray was more blunt, “If you don’t like David Allen or David Allen doesn’t like you, something is severely wrong.”

Murray added, “He’s always been solid for 18 years. I do have a ton of respect for that because you don’t find that every day.”

A family man – whose as a good a husband as he is father – Allen has been described as having cowboy-like traits—though he’s be no means a cowboy.

“He’s appreciated what good cowboys do for a long time,” said Murray, who called Allen a straight-shooter. He added that Allen always means what says and added, “I have as much respect for him as I do (former CEO) Randy Bernard. He’s honest and a man of his word. He’s a good businessman without being fancy. He does the ABC’s perfectly and he’s a laid-back really cool guy.”

Like many great cowboys, Decker said Allen has never made the success of whatever projects he’s working on – RMEF, PBR or otherwise – about himself.

That’s one of the things I admire about the guy,” said Decker, who noted Allen’s humility and confidence. “That’s a big part of his success.

“He doesn’t always have to have the microphone and have the spotlight on him. In fact, he pushes away from it more often than not, but he’ll get up and speak when he has to. But it’s not him clamoring for the mic.”

2013

2013 Honoree:

Legend.

Icon.

Those are just a trio of adjectives used to describe Cotton Rosser and even those words - as meaningful as they are singularly and cumulatively - don't begin to describe the impact he's made in the world of rodeo and, more specifically, the sport of professional bull riding.

Rosser, 85, grew up riding rough stock and roping cattle until an injury in 1956 ended his competitive career. He then turned to raising bucking bulls and, more importantly, producing rodeo events known for their pageantry and flamboyant opening ceremonies.

As a roper, he competed alongside the likes of Gene Autry and rode with Casey Tibbs and Jim Shoulders-for whom he'll receive the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award at the Heroes & Legends ceremony taking place Oct. 22 in Las Vegas, the day before the first round of the PBR World Finals.

"He's definitely a pioneer and a showman," said PBR co-founder Cody Lambert. "He advanced the showmanship of rodeo and he wasn't afraid to try something that hadn't been done before, but he's never lost his connection with the West and the Western way of life."

Rosser, a native of Marysville, Calif., purchased the famous Flying U Rodeo Company in 1954 - two years before he was injured in a ranching accident that involving a post hole digger - and it's been a family business ever since.

He and his wife Karin have put three generations of Rosser's to work on the ranch and at various Flying U rodeos throughout the country.

Their signature events represent style, showmanship and family entertainment. They celebrated 50 years of production in 2004, and next year Cotton, who still works everyday despite recently being slowed following a broken arm, will celebrate 60 years of producing rodeos.

"He's done it all and he's the entertainer," said his daughter Cindy Rosser. "They call him the P.T. Barnum of rodeo."

Rosser himself was once quoted as saying, "If you don't keep the audience entertained they will go somewhere else."

In addition to the memorable opening ceremonies, which he's produced for the National Finals Rodeo, Houston Livestock Show and the Grand National Rodeo in nearby San Francisco, he's regarded for producing snappy events in which the action was nonstop.

He even recently produced a rodeo in Monterey, Calif., that took only one hour and 15 minutes.

"You have to run the show, you can't let the show run you," he's quoted as saying in his official biography.

Cindy explained, "He wants a fast-pace rodeo and he wants to entertain those people."

Lambert has known Rosser for years and said "he's always about entertaining."

Lambert and the 19 other founders of the PBR recognized that's what set Flying U Rodeos apart from the others and used that same approach in establishing the PBR as a standalone sport that is as much about entertaining a diverse audience as it is about the bull riding competition.

Like the PBR, Rosser understood early on how to expose his love of the West and Western heritage to a mainstream following.

"He knows what it takes to be a cowboy and appreciates what the PBR has done for rodeo," Lambert said. "He appreciates that, and the fact that Cotton appreciates the PBR is meaningful to me.

"Having a legend like him appreciate the PBR is like Jim Shoulders appreciating the PBR. Those are rodeo legends. They get what we're doing."

In fact, according to Lambert, when the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame encountered financial trouble in January 2005 and the PBR donated $50,000 to help keep the doors open, "Cotton was the only guy that has thanked us for it, and he's done it several times."

Through the years Rosser, who has said he was most influenced by Gene Autry, has kept pace with changes and modern ideas, while preserving the heritage and traditions of the West.

He's kept up to date with technology too, as he and Karin both have their own Facebook pages.

According to Cindy, her father is in his office every day. She's tried to get him to walk with a cane, but he won't. In fact, he's expected to be back on his horse again by the end of September.

She described his mind as sharp and said that it remains stoic.

"He's still on the phone every day and making deals," Cindy said.

For the past five decades every single one of his rodeos have famously ended with the playing of "Thank you very much," as he circles the arena along the fence line on horseback shaking hands with fans.

While he's always thanked fans for their support by playing the classic song made famous in the original musical screenplay of the 1970 film "Scrooge," now is the time for the PBR (and anyone else who's been entertained by Rosser) to be the ones singing:

"Thank you very much / thank you very much / that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me. / It sounds a bit bizarre / but things the way they are / I feel as if another life's begun for me."

-- Keith Ryan Cartwright

2012

2012 Honoree:

The first time Tom Teague attended a PBR event, he was captivated. He immediately saw the potential for the sport of professional bull riding.

He turned to his good friend Dale Earnhardt, and said he thought the PBR could become a smaller version of what NASCAR had become.

He went to meet Randy Bernard, and before they had even shaken hands, Teague was peppering the then-CEO with questions. Teague liked what he heard, and told Bernard he wanted to get involved.

They became friends, and spoke on the phone often.

But one day, the call was different. Bernard told Teague he had good news and bad news.

The good news was that Bernard found a way for the North Carolina businessman to become a partner and stockholder in the PBR. The bad news was it was the close of business on Friday, and first thing Monday, Bernard needed $3.1 million to secure the PBR's television rights.

Bernard didn't have any way of supporting the investment other than his word that it would work out.

Teague slept on it for three nights.

He recalled what happened next. "Monday morning, I told my guy, 'Give them $3.1 million,' and my chief financial officer said, 'You have to be crazy, Tom.' My partner said, 'What in hell are you doing?' It's something I believed in, and it was a heck of an opportunity, and I said, 'I really like the guy who's running it.'

"That's the way I got started in the PBR."

Teague was born in Burlington, N.C., the son of a tenant farmer. The Teague family was poor, but never went without food, and never relied on government welfare. Tom can recall not having the 15 cents he needed to buy french fries with his friends once.

His father Lacy was as hardnosed as he was hard-working. For a time he worked in a factory as a knitter. Eventually he became a farmer for "Mr. Holt," and the Teagues grew tobacco and raised dairy cows. To this day, Tom doesn't use tobacco or drink milk. While he respected his father, Tom was far more influenced by his mother Phyllis.

"That's just the way it was, really, to be honest with you," he said. "She was a force."

Born in 1941, Teague was in first and second grade when he started selling seed to neighbors. He picked up a rural paper route, and even then was already trying to figure out a way to make more money.

Teague graduated from Alexander Wilson High School, where he was a fair athlete who played baseball and basketball. He would have liked to have played football, but his high school was too small to field a team.

He dropped out of Elon College after his freshman year, and went to work as a salesman for Blue Crown spark plugs. When auto dealers and small repair shop owners would claim they had never heard of Blue Crown, Teague would reply kindly, "I never heard of your grandmother, but I bet she's a nice lady."

Eventually he began selling ads for the Yellow Pages. In 1966, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. After 13 weeks of training at Parris Island, S.C., he returned to selling ads in North Carolina and served six years in the Reserves.

Teague's fortunes changed forever after he sold ad space to a truck-leasing business.

He didn't know anything about the industry, but a day after selling those ads, the owner called him with a proposition. He wanted Teague to work for him.

He sent the ambitious salesman to a Mack dealership in Nashville, Tenn., telling the young Teague, "If they like you and think you can do it, then we'll offer you a job."

"I went out there and the guy called them back and said, 'You either need to hire him or I'm going to hire him,'" Teague said.

"Anything I go at, I go at as wide open as I can," said Teague, who was now in the truck leasing business.

A workaholic - he used to work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., and still works on Sundays - he loved his newfound sales job, because for the first time he could physically give clients something. Not only would he provide them with trucks, but he also genuinely liked people, and made sure to provide better customer service than any of his competitors.

Just as he had done at the telephone company, and Blue Crown before that, Teague outworked the competition.

In the late 1970's, he met a man who would forever change his life.

Ken Langone was a major player on Wall Street. Langone helped Ross Perot take his company Electronic Data Systems public, and was one of the original investors in The Home Depot.

He was now on the board of a company called Unified, and interested in the truck-leasing business. He wanted to make a deal with Teague, but before any contracts were drawn up, he insisted on flying to North Carolina to meet in person.

Langone was the son of a blue-collar worker. His father was a plumber, his mother was a cafeteria worker, and the younger Langone worked as a butcher's assistant during the day while attending New York University Business School at night.

Said Teague of their first meeting: "In less than 30 minutes we shook hands that we were going to go do a deal together.

"My goal was to make money. That was my whole desire, because I had been poor."

Together they built one of the most successful truck leasing businesses in the country.

"We've been together 34 years, I think it is," Teague said of their partnership, "and we've never had a cross word. He's just like a brother to me.

"(Langone) has taught me a heck of a lot. He is one of the most brilliant people I've ever met in my life, and I listened. Even though I own two-thirds of the company, I look at him as if he is my boss, to a certain degree. I really do. I have that much respect for him."

Langone was the same partner who questioned Teague's spur-of-moment decision to invest in the PBR, but a few years later, he played a key role in helping to set up a meeting that would lead to the PBR being broadcast on network television.

Bernard had made the rounds in New York, and was having no luck.

In 2001, Langone was on the board of General Electric, and Jack Welch, who was stepping down as CEO, was going to host a dinner. G.E. owned NBC, and Teague arranged for the three men - Langone, Bernard and himself - to meet at Welch's Manhattan condo prior to the dinner.

Teague told Bernard not to bring any kind of presentation.

Bernard brought his laptop anyway, but Langone was late to arrive and wasn't interested in looking over any spreadsheets. Instead he opened a bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and got to know Randy Bernard as a person.

"Randy was nervous as a cat," Teague said, "and Ken started firing questions at him."

That night they shook hands.

The next morning, Teague went by Langone's office at about 7:30 a.m. before flying back home to North Carolina. Langone asked Teague a few more questions about the PBR, and before Teague got up from his chair, Langone was on the phone with the president of NBC.

"He said, 'I'm going to send a runner over there with some stuff about bulls," recalled Teague. Langone told NBC, "My partner - I trust him with my life - trusts this other guy, and I want you to take a serious look at this thing."

Before Teague even made it to the airport, Bernard called.

"Tom, you're not going to believe it," he said. "I've got an appointment today with NBC at 11 o'clock."

NEWS & NOTES:

A gift: Tom Teague said success in life is about getting to know people and caring about them.

He's close friends with RCR Racing owner Richard Childress, and Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys. Randy Bernard and rodeo legend Bobby Steiner are among his closest friends in the PBR, along with former riders Ross Coleman and Justin McBride.

In Charlotte, N.C., he shared a story about a time he was in Colorado with McBride.

"He said, 'What kind of belt buckle do you have on?' I said, 'I have the one I won for World Champion Bull,' and he said, 'Pull that cheap thing off. I'm going to give you something different.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'I'm going to give you my World Champion belt buckle.' I told him I couldn't take it, and he said, 'Either you're going to take it or I'm going to whip your (butt).'

"Ross Coleman was standing there, who I dearly love, and he said, 'Tom, I'd never let anybody lay a hand on you, but if you don't take that (darn) belt buckle I'm going to kick your (butt) myself.' That's the kind of relationship I have with people."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2011

2011 Honoree:

Rob Smets – the “Kamikaze Kid” – worked 28 years protecting cowboys before retiring in 2006 after breaking his neck for the third time. Smets was selected by the riders to work nine consecutive PBR World Finals, and also won five World Champion Freestyle Bullfighting titles. A legend in the rodeo and bull riding world, Smets’ reputation for fearlessness once prompted Ty Murray to quip that with Smets in the arena, he’d ride a mountain lion.

One night in 2006, Rob Smets felt a familiar pain in his neck.

He knew what it meant, so he didn't hesitate to tell his longtime friend Cody Lambert that he needed to be carried from the arena.

Earlier that night, Smets had filmed an interview for a PBR Outreach video. He had talked about his career, and said, "If I go down there and it all ends tonight, there's no way I can complain."

Thirty-five minutes later, he had broken his neck for the third time in his career.

As soon as he hit the ground, he had to get back on his feet to let the bull get past him. He leaned his back against the fence, and slid down as easily as he could. A career that began in the 1970s was over.

He and his wife Karla had already talked about 2006 being his last year, but five years later Smets admits that had it not been for that injury, he's not sure he could have walked away from the sport that meant so much to him.

"There are so many things that run through your mind," said Smets, recalling that night in Reno, Nev., "your family, your career, and I knew that it's over.

"Karla and I had talked and that was going to be it, but I didn't know that I was going to be able to quit. I don't know if at the end of the year I would have been able to walk away. In a roundabout way it was a blessing, because it made the decision and it finalized it."

If there was any doubt, Karla told him, "That's it."

"I didn't argue with her," he said.

Smets said he was blessed to have played a game he loved for 28 years as a professional.

Although he broke his neck three times - in 1992, 1996 and again in 2006 - and was badly gored in 1985, he said four major injuries over that long a stretch of time wasn't bad.

"Sooner or later, you're going to get knocked on your (butt) and you're going to find out how much heart God gave you, and how much you truly want to play the game," Smets said.

Always a showman, his last wreck didn't happen when he was protecting a rider. Instead, the bull - a white spotted bull owned by Danny Russell, the name of which escapes Smets - was making his way to the alley when Smets tried to jump over him.

"It was something extra for the crowd," recalled Smets. The bull jumped 2 feet in the air and "KO'd me."

Five years later, it's hard for him to sit in front of a TV and watch a PBR event. Nearly unbearable.

Working as an in-arena announcer makes it easier for him. This year, between Touring Pro Division events and pro rodeos, he worked 20 to 25 bull ridings. For Smets, it's about giving back to the sport by educating the fans.

He's now as excited to talk about riders as he once was when it came to protecting them. He also brings the perspective of a bullfighter, which is why he's more comfortable on the dirt than he is in a booth.

There's also the fact that "announcers don't cripple up like bullfighters do."

Nine times he was selected by the top bull riders in the world to work the PBR World Finals, six times he worked the National Finals Rodeo, and five times he was a Wrangler World Champion Freestyle Bullfighter.

In 2006, he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

In 2011, he became the first recipient of the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award during the Heroes & Legends celebration on Oct. 25.

Robert Edward Smets was born Sept. 11, 1959, in Palo Alto, Calif.

As a boy, he dreamed of playing centerfield for the San Francisco Giants like his hero Willie Mays. His father was a construction worker and moved the family overseas, and they lived everywhere from Thailand to Singapore and Puerto Rico to Australia.

While living in Australia, he became interested in horses, and in the seventh grade he got on his first bucking calf.

When the Smets family returned to Northern California, he started competing in junior rodeos alongside another California native, Ted Nuce. They roped and rode together from as far south as Los Angeles up to the Oregon border.

By high school, he was competing in all the boys rodeo events.

"I wanted to rodeo," said Smets. But during his junior year, he had a good-natured exchange with some bullfighters, which led to his transition from riding to fighting bulls.

"A couple near-misses and that adrenaline rush," he recalled, "and I was hooked."

He graduated from high school in 1977.

In October of 1978, he won his first bullfighting competition at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. He was 19 and competing alongside the likes of Miles Hare and Skipper Voss.

Until then he had taken his cues from Bill Landis.

"I was a young kid who didn't know anything," Smets said, "but I just knew to go."

The impetus for what would become a storied career took place in January of 1979 at a PRCA convention in Denver.

Not lacking in self-confidence, Smets walked up to Jim Shoulders and introduced himself, then asked the rodeo legend for a job fighting bulls.

Shoulders scoffed at the idea of a kid of from California working as a bullfighter. Smets only asked for an opportunity. The 16-time World Champion, who was now producing events, laughed at the youngster's insistence. Again, Smets told him all he wanted was a chance to prove his worth.

The next day, Shoulders offered Smets an opportunity to work two events in Louisiana - one in Baton Rouge and the other in Monroe. Shoulders, who was known for having aggressive livestock, told Smets if he bucked 20 bulls, he would have to be prepared to fight 16 of them. The pay was only $100 a day, and by the time Smets arrived at the coliseum, there was no going home.

"I had a dollar in my pocket," said Smets, who had purchased a one-way ticket from California.

The arena was surrounded by 13-foot high concrete walls that, according to him, "looked like a place you would throw the Christians to the lions."

He was impressive enough that night, and the next night in Monroe, that Shoulders took him home to Oklahoma and teamed him up with Hare and Jimmy Anderson.

"I boxed a bunch as a kid, so I had that boxer mentality," Smets said. "If you knock me on my (butt) I'm getting up to get even."

In the arena he watched and learned about bullfighting from two of his heroes, and learned how to cowboy from Shoulders. He was treated as if he were part of the family, and even today, he refers to Sharon Shoulders as "Mom."

"It was like, 'Man, this is what everybody dreams of,'" Smets said.

Not long after he began working for Shoulders regularly, Smets started working bull riding events for Neal Gay and Harry Vold.

He fought bulls in an era that included greats like Donnie Gay.

"The tough thing about being a bullfighter," said Smets, who is proud to have worked the golden age of riding from the mid '80s to the early '90s, "you're expected to be a machine. Letting guys get hooked is inexcusable."

Smets said he gained knowledge every time he stepped into the arena.

The key, he said, is learning each time the latch on a gate is cracked open. It's about knowing how to position yourself, understanding the animals, and working to develop "bull savvy" - even if that means sorting cattle in the back pens.

Early in his career he got in front of as many bulls as he could and benefitted from working with great partners.

He still remembers the first time he worked an event with Wick Peth in Saint Paul, Ore. Smets said Peth saw his adrenaline was getting the best of him, so he walked over and said to the newcomer, "Hey kid, just remember you gotta breathe."

There have been good days and some bad nights.

He was working the night Troy Dunn rode Pacific Bell at the NFR, and was in the arena the night of Tuff Hedeman's wreck with Bodacious.

"To see the rides I saw," said Smets, who paused to wipe a tear from his eye and never did finish his thought.

Not all his memories are in the arena. One particularly fond memory took place in Baltimore, when Justin McBride won an oversized tool box from DeWalt filled with power tools.

McBride gave it to Smets as a show of appreciation.

"I broke down in tears in the dressing room," Smets said. "That's the first thing I ever had a bull rider give me. McBride was a class act."

Smets has been married for the past 18 years.

He said his wife still provides a calming balance to his extreme nature. They have four daughters: Corey, Josie, Sammy and Dylan.

Earlier this year, when Lambert called to tell him about being honored as the first recipient of the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award, Smets told his family, and then called Sharon. He said he could see her smile over the phone, and then they cried together.

He still misses the camaraderie in the dressing room and "popping off" with fellow bullfighters. He misses working with the best partners, the riders and bulls, but most of all, he misses bullfighting for the "best fans in the world."

"Talk about a great big full circle," said Smets. "I've been blessed. … It's been a pretty good career. God is good."

"How does life get any better?"

By: Keith Ryan Cartwright

Ty Murray Top Hand

Ty Murray Top Hand

The PBR Ty Murray Top Hand Award, created in 2018, will be given annually to individuals who through their own efforts have made significant and lasting contributions to enhance the sport of rodeo. It is based on traditional American values and fundamental ideals such as courage, pride, respect, and hard work. Their contributions align with the original goals of the PBR Founders and serve to protect and advance rodeo’s heritage for generations to come.

The Ty Murray Top Hand Award connects PBR to its historical roots in rodeo. The award will be presented to rodeo athletes, who through their own efforts have displayed championship characteristics and made significant and lasting contributions to enhance the sport of rodeo.

2019

2019 PBR Ty Murray Top Hand Award Honoree:

2007 PBR Ring of Honor inductee:

Two-time World Champion All-Around Cowboy Phil Lyne of Cotulla, Texas, was more than just a great bull rider. Lyne has the distinction of being the only cowboy to win the NFR average titles in three events: Bull Riding, Calf Roping and Steer Roping.


Phil Lyne, calf roper of Cotulla, Texas was born January 18, 1947 Stories circulating around the rodeo world credit the youthful Phil Lyne with performances that would be dismissed as legendary if living witnesses did not exist by the hundreds.

The calf roper is almost entirely dependent on his horse. A well trained horse is 90 percent of the act and the champion calf roper normally has won the event months earlier in long hours of patient work with his horse.

Not so with Phil Lyne. He didn’t own a roping horse. In one year of his brief career he rode ninety-one horses in roping competition. Witnesses swear that once he dashed onto the rodeo grounds just as they announced his name. He asked a passing cowboy if he could borrow his horse, and roped his calf in a stunning 10.5 seconds, near a world record. This slow talking cowboy traveled from rodeo to rodeo in an old station wagon and two-horse trailer.

In 1969 Phil won PRCA Resistol rookie of the year, 1972 – 72 World All-Around Calf roping Championship, 1970 – 1 – 72 recipient of the Bill Linderman Award. In 1971 Phil stepped up to claim the all-around title during his good friend Larry Mahan’s absence. In 1973 Phil co-starred with Mahan in “The Great American Cowboy”, a Disney documentary featuring the rivalry of rodeo. Phil has the distinction of being the only cowboy to win the National Finals Rodeo average titles in three events: Bull Riding, Calf Roping and Steer Roping.

Phil is married to Sarah and they have two daughters, Amanda and Samantha. Phil retired at the age of 27 to spend more time with his family and operate his cattle business.

--source: TexasRodeoHallofFame.com

2019 Ty Murray Top Hand Award Honoree:

1998 Ring of Honor inductee:

An 8-time World Champion Cowboy with 6 All Around World Championships and 2 World Champion Bull Riding Gold Buckles, Larry remains the All Time leading NFR qualifier in the rough stock events. He is a member of various Halls of Fame, including: PRCA, Texas Cowboy, Oklahoma City National Rodeo, Pendleton, Cheyenne, Ellensburg and St. Paul. The PBR Ring of Honor, PRCA Legend of Pro Rodeo and the Ben Johnson Memorial medallion are among the awards lining the office walls.

As a lifelong student of the magnificent horse, Larry is committed to sharing his passion and knowledge. Horses are an important aspect of the Mahan ranches. From the hill country of Kerrville, Texas to the North Texas headquarters and Central Oklahoma to the Colorado division nestled at the base of Pike's Peak, most days will find Larry astride-starting colts, checking broodmares, gathering cattle or working with the seasoned ropers and cutters.

A 30 year member/breeder of the AQHA, Larry is an avid team roper (3 Steer Champion 2011 Reno Invitational) and successful cutting competitor-NCHA Derby non-pro Reserve Champion & Super Stakes finalist. He is also a member of the Western Dressage Association. A closely knit family rounds out the picture with wife, Julanne-2 daughters, Lisa & Eliza and son, Ty.

--source: Prefiert.com

2018

2018 Honoree:

Basketball has Michael Jordan. Hockey has Wayne Gretzky. Baseball has Babe Ruth.

Rodeo has Trevor Brazile.

He’s been called “the world’s greatest cowboy,” and the facts back it up. He’s the richest cowboy in PRCA history with more than $6 million in career earnings, and he’s a 23-time World Champion tie-down roper, team roper and steer roper.

One could say that Brazile has rodeo in his blood; his father, Jimmy, was a professional rodeo cowboy, and his mother, Glenda, competed in rodeos as well. He began riding and roping at an early age and attended Vernon Regional Junior College on a rodeo scholarship. He then attended West Texas A&M University, leaving before graduation to join the PRCA in 1996.

Brazile qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo in 1998 in team roping, and won his first world title – in the all-around – in 2002.

The accomplishments and milestones came nearly nonstop from there. He won all-around titles in 2003-04 and 2006-15, tie-down roping in 2007, 2009 and 2010, team roping in 2010 and steer roping in 2006-07, 2011, and 2013-15.

“I enjoyed all of them,” Brazile said on RideTV of his world titles. “The one that stands out the most, without a doubt, is the buckle (his wife) Shada wears, 2002. You think you can do it. People think you can do it. But until you know you’ve done it, it’s just hypothetical.

There’s just something about winning that first one that makes you think. There’s no thinking you can’t anymore. You can. It’s just will you do it again.”

Brazile will be receiving the Ty Murray Top Hand Award at the PBR’s annual Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, RideTV’s series “PBR Heroes & Legends” will feature the 2018 honorees with an episode each week. Brazile’s airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

In 2003, he became the first cowboy to qualify for the NFR in four events, and in 2006 he set the single-season earnings record, winning more than $329,000. (He went on to break that record several times, winning $507,920 in 2010.)

By winning the all-around, steer roping and calf roping titles in 2007, he won the rodeo triple crown, becoming the first cowboy to do so since 1983. (He went on to do it again in 2010, winning titles in the all-around, calf roping and team roping.)

The 1983 triple crown winner? Roy Cooper, Brazile’s father-in-law. Brazile was not even the best cowboy in his own family until he won his ninth world title.

“I’m one of the few guys in this life that has made a living doing what they love to do,” Brazile said. “I’m going to be happy. I’m going to enjoy it. Because, like say, if I can’t be happy out there, how am I going to be happy when I get done?”

Unsurprisingly, he’s won nearly every major rodeo on the pro tour including RodeoHouston, the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Ft. Worth Stock Show. He also won the coveted Time Event Championships eight times and has earned the most money at that event.

While there is no arena in which to hang his jersey from the rafters and no number to retire, one thing is for certain: there’ll never be another Trevor Brazile.

“There’s no secret,” Brazile said of his success. “It’s fundamentals. It’s hard work. It’s not cheating the process. It’s willing to pay the price for what you want instead of just wanting what somebody else has. The ones who want to get to the top find a way there. Clawing, scratching, that’s the only way to get there.”

2018 Honoree:

Feild passed away from pancreatic cancer in Feb. 2016, but his accomplishments in the rodeo arena will never be erased from the record books.

The PRCA Rookie of the Year in 1980, Feild was the first roughstock cowboy since Larry Mahan in 1973 to earn a World All-Around Title. He won three of them consecutively (1985, 1986 and 1987), in addition to two world bareback riding crowns (1985 and 1986).

In 1990, Feild became the first roughstock cowboy to win $1 million in career earnings before retiring in 1991. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1992.

He is also a three-time winner of the Linderman Award, which is given to the cowboy who earns the most money competing on both ends of the arena (timed events on one side and rough-stock on the other side).

Not that you’d ever know any of this just by talking to him.

“When I look back at my dad, the greatest attribute was his humility,” Feild’s son, Shadrach, said on Ride TV. “You’d never know his accomplishments. And if there’s something that I could emulate in my life from him, it’s that. He was a good man.”

The day before Feild passed away, his son Kaycee, a four-time world champion bareback rider himself, posted a photo of his father on horseback to his Instagram page.

“What an amazing day!” the caption reads. “Got my dad (on) horseback and he did not want to get off!”

The man who wanted to be remembered as a cowboy was cowboying up right to the very end.

--source: ProRodeo Hall of Fame: In 1985 Lewis Feild earned his first all-around world title, the first roughstock cowboy to do so since Larry Mahan in 1973. A PRCA member since 1980, Feild won three straight world all-around titles, as well as two world bareback riding crowns. In 1990, he became the first roughstock contestant to earn $1 million in career earnings. Because of his prowess in both the roughstock and timed events, he won the distinguished Linderman Award three times, 1981, 1988 and 1991. He also was PRCA Rookie of the Year in 1980. Born Oct. 28, 1956, the Utah cowboy started his rodeo career as a youngster. He competed in the National High School Rodeo Association, qualifying for the Finals three times. Feild attended Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah, on a full rodeo scholarship and qualified for the National Intercollegiate Finals three years in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding and team roping. Since retiring from competitive rodeo in 1991, Feild is working as a pickup man, as well as coaching the rodeo team for his alma mater, Utah Valley State. He lives in Elk Ridge, Utah. He once said, “Someday, when rodeo people look back at what I’ve done, I’d like them to say these things: that I rode tough; that I could ride with pain and courage; that I was a fierce competitor in the arena, but a quiet, respectable man outside the gate. I just want to be remembered as a cowboy. That probably says it all.”

2018 Honoree:

Old Bionic. Tom Terrific. Rodeo’s first $1 million man.

No matter what moniker you know him by, one thing’s for certain: Tom Ferguson’s reputation is unmatched.

Ferguson won nine World Championships, which is the most all-time alongside Ty Murray and Casey Tibbs. Ferguson was the first cowboy to win more than $100,000 in a single season and $1 million in career earnings. He was the first to win six consecutive all-around titles (doing so from 1974-79), and finished in the Top 15 in the world in two disciplines for eight years.

Though he was known mostly for his prowess as a tie-down roper and steer wrestler, Ferguson was called rodeo’s best two-event man, Ferguson also competed in all of the timed events. He was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1999.

It’s a staggering resume, to be sure, and it’s about to get a little longer.

Ferguson will be honored with the Ty Murray Top Hand Award at the PBR’s annual Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 6. The award connects the PBR to its historical roots in rodeo and is given to a rodeo cowboy not eligible for the Ring of Honor who has made significant and lasting contributions to the sport of rodeo.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, RideTV’s series “PBR Heroes & Legends” will feature the 2018 honorees with an episode each week. Ferguson’s airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

Ferguson got his start in the Western world thanks to the influence of his father, and he grew up around two-time steer wrestling World Champion Jack Roddy. Initially he tried the more traditional high school sports until those dreams were swiftly – and bluntly – dashed.

“I liked playing baseball,” Ferguson told Ride TV’s Rob Smets. “One year I went out for high school sports, and the director out there said, ‘Son, you don’t have no size, speed or agility. You’re no athlete. You need to go do something else.’

“I should send him a Christmas card every year but I lost his address.”

Ferguson dove headfirst into his rodeo pursuits, competing locally in junior rodeos – there were no high school rodeos at the time – and attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he competed in collegiate rodeo, winning the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association tie-down roping title in 1970 and the all-around title in 1971-72.

Ferguson got his rookie PRCA card in 1972. His $100,000 season came in 1978. In 1982, he won more than $17,000 at the Houston Rodeo, which at the time was the most money ever won by any cowboy at a single rodeo.

In 1986, he became the first cowboy to hit the career $1 million mark.

But he doesn’t really care about that.

“It’s just a number,” Ferguson said. “It’s a lot of money at that time. A pickup cost $5,000. What do you sell them for now, $60,000? Everything’s ten times the money.

“It doesn’t matter how much the dollars (are). The dollars are going to change.”

Ferguson may not be caught up in the dollars he won, but he was certainly determined to win each and every time he saddled up. He conditioned himself to think like a basketball player – they don’t make every shot, but don’t get caught up in their misses and modify their decisions to make the next one – and was always looking ahead to the next rodeo.

In addition to his self-proclaimed hardheaded mindset, Ferguson was known for his work ethic.

His practices were legendary and changed the game for the cowboys that came after him. They were organized and purposeful, with a goal of being perfect and not merely breaking a sweat and getting tired. He says people referred to him as Old Bionic because he didn’t make mistakes and he didn’t get tired.

Though he was once told he wasn’t an athlete, he certainly trained like one.

Retired since the late ‘80s, Ferguson now enjoys giving back to the rodeo community. He trains young cowboys just getting their start in the timed events and enjoys passing on his knowledge to up-and-comers in the rodeo world.

He credits his father with instilling in him the desire to give back, harkening back to his Cherokee heritage and the kindhearted, giving ways of Native Americans.

“We didn’t have a whole lot to give away, but all I had was knowledge,” Ferguson said. “I enjoyed helping people and being part of their success.”

Sharon Shoulders Award

Sharon Shoulders Award

The PBR Sharon Shoulders Award, created in 2010, recognizes the great women of professional bull riding; those whose work, partnership, and faith have been as integral to the sport as the athletes themselves. It is named for the heroic wife of the legendary Jim Shoulders, whose tireless support enabled her husband to bring bull riding to millions.

These women provide an unwavering support system to help their husbands pursue their dreams. They are fiercely loyal, and inspire their husbands by example, motivate and challenge them to achieve their goals, and keep the, grounded in reality.

2019

PUEBLO, Colo. – 2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi headlines the list of honorees to be feted at the 2019 PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration at South Point Casino & Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019.

Marchi will be inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor, and 1995 World Champion Bull Bodacious will be presented the PBR Brand of Honor, the sport’s highest recognition for a bovine athlete.

The Ty Murray Top Hand award, introduced last year for athletes from the rodeo world exemplifying excellence and traditional cowboy values, will go to rodeo legends Phil Lyne and Larry Mahan. The Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award will be awarded to Neal Gay and Mack Altizer. Kylie Shivers will receive the Sharon Shoulders Award.

Heroes & Legends Celebration tickets will go on sale on Monday, June 3 and are available for $40 through PBR Customer Service (800) 732-1727 or by calling the South Point Showroom Box Office at (844) 846-8689.

SHARON SHOULDERS AWARD

Kylie Shivers is recognized as one of the great women in professional bull riding. Her unwavering support, kindness, and faith have been as integral to the sport as to the tremendous success of her husband Chris Shivers, a two-time PBR World Champion (2000, 2003). Kylie’s partnership with Chris was instrumental in helping him become the second cowboy to win multiple PBR world titles, and setting records including being the first PBR bull rider to register 13 90-point rides in one season (1998); the highest-marked ride in PBR history (96.5 points, twice); and the first to win three consecutive elite series events (2000). Kylie, who teaches at a Christian Academy, is an exemplary ambassador for the western lifestyle and the sport of professional bull riding.

South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa is the Official Host Hotel of the PBR Heroes & Legends Celebration. Special room rates and packages, starting at $75 and $119 (plus taxes and resorts fees), respectively, are available to fans at South Point by using the code FAN1101. For reservations and information, call 866-791-7626.

The 2019 PBR World Finals, the richest bull-riding event in the world, will take place Nov. 7-11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The five-day event will crown a $250,000 event champion and also determine the overall 2019 PBR World Champion, who will receive a $1 million bonus and the coveted world championship belt buckle. The 2019 PBR World Finals are preceded by the 2019 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Nov 2-3 at South Point Arena, with some of the best riders in the world chasing a $100,000 purse, and five riders receiving an invitation to compete at the 2018 PBR World Finals.

2018

2018 Honoree:

They say that behind every great man is a great woman.

While the athletes of the PBR are all men, they would not be able to chase their bull riding dreams without support from the women in their lives.

It is these women that the Sharon Shoulders Award aims to recognize; those whose work, partnership and faith have been as integral to the sport of bull riding as the athletes themselves.

Married to two-time PBR World Champion Justin McBride since 2005, Jill McBride fits this description to a T.

Jill will receive the 2018 Sharon Shoulders Award at the PBR’s annual Heroes & Legends Celebration in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.

In the lead-up to the ceremony, Ride TV’s series “PBR Heroes & Legends” will feature the 2018 honorees with an episode each week. McBride’s airs at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.

McBride met her future husband when he moved to her hometown in Nebraska in sixth grade. The two grew up together and attended the same high school, but parted ways afterwards; Jill went to college while Justin started with the PBR in 1999.

The two reconnected in 2004 and were married in 2005.

Justin won the first of his two world titles in 2005.

Their daughter Addison was born in 2006, and Justin won another world title in 2007.

Coincidence? Not if you ask Lori McBride, Justin’s mother.

“I’m so proud of her,” Lori said on Ride TV. “She has stuck by that boy through thick and thin. There’s been some tough days around the McBride place, but we always pull together when things get tough.”

Jill was pregnant with Addison, who’s now 12, toward the end of the 2005 season, while Justin was traveling and competing. She was then at home with a newborn when he was on the road again, taking care of their cows and horses in addition to raising their baby while Justin rode bulls.

“It is so nerve-wracking,” McBride said of watching her husband ride bulls. “I explained it back then as a rollercoaster ride, but I don’t even think it was that because at the end of a rollercoaster ride, you knew your ride was over. You knew what the outcome was. When he rode, you just never knew. I knew he could ride bulls, but you couldn’t guarantee how the bull was going to act. You can’t stop a bull from hurting anyone. So it was just always the unknown.”

McBride says she went through things she didn’t know she was capable of going through and did things she didn’t realize she was capable of doing. The difficult life of a bull rider’s wife pulled strength out of her she didn’t know she had.

Justin retired from riding in 2008 and now works as a color commentator for the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast. He was inducted into the PBR’s Ring of Honor in 2009.

The pair later had a son, Jackson, now 8 years old, and Jill teaches Sunday school and coaches basketball. She’s worked hard to provide a solid home for her kids, a normal life and stability in the midst of a completely unstable sport.

“I joke around about it a lot, but she does everything,” Justin said. “I think (our kids) realize how good of a life they’ve got, but when they grow up they’ll understand just how much their mom cared and did for them, because really everything she does every day is about them.”

Jill is the ninth recipient of the Sharon Shoulders Award, joining the wives of some of the greatest riders in PBR history: Julie Carrillo, LeAnn Hart, Robyn Gaffney, Stacey Custer, Flavia Moraes, Jackie Dunn, Leanne Lambert and Tiffany Davis.

“It’s such an honor to be put into that group of women,” McBride said. “You can see with all their talents, the one thing that sticks out is just their determination, their strength that they have. I never pictured myself being in with that group of women, but it’s a really big honor.”

2017

2017 Honoree:

Julie Carrillo: The Pride And Joy Of The Cowboy Capital Of The World

This incredible woman not only stole the hearts of everyone she met, she also made a major impact on the rodeo world.

As Cowboy Heritage Week approaches in Stephenville, Texas, there is one very special lady that will be dearly missed. Julie Carrillo was born February 22, 1975, and went to be with her Lord and Savior on June 28, 2017. Julie grew up on Lake Leon in Ranger, Texas, just north of Stephenville. She loved everything about the lake and being on the water. She loved to ski, wakeboard, and was known to go after anything head on. To know her was to immediately love her, and to be in her presence meant you would have the time of your life.

Julie and her husband Gilbert met through a mutual friend by the name of Brent Leffingwell. Brent was the assistant baseball coach at Ranger, and Don Flowers, Julie’s step-dad, was the head coach. Everyone went out together one night and Gilbert begged Brent to introduce him to the gorgeous blonde that also happened to be his boss’s stepdaughter, “After that night, we talked for a while and we just clicked. It just happened. We met once and then we just couldn’t stay off the phone. At that time, Julie was an R.N. in Euless. I would go up there and visit her all the time, and then I convinced her to move down here. We never left each other’s side.” Years ago, Julie brought up the idea of the 4C’s Bucking Bulls and Training Facility to her husband Gilbert. It all started when friends of Gilbert and Julie’s asked them to partner with them on a young bull and start him in the futurities. Julie immediately jumped on the plan and before they knew it, over 80 bulls at a time called the Carrillo’s place “home” for years on end while they were put through the 4C’s training programs. Before long, cowboys and businessmen alike were knocking down the door of the 4C’s, and the Carrillo’s had bulls in the PRCA, the PBR, and several bull teams and franchises with the CBR.

Listening to Gilbert talk about his wife was probably one of the most endearing things I’ve ever heard in my life. You could so plainly see how she walked on water in his eyes, as well as many of their closest friends. Megan Archino said, ” They were truly a beautiful couple. Not once did I ever hear them say one bad thing about the other or one complaint.”

What Gilbert and Julie had was something that many people can only dream about and hope for one day. Gilbert said, “Julie’s a very, very hardworking person. She was beautiful and smart, but she could get dirty when she needed to. She would be out there working with the bulls and helping me with them, you name it. When we built this facility, we hired a contractor to help build it and he couldn’t finish it. So Julie and I and a college kid that worked for us for a couple years built bleachers for 2,700 people in seven days. It was crazy. Poor Julie! She was the one that burned her eyes when we were welding. I said, “Honey, don’t look at the fire!” and Julie said, “I’m not! I’m looking away but my eyes are open!”

Two and a half years ago, Julie was in Las Vegas during the NFR to watch Gilbert rope. She had been having stomach pains and had been receiving treatment for what her doctors thought was mastitis. While in Nevada, the pain had gotten so bad that she told Gilbert she didn’t want to fly back to Texas, she just wanted to be with him and make the drive back together. For those that know Julie, she was as tough as they come. So for her to say something, Gilbert knew something was terribly wrong with his beautiful wife.

From that point forward, Julie’s health was a constant battle. Gilbert and their two children, Chase and Cheney, went through what no person should ever have to. They watched for over two years as the strongest woman they knew fought cancer tooth and nail. As I sat in the Carrillo’s living room and listened to Gilbert talk about the love of his life, I could so easily see his utter love and devotion to her. He was by her side through every doctor appointment, surgery, chemotherapy treatment, and there to catch her whenever she needed it. I don’t necessarily want to go into detail about Miss Julie’s battle with cancer, but I will say she fought as hard as anyone possibly could. Her immediate family and select close friends were there for whatever she needed, though she didn’t often ask that of them. She embodied everything it is to be a strong woman, and even though she was the one fighting such an awful disease, her loved ones drew strength from her. Julie’s is a story that will never again be matched. She made a name for herself in the PBR, CBR, the PRCA, and among anyone she crossed the path of. Though I only had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before she left this Earth, I immediately loved her. I ran into her at the South Point during the 2016 NFR and was completely shocked to see her there. She told me in a laughing voice and a smile in her eyes that there was no way the cancer was going to get her down or take her joy.

--Source: Cowgirl Magazine, Sep 22, 2017

2016

2016 Honoree:

LeAnn Hart talks about raising bulls and watching husband, J.W., commentate on Pure PBR.

Calving season is coming up, so that has been the main thing right now in the Hart household. J.W. has been taking the kids and tagging the new baby calves that are on the ground. We post that all to Facebook, so everybody can see the mamas getting all mad when he gets out of the truck.

The first calf that was born this year came just a little bit early and this Oklahoma weather has a mind of its own, so he got to spend his first few nights inside the house right in front of the fire. Makayla was too funny. She was praying over that calf and our dog was protecting that calf like it was her puppy. Mac kept saying, "I'm praying that calf better, mama. I'm praying that calf better." She is something else. She is like, "We gotta pray about everything." I guess they get that from me because I pray about all things, but it is kind of funny when your children start to become a little walking reflection of you.

I thought I was independent before marrying J.W., taking care of myself and always being on my own, but it's funny, when you are married to a bull rider, you no longer only take care of yourself. You take care of everybody from your two-legged kids to your four-legged kids.

Wacey and Makayla haven't done a whole lot of mutton bustin lately. Mac just started her home-school program and Wacey has just been hanging out with daddy quite a bit. Since the sun is starting to shine more and the days are getting long, the ponies are fixing to get back into shape! They have been hanging out with grandpa a little bit as well. He is pretty good about taking them to the park and stuff like that. When they come home you never know what is going to come out of their mouths, because he is just something else. The other night, they came home and we asked Wacey, "What did you do at pawpaw's house?" And he said, "Ate cereal, watched TV and drank whiskey." You never know what they will say next.

J.W., in general, is the definition of a cowboy, and I have always grown up wanting to be a cowgirl, so we kind of complete each other like that. I think overall what I have learned is that he pushes me to be more whenever I don't think that I can be anymore or give anymore. He pushes me to do so much more than I ever thought that I could. He was so good this week with me being sick. I don't know if it's because he's getting older, or if he's getting softer, but he used to push me to get up and there would be no rest. Now, I think he sees that not everybody has got the superpowers that bull riders have to get up and go, and every now and then we get zapped.

We DVR every single event and we always come back so the kids can watch. A few weeks ago when J.W. did his first Pure PBR broadcast, I was so excited about that event. He can never lie to me ever again and say that he cannot multitask. Because if he can do TV at the same time that he can put a flank on a bull and explain what he is doing, I will not ever take that for an answer ever again. I thought to myself, "Maybe I should watch this a little bit more. I am learning more about him." We always watch when J.W. is behind the camera and during the week, he is always doing his homework; regardless if it's Justin or Ty doing TV that week. He is always watching to see what the bulls are doing and he's always calling stock contractors to see what he missed, or if he' s up on everything for whenever he goes. I think we are kind of like his cheerleaders - except more permanent and proud!

I don't miss him riding. For a while, I think after he first started, it was weird going to the events, because we weren't there for the same reasons we were before. It's a different kind of thrill now. We have been so blessed because not many guys get to stick around something that they have done their whole life and continue to do so. He is gifted when it comes to speaking and being comfortable in front of a camera. He is so good at that, and I am just glad that everybody else recognized how comfortable he was and believed in him enough to let him continue do it.

I like going to some of the smaller events and carrying bulls. Heck, I get just as big of a thrill when we are bucking our bulls! Last weekend, we bucked four bulls at the PBR event in Oklahoma City, and I was a nervous wreck. It's not the same kind of nervous. You just want them to perform. I am sure that those sitting around me are thinking, "Wow, that chick is crazy," since I scream out after the 8 seconds and sometimes the cowboy isn't there at the whistle.

I am so proud of J.W. for what he did. I am still so proud of him because he has always been a firm believer in the PBR and what it stands for, and the professional bull riders. There is definitely a minor league and a major league, and I was proud to know that he played in the majors for such a long time, and that he still has a position with the PBR to carry that on. We consider everybody family within the PBR. Everybody is so close knit, even those who don't work for the PBR anymore. It's funny how everybody kind of stays in touch with each other in one way or another. We all see each other and you always embrace with a hug.

2015

2015 Honoree:

Robyn Gaffney will receive this year's Sharon Shoulders Award. Named in honor of the late Jim Shoulders wife, this award was created in 2009 to honor the women who have made a difference in the sport of professional bull riding.

More than 30 years later, Michael Gaffney vividly remembers the first time he saw his future wife.

She was 13 years old. He was 12.

They had never met until he saw her one night at a dance following a youth rodeo in the northwest corner of New Mexico — not far from the famous four corners, where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona all meet.

“I thought what a beautiful person,” he recalled, “and I had only been around her for just a few minutes. She was wearing the tightest stinkin’ pants you’d ever seen in your life – just because it was the early ‘80s – tight pants and like a satin maroon shirt.”

She was six months older than him.

He was smitten. And still is.

It would be another six years before they started dating and eventually married – they celebrated their 25 wedding anniversary earlier this year – and they are, perhaps, one of the most unique couples in the PBR.

Michael Gaffney, 46, is a World Champion bull rider, while Dr. Robyn Gaffney, 46, is a surgical pathologist, who specializes in diagnosing cancer.

Robyn is receiving this year’s Sharon Shoulders Award.

Named in honor of the late Jim Shoulders wife, this award was created in 2009 to honor the women who have made a difference in the sport of professional bull riding. Shoulders is recognized for her support and encouragement of her late husband, who was a celebrated cowboy and bull rider.

Jim Shoulders was among the first class inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor.

Previous women to have received the award named after Sharon Shoulders (2009) also include Tiffany Davis (2010), Leanne Lambert (2011), Jackie Dunn (2012), Flavia Moraes (2013) and Stacy Custer (2014).

Robyn received the news in a phone call from Lambert.

That call was followed by sweet note from Sharon.

“I’m not your typical wife and I’m especially not your typical rodeo wife,” said Robyn, who met Sharon last year during the World Finals, in Las Vegas. “They stand behind their man, which is what this award is, and my man stood behind me every bit that I have stood behind him.

“I tease him and say, ‘You got screwed when it came to the Martha Stewart thing.’”

* * * * *

After meeting Robyn the first time, Michael said he saw her again at the annual 4H conference, in Las Cruces, New Mexico, while they were still in junior high school and then again at various youth and high school rodeos.

Each time she was dating one of two friends he was riding and rodeoing with.

“I dated,” said Robyn, laughing. “I always had a boyfriend. I just always did.”

Following his freshman year in college, Michael was in Bozeman, Montana, for the College National Rodeo Finals when he overheard a friend of his making plans for he and Michael to stop off in Canyon, Texas, over the Fourth of July weekend.

They were competing in nearby Amarillo and a few cities in Eastern New Mexico along the Texas border.

Robyn was staying with her uncle.

Michael didn’t realize what the plan was and said “he was just riding along” and was focused on competing. One thing led to another and, according to Michael, it was apparent his pal “wasn’t getting anywhere” with Robyn.

The whole group spent one afternoon drinking beer and driving go-karts with plans to meet up later that night.

Michael and the other bull riders, who weren’t up in the draw until the following night, spent the rest of the afternoon drinking beer and then headed over to watch the rodeo. With several no-shows the draw was down to three riders and Richard Neville, who was producing the event, asked Michael and the others to get on.

“I don’t remember the ride,” Michael said. “It’s such an old arena that the telephone poles with the lights were inside the arena. The arena was just ancient with old wooden chutes. It was like the Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo or whatever, so, get this, I check out and the bull shoots me off the backend and, I mean, I can’t even see straight much less be riding bulls and had never been on drunk and I just get plastered against this telephone pole.

“I mean, it just takes off the right side of my face. It tore my right eye and skinned the whole side of my face. It looked like wrecked on a motorcycle down the highway or something. It busted my face all up and, of course, I didn’t feel a thing.”

It didn’t stop Michael from meeting Robyn and her family at the bar that night.

It also proved to be the first many injuries Robyn would bear witness to over the years.

Having kept his distance, it was Robyn who first asked Michael if he’d like to stay for a few extra days and she would give him a ride back home to New Mexico.

“She was fancying me and her mom got in the mix too,” Michael said. “That’s how it started. I was hot dogging and we were young guys starting to rodeo. It’s not like I shot him out of the saddle, but, in a way, I guess, I did.”

“After that first weekend that we kind of hooked up I told my mom, ‘that’s who I’ll marry,’” said Robyn, laughing at the thought of young love.

Her mother remarked they had just met.

For Robyn, it didn’t matter.

“I knew,” Robyn said. “When you meet your person there is no choice. That’s who it is.”

Michael agreed.

“I just knew,” he said. “That old cliché of love at first sight – it sounds silly – but in our case it was.”

They were inseparable.

Robyn transferred from a small college to Texas Tech, where she was a pre-med student, and Michael commuted back-and-forth after moving in with her in Lubbock, where she enrolled in medical school “for what seemed like forever.”

Eventually she spent time in Rochester, Minnesota, at the Mayo Clinic, another six months in Seattle, Washington, as well as time in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and California, before settling back in New Mexico on small three-and-a-half acres north of Albuquerque.

“I’ve drug him all over this country,” said Robyn, who talked about how driven each of them were in the formative years of their marriage. “Marriage isn’t easy anyway. It’s something you have to work at every day and something you have to be conscientious of and it’s not easy being married to these guys. We had some ups and downs, but we didn’t have children.”

They eventually adopted Destyn, 13, and then Robyn gave birth to Marek, 7, six years later.

“Michael’s amazing and I couldn’t do what I do without him,” said Robyn, who explained they don’t have gender-based roles in their relationship. Michael often runs errands and shuttles the kids between school, various practices and back home, where he cooks dinner for the family every night. His mother and Robyn’s parents also live on opposite sides of the property.

One of the toughest days came early on in December 1994.

It was Sunday, Dec. 11, and Robyn was in Lubbock preparing for a microbiology test when she and her friend decided to take a break amid a 15-hour session, so they could watch the National Finals Rodeo. That day, Michael’s travel partner and fellow PBR co-founder Brent Thurman was stepped on.

Michael traveled to Las Vegas to be with Thurman’s family.

He died several days later.

Thurman’s death wasn’t easy for either of them.

“I couldn’t stop crying and I couldn’t study,” recalled Robyn, who explained how her study partner would read the text aloud for the both of them. “That’s how we studied for that test. She verbally read to me. I just could not — it was hard because you had to pull it together. I had to compartmentalize and I’ve learned how to do that very well over the years.”

She learned to compartmentalize the dangers her own husband faced and the injuries that plagued much of his career.

He won the 1997 World Championship, but the injuries — he has a shoulder that still bothers him and needs to be replaced — mounted with each passing year. In fact, Michael was with her in 2001 during the six months she spent in Minnesota.

“I’ll never forget that time because it was really hard on her,” said Michael, who described his demeanor as sour. “She was going to one of the most prestigious places that a young doctor could go and I just wasn’t there for her.

“If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it 100 times, I’m really fortunate that I had somebody who had the gumption to stick by me and put up with my baloney. I’m lucky she’s willing to help make me better.”

“I feel like – relating it to my own situation – I feel like Robyn makes Michael want to be a better man and she certainly made him a better man,” said Cody Lambert, who noted that Michael and Robyn have been together for as long as he’s known either of them. “There’s no doubt that everything they do they were in it together. That’s the kind of relationship that I feel like a husband and wife are supposed to have.”

Robyn credits the Lamberts relationship as a major influence on Michael.

“They have a relationship of mutual respect,” said Robyn, speaking of Cody and Leanne, “and Cody’s always been a good influence. Cody’s always black or white. There’s no gray. It’s right or wrong. He’s very ethical and Michael’s always respected him because of that.”

Michael had Cody to look up to and developed a friendship with Ty Murray, Justin McBride, Jerome Davis and others.

And, at PBR events, Robyn quickly developed a close friendship with Leanne Lambert and later Jewel. She was also close with Stacy Custer and Tiffany Davis.

However, her best friend is Michael.

“That’s one of the greatest things,” he said of his wife, “I always go back to our friendship. She’s been my best friend since the beginning and I think you have to like one another. You have to be friends.”

Robyn concluded, “I don’t know how I would do life without him. At some point it’s no longer two people — it’s just one — and that’s where we are. I guess you’ve been through so much and been with them for so long, you just kind of merge. It’s worked for us and it a unique situation.”

- Keith Ryan Cartwright

2013

2013 Honoree:

Flavia Moraes, wife of three-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes, will be honored by the PBR. Not only is Flavia a supportive wife, she took it into her own hands to guide Adriano's career outside of the arena and made him an international star.

FORT WORTH, Texas ― Brazilian native Adriano Moraes has earned a record three world titles on the Professional Bull Riders circuit. He's also among only three cowboys who stayed on all 10 bulls at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

Throughout his illustrious career, he's persevered though many injuries and there have been those discouraging times when he's been thrown off a bull when thousands of dollars were at stake.

But through it all, his wife Flavia, has stood behind him. She is the 2013 recipient of the Sharon Shoulders Award, which is given annually to a PBR wife who has shown outstanding support for her husband and has helped advance the sport of bull riding.

Sharon Shoulders, the wife of the late 1950s legend Jim Shoulders, did that very well. She was there for her husband as he broke record after record and bone after bone. In similar fashion, Flavia Moraes has shown unwavering support for her husband.

"We became partners and I got involved with Adriano's life," Flavia said. "I always did what needed to be done as a wife and a mother. I always tried. I think Adriano and I have become perfect partners and it has given me a lot of joy."

However, Flavia said she also came to terms with the fact that it was Adriano whom fans came to see.

"I used to say next to a great man is a great woman and I always helped Adriano a lot," she said. "But I saw that he needed to be out in front of everything. I have been his supporter."

One big way that Flavia showed support was by making sure that Adriano could have a stable home life when he was competing.

"When a bull rider comes home on Monday, you don't know how they're going to be," she said. "So, there needs to be a good environment for them to come to."

Knowing that being a PBR star has its trials and tribulations, as well as its high points, Flavia said she and Adriano have gone through many maturing experiences.

"We were able to go through ups and downs," she said. "Some weeks he would come home after a 92-point ride. Other times he would come home with broken ribs. Looking back, we wouldn't be where we are now if we had had only good times."

When times were tough, Flavia said she drew lots of strength from her relationship with God and from following the teachings of her Christian faith.

"I thank God for everything," she said. "If it wasn't for our spiritual life, we would not have been able to handle things the way we did. Even when Adriano lost, we had something to look to and something to always come back to."

Adriano and Flavia first came to the United States in 1992. Two years later, he won the PBR's first world title when the World Finals campaigned at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In 2001, he became the PBR's first cowboy to win two gold buckles after competing in the World Finals at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center. He snared a record third gold buckle in 2006.

Adriano retired at the end of the 2008 season, and he and Flavia moved back to Brazil in 2010. Today, they live on a ranch at a midpoint between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

In recent years, Brazilian cowboys have been the dominate competitors on the PBR circuit. But Adriano was the first big-time cowboy to emerge from Brazil and live in North America.

Over the past two decades, he and Flavia have helped other Brazilians learn how to handle their business and travel arrangements while they were living in the United States and winning big bucks on the PBR circuit. From 2004 through 2006, Flavia worked closely with a dozen Brazilians, which included former World Finals qualifier Paulo Crimber and 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi.

"I remember a situation in 2005 when I called in a tax expert from Oklahoma City who translated to everyone how to pay their taxes from 2004," she said. "Looking back, my helping Brazilian riders with their business has been my contribution to the sport."

By Keith Ryan Cartwright

2012

2014 Honoree:

Stacey Custer, wife of PBR co-founder Cody Custer, has been a strong supporter of her husband during and after his bull riding career and their family. Sharon Shoulders states she is also a “good Christian role model for younger wives and an exemplary person.”

*******************************************

Faith.

There’s no better word than faith to associate with Stacey Custer.

She’s relied on faith for her entire adult life.

Faith gave her the clarity to so quickly realize when she had met the man who would become her husband. It was faith that helped her to compartmentalize the worry and dangers of being married to a professional bull rider. Faith helped to raise a house with three children and to move from Louisiana to Arizona and later from there to Oklahoma.

And, of course, she leaned heavily on faith three years ago when she and Cody lost their oldest son.

“Since I’ve come to a different place in my relationship spiritually,” she explained, “that’s the only thing I’ve known to do to get through life. It ties into every area of life. You have to trust something and I know there are some people who don’t believe like we believe and I’m good with that, but even with them, they need to have something or someone that they trust. That’s just life.

“We have to rely on trust.”

The story of Stacey Custer, who in October will receive this year’s Sharon Shoulders Award, begins and ends with her family’s faith.

*****

Stacey Dupuis was born and raised in Jennings, Louisiana.

In 1989, she was living with Kent and Missy Richard in nearby Welsh when she first met Cody Custer over the phone in the fall of that year.

Kent and Cody traveled together on the rodeo trail. She asked Missy about him, while he asked Kent the same. Stacey said that in an era that predated social media by two decades she obviously had an easier time of learning more about him having read about Cody in recent issues of Pro Rodeo Sports News than he did her.

Before long Cody was calling the Richard house not to talk with Kent, but to chat on a near-daily basis with Stacey.

They didn’t meet in-person for a couple of months when they went on their first date—a church service in Lake Charles, Louisiana, on New Year’s Eve.

Richard had ridden at a rodeo in Texas on Dec. 30, and, with his wife and Stacey along for the trip, he picked up Cody in Dallas.

Stacey said, “The place I was at spiritually, I had really been praying about who this guy was and how things were supposed to go and everything else. Honestly, before I really ever even met him I kind of had a feeling that he was the one.”

Cody stayed in Louisiana for about 10 days – “we spent a lot of time talking” – and one night near the end of his first trip, while he sat on the end of Stacey’s bed, she thought, “I think this is the man I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.”

“By the end of January I asked her to marry me,” Cody recalled.

However, as she recalled, “let me put it to you this way, he didn’t ask me to marry him. What he said was – I hope he didn’t try to go and make it all gushy and romantic, when he told you about it because it was nothing like that, at all – what he said was, ‘Well, I guess, we should make everybody happy and get married.’ That’s how he put it.”

She added, “Everyone was saying, ‘This is it. This is it.’ So that was his way of asking. … That’s basically how it went, the romantic guy that he is.”

With another issue of Pro Rodeo Sports News as their guide, providing them with the upcoming rodeo schedule, they chose June 3 as a wedding date. A day later, on June 4, they packed their belongings and headed west to Wickensburg, Arizona, and stopped at a few rodeos along the way, where Cody was entered in the bull riding.

She soon found a church to join after engaging in a conversation with a couple she met a local Ace Hardware store.

For just over six months they lived next door to his parents until they found a place of their own, where they raised three kids – Aaron, Lacey and Brett – before eventually moving to Elk City, Oklahoma, where they’ve lived just south of town for the past seven years.

Being married to a bull rider may seem glamorous to some girls, but it’s not.

In fact, being married isn’t easy. Being young and being married to a bull rider only compounds the difficulty.

“You need to fully understand what you’re getting yourself into,” she said, when asked what advice she has after 24-plus years of marriage. “It’s one thing to know, but it’s another thing to live it—to be home for three weeks at a time by yourself with three kids, robbing Peter to pay Paul and trying to keep (Cody financially) out (on the rodeo trail).

“Yes, as a wife, you’re supposed to come first, but you go up against this mistress of rodeo or bull riding and you have to understand it’s not all peaches and cream.

“There has to be a huge trust between husband and wife,” she continued. “There are temptations anywhere, but when you’re gone and, well, I know they don’t have to be gone as much anymore. But you really need to keep the lines of communication open. It seems all glamorous. I thought I knew, but you don’t truly know until you work through it and you have to be willing to work through those hard times. At times that sport is going to take precedent over your relationship.”

Cody said he believes a woman has to already be “independent” if she plans to marry a bull rider.

“I’m very thankful for my wife,” Cody said.

“She’s from Louisiana and the idea of a Cajun woman,” Wiley Petersen said, “that’s Stacey.”

He added, “She has a feisty side to her. She can hold her own, but is very loving. … They showed me what love should be and what trust is and they worked together. They worked well together.”

Early on in their marriage, Stacey would travel with Cody from time to time if there was money to afford the opportunity or if he happened to be headed back toward Louisiana, so she could visit her family.

But it wasn’t always easy to make ends meet.

When times were tough she took on a job substitute teaching and when it got tougher she got a second job waitressing or doing whatever it took to help keep the bills paid.

H&L

Aaron was born in March 1993 – a few months after Cody won the PRCA world title in December 1992 – and Lacey was born in October the following year. Cody succumbed to the pressure of being a World Champion and ultimately struggled through a series of injuries over the next five years, but, fortunately, he was home to help raise the first babies. He was back on the rodeo trail and competing in the PBR by the time their youngest son Brett was born four years later in February 1998.

“She sure picked up the slack when I wasn’t able to make a great living riding bulls,” Cody said.

The early part of the 1999 season was tough as well.

“She supported him all the way,” Petersen said, “and gave him the freedom to be as successful as he could be. That’s what every man needs, especially when you’re riding bulls. When you have a dangerous job like that you have to your wife’s support. She was the foundation of the family. She was the rock.”

“Well, she’s a school teacher, so she’s pretty direct about what she thinks,” said Cody, who recalled complaining about “all the little potheads winning all the money,” while he tried to do the right thing to support his family. “She doesn’t really beat around the bush.”

She had always been supportive and encouraging, especially during slumps.

This time was different.

Aaron was just old enough to go on the road with Cody, while Stacey stayed home with the youngest two and was working two jobs. She heard one complaint too many.

“Finally I just told him, ‘you have two choices. You can stay out there and keep whining and complaining and doing what you’re doing or quit and come home,’” Stacey said. “‘I’m trying to juggle bills, trying to figure out what to pay, trying to figure out how to keep you on the road and all I hear is you call me and complain about almost making the whistle and you don’t know what you’re doing wrong and everything else.’ I said, ‘Either figure it out or come home and get a job because I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this.’”

“And, yeah, immediately after that I started winning,” Cody said. “She was pretty—it set things in perspective for me, you know. She basically told me to grow up, quit whining and get my crap together.”

A few weeks later he won the bull riding at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Cody, who in addition to winning a world title in 1992, was an eight-time NFR qualifier, one of 20 PBR cofounders and a nine-time PBR World Finals qualifier, gave the buckle to his then six-year-old son Aaron.

“It’s the only time in his 16, 17-year career that I told him, ‘You either need to crap or get off the pot,’” Stacey added. “I didn’t even mean it. For me, it was throwing his words back at him.”

A combination of faith and hard work carried them through the tough financial times.

However, Stacey relied on her faith when it came to being married to an athlete who competed in the most dangerous sport in the world.

Just like a rider compartmentalizing the danger of what he does, so too does the wife and eventually their family. It’s why Ring of Honor members like Ty Murray and Bobby Steiner have said they could have never competed had they been fathers.

It can, if you let it, take an emotional toll.

“I knew the only thing I could do – the only thing that was in my control – was putting him in God’s hands,” said Stacey, who would pray for his safety prior to each performance. “I know that, that sounds cheesy, but that was where my peace came from.

“That’s all I could do was trust God.”

When he finally retired following the 2003 season, they were supposed to live happily ever after as a family of five in Elk City.

And they were.

Their kids were growing up and pursuing sports. All three would rodeo and they’d load up as family and travel to youth events. Aaron also played football in high school and, in 2011, he graduated and was getting ready to go off to college when his life was tragically cut short in a single-car accident that also claimed the life of his friend Ed Drury.

A third 18-year-old boy Shane Frey survived.

Faith led Stacey and her family through the difficult time.

“I prayed over my children the same thing over my children that I prayed over him and, no, you don’t think you’re going to lose a child,” said Stacey, who later added, “It’s brought us closer together as a family because we love each other and we have to rely on each other. We know how short life is.”

Because of rodeo and bull riding, the Custer family has a large circle of friends.

Within that circle are smaller, tighter circles.

“I was in shock,” recalled Petersen, of the message he received from Cody early the next morning. “I couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, your son Aaron?’ There are no words that describe the pain you feel for them.”

He added, “As much love as you have for that family, you just want all the best for them.”

“Those same people have walked us through and held our hand for the last three years in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to make it through without them,” she said. “It’s not as hard today as it was two days ago, but it may be harder in a week. I don’t ever know.”

Cody said, “Aaron was a big part of our faith and our understanding and the way we related to people.”

“If you knew us in 1990 and you know us today,” he continued, “we’re a lot different people in the way we think, in the way we believe. Our faith is in the same God, but our walking it out is quite a bit different. Everything evolves into what it is.”

Like his wife, Cody has learned to keep some of it to himself.

They matured as people, as a couple, as parents and as a family.

He’s no longer “trying to convert the world,” whereas she’s always been a little less outspoken.

Stacey lost her mother when she was only 18 years old and as difficult as that it pales in comparison to having lost a child, but 32 years later she now understands why her 92-year-old grandmother still grieves.

It’s new understanding of what she went through.

Kids will be kids, but Lacey and Brett have come to understand why their parents, especially Stacey, have come to rely on the peace of mind in knowing where they are. Lacey is in college and, no, they don’t know where she is at all times, but they’ve come to appreciate her checking in.

Just the same, Stacey is not restricting Brett from riding bulls.

“Brett gets on bulls and she doesn’t question any of it,” Cody explained. “She just leaves us alone about it, she’s real good at allowing us to be who we are as bull riders. I can compartmentalize that for me, but for my kid, I have a hard time with it. She probably has the advantage over me when it comes to allowing our kid to be a bull rider."

“I’ve never once even thought about telling Brett he can’t do what he loves to do,” Stacey said. “I never did it with Cody and I won’t do it with him. I don’t want to be that one to take something away because of my fear.”

Much like Sharon Shoulders – the namesake of this award – Stacey is described by those who know her has dignified, honorable and well-respected.

She blushes at the thought of being given such an award.

And she’s so thankful that Shoulders called to give her the news. In fact, in some ways, that in and of itself means as much or more as the actual award.

To Stacey, she’s simply a wife and a mother.

According to the PBR, the Sharon Shoulders Award was conceived by former PBR CEO Randy Bernard and created in 2009 to honor the women who have made a difference in the sport of bull riding. Shoulders is recognized for her support and encouragement of her late husband Jim Shoulders, the celebrated cowboy and bull rider who was inducted as a member of the first class in the PBR Ring of Honor in 1996.

“My wife fits that,” Cody said, “plus she had to put up with a dumb-ass bull rider.”

2012 Honoree:

Jackie Dunn is the vice president of competition and administration for PBR Australia. She and her husband, 1998 PBR World Champion Troy Dunn, oversee and conduct the daily business operations of PBR Australia. The duo is also very active in campdrafting, a unique Australian sport involving a horse and rider working cattle.

In addition to her work with PBR Australia, Jackie Dunn also markets and sells Gold Buckle Bull Riding Equipment and conducts Rural Industry Training on a host property basis for indigenous Australians.

“She treats the PBR like her own business, and she goes well above and beyond her call of duty — not only for the PBR, but in all areas of her life,” Troy Dunn said. “She is definitely a worthy recipient, and the award is richly deserved.”

Jackie also works the family’s two cattle properties, Tripleview Station and Horse Creek Station, which total 2,500 acres, and assists Troy with his bull riding clinics. The Dunns have a son, Lathan, and a daughter, Tyrah.

2011

2011 Honoree:

Leanne Lambert is the wife of PBR co-founder and Livestock Director Cody Lambert. Working quietly behind the scenes of Cody’s more publicly visible life, Leanne’s warmth and constancy have made her a great friend and role model for many of the PBR’s other wives and girlfriends.

About her friend Leanne, Ty Murray's wife Jewel said, "I think that love is a living, breathing thing that you need to put attention to every day. It's something that I've seen Leanne and Cody do, and I think they've been an invaluable influence on Ty's life and certainly enriched mine. They put time into their relationship every day. They don't just take it for granted and think it's going to do OK while they both do other things. Their family is the most important thing to them, period."

2010

2010 Honoree:

Tiffany Davis, the wife of Ring of Honor member and 1995 World Champion Jerome Davis, was in the stands in Fort Worth, Texas, when Jerome was paralyzed in a fall in 1998. Friends since childhood, they married about seven months after his injury, despite attempts by Jerome to “run her off.” They have not spent a night apart since.

The two live in Archdale, N.C., where they breed and raise top-notch bucking bulls, host a variety of bull riding events at the Davis Rodeo Arena, a 5,000-seat venue they constructed just a short ride from their home, and run the Jerome Davis Bull Riding School.