PUEBLO, Colo. – Scottie Knapp hopes to one day find the same success that eight-time PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals qualifier and 2011 PRCA bull riding champion Shane Proctor has come to have over the course of his career.
Knapp may not be a focal point on the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series like his fellow Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, presented by Polaris RANGER, competitor, but the 25-year-old is excited have qualified for the NFR for the first time in his career.
“It definitely inspires me,” Knapp said. “You see one guy do it, and L.J. (Jenkins) did it one year too, so you think if they did it, then it is possible for anybody. Why not set the goals at the highest you can?
“It is a big accomplishment. This is what I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid. Ten days in Vegas is what it is all about.”
Knapp, who has competed at the PBR’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour’s first two 2017 events, heads into the PRCA’s 10-day championship event ninth in the PRCA bull riding standings.
He is $73,891.10 behind current PRCA No. 1 bull rider Sage Kimzey.
However, with $329,576.93 – the max amount of money one rider can earn if he were to win every round (each round winner receives $26,230.77) plus the event average ($67,269.23) at the NFR – Knapp, as well as all 15 bull riding qualifiers is certainly alive in the race for a gold buckle.
No. 15 Proctor is $91,689.24 behind Kimzey.
The PRCA crowns its bull riding champion based on total money earned throughout the year, while the PBR World Champion is the rider who accumulates the most world standings points in PBR-sanctioned events.
Riders placing first through sixth per round at the NFR earn money toward the standings, as well as riders placing first through seventh in the average.
“Nah, I am not even really thinking about it,” Knapp said. “I am just riding my bulls one bull at a time.”
Knapp is coming off two good showings at the PBR RVT level. He finished 12th at last weekend’s New Town, North Dakota, event. A week earlier, he placed ninth at the Ontario, California, event.
“I just have to stay prepared,” Knapp said. “You are getting on some of the rankest bulls here. It gets me prepared for Vegas. This definitely is helping me keep my rhythm and my momentum and energy going all at the same time. These events have been really good, giving me some confidence. Just the atmosphere, the bright lights and everything is a big mental challenge. You have to prepare yourself in every aspect – physically, mentally and spiritually. It has helped a lot.”
Knapp rode Yesterday’s Wine for 88 points in Round 1 in New Town, which was Knapp’s highest-scored PBR ride since December 18, 2015 (88.5 points aboard Secret Agent).
“I felt a little stiff at first and then I loosened up and got in rhythm,” Knapp said. “He went into my hand and I kind of seen him a couple of times. I got a little behind, but I knew he might jump out of it, and I think he felt me behind and he kept going. It made me try a little harder and it worked out.
Knapp had a decent start to the 2016 PBR season, using his ride on Secret Agent to win the Topeka, Kansas, Touring Pro Division event. He then placed fourth at the Velocity Tour event in Yakima, Washington.
But then he only competed in seven additional events before focusing completely on the professional rodeo trail.
“I was doing pretty good at the beginning of the year,” Knapp said. “I was then having a little tough luck at the bull ridings, and I kind of went back to the rodeos to get a little confidence and tune up a bit. I ended up having a good season, so I just stuck with it.”
Knapp almost qualified for the 2014 PBR World Finals before he sustained two injuries against 2016 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Bruiser.
Bruiser, who also has qualified for the NFR, separated Knapp’s right shoulder during Bruiser’s BFTS debut in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Knapp then sprained his Achilles in Springfield, Missouri, a month later in his first event back from the shoulder injury with a 3.86-point buckoff against Bruiser.
Knapp could never regain his previous form, and he finished 56th in the world standings.
He hasn’t been back on the BFTS ever since.
“It is easy to get down on yourself, but it just put more fuel in my fire and kept me determined.”
Knapp plans on competing at the Dec. 17 Southaven, Mississippi, RVT event after the NFR.
The goal for 2017 is for him to join Proctor on the BFTS and qualify for the PBR World Finals and once again for the NFR.
“I definitely want to be there,” Knapp said. “God willing, be at both. That would be the ultimate goal in reality. My goal is to start off doing both, and if I am consistently riding good at both then I will consistently go to both. But if I am doing a little better at one or the other, I will just choose my path to keep my focus.
“If I can continue to excel at the PBR’s, I will stay there.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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