LAS VEGAS – What a difference three weeks has made for Shane Proctor.
Less than a month after being blanked at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the 2011 PRCA champion bull rider has been nothing short of on fire at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, presented by Polaris RANGER.
All he’s done is ride two of the last three PRCA Bulls of the Year, win a round and cover all of his bulls en route to sitting atop the event average at the Thomas & Mack Center through five rounds of competition.
Simply put, he has been unstoppable.
“When you’re in the zone, everything just seems to work,” said Proctor, who has now qualified for the PBR and PRCA finales in the same season four times. “A lot of athletes talk about seeing the ball bigger or the hoop being bigger, and my luck has changed. When I nod my head, I’ve got confidence. Everything slows down and I know what I need to do. Luckily, it’s been working out so far.”
Only one other cowboy has covered as many as four bulls at this year’s NFR, but Proctor has been a perfect 5-for-5, vaulting from 15th in the world standings to second. Proctor has banked an event-best $99,692 through the first half of the 10-day rodeo to throw his hat into the championship bull riding ring with two-time and reigning champ Sage Kimzey.
Kimzey (3-for-5) is fourth in the event average with 251.5 points and leads the world standings with $228,951, while Proctor (5-for-5) is tops in the average at 422 points and second in the world with $179,993.
It has been a dream week for the eight-time PBR World Finals qualifier.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Proctor said. “It’s been a really special Finals for me, and I feel like I’m as relaxed as I’ve ever been. I’ve come here on fire and with a vengeance, and it’s working out right now.”
Proctor kicked things off with an 83.5-point ride aboard Leroy Brown for second place in Round 1. He then was 85.5 points on the 2014 PRCA Bull of the Year, Cross the Wyoming Line, in the second round for a fourth-place finish. He one-upped himself with an event-best 91-pointer aboard reigning PRCA Bull of the Year Midnight Bender to win the third round, then covered Anchor Man for 75.5 points and a fourth-place finish in the fourth performance.
Johnny West was next in Round 5 on Monday night, and Proctor made the whistle on the “spinner” en route to a score of 86.5 points and another second-place finish.
He was just the second cowboy to cover Midnight Bender – along with Wyatt Mecham in 2014 – and was particularly pleased by his ride aboard the massive Cross the Wyoming Line, another bull that had only been ridden once before.
“That bull’s an eliminator, that’s exactly what he is,” Proctor said of Cross the Wyoming Line. “He just doesn’t get ridden. He’s big, he’s strong, moves ahead, kicks strong and is a great animal athlete. That’s why he’d only had one ride before mine.
“I’d seen him three or four times this summer, and I thought I might have a chance since I grew up in the Northwest around big, stout bulls. I thought he might fit me well, and he did.”
The Grand Coulee, Washington, bull rider admits he felt little to no pressure to perform heading into the NFR because of his 15th-place spot in the standings. In fact, starting from the bottom actually helped him relax and adopt a go-for-broke mentality.
“I did an interview the week before I came here, and they asked me, ‘What does it mean to you to come in 15th?’” Proctor said. “I said, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, so these guys better watch out.’
“I meant it.”
After going 0-for-5 in the new building in Las Vegas at the PBR World Finals, Proctor said he took a break from riding bulls in the three weeks between the championship events.
“I didn’t get on a single bull, didn’t practice and didn’t think about it,” Proctor said. “I just rode some horses, and, for some reason, it just relaxed me. I had all the confidence in the world when I came here.
“I rode about six horses a day to do some training, and it seemed to work. It got my mind off bull riding and let my body heal up a little bit.”
The rest was crucial for the 31-year-old’s physical health.
“I feel real good,” Proctor said. “That three weeks between the PBR Finals (and NFR) really did me some good. I let my body heal, and I can recuperate fast.
“Three weeks off is like a year for me, it just rejuvenates you. So, I felt really fresh and confident in my ability when I came here.”
He was also happy to return to the Thomas & Mack Center, where he has enjoyed considerable success through the years.
“I’m really comfortable at the Thomas & Mack, and it’s like a second home to me because I’ve been here so many times,” he said. “I know I’ve got so much more experience than anybody else who’s competing here.”
Qualifying for both governing bodies’ championship finals in the same season is a big feather in Proctor’s Resistol.
“It is a big-time pride deal for me,” he said. “I want to be known as a good cowboy and not just a good bull rider, and I love rodeo. I love riding rank bulls, I love going to PBR events and riding for a lot of money and I love the old-school aspect of it all.”
Not only is he tops among bull riders in NFR earnings through five rounds, but Proctor is also in the running for the RAM Top Gun Award, which is given to the contestant who earns the most money during the 10-day event. Proctor’s $99,692 trails only saddle bronc rider Ryder Wright, who piled up $114,923 after winning the first four rounds.
Most athletes who find themselves “in the zone” work hard to avoid thinking or talking about the euphoria or any streak they may be enjoying. Proctor knows that bull riding is largely a mental challenge, and the veteran is experienced enough to stay out of his own head.
“It’s one bull at a time,” said Proctor, who has more than 1,500 outs according to ProBullStats.com. “It’s 10 days, and I’ve got five more. For me, it’s just about sticking to the basics and is just bull riding.
“I’ve been on a lot of great-caliber bulls and have been up and down the road, and I’ve been around a long time. I understand the sport a lot better than most people realize.”
Through five rounds of the NFR, that has been abundantly clear.
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