2008 NFR Events Recap: Bareback Riding

Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
Image placeholder title

Justin McDaniel was becoming the king of runner-up finishes during the 10 rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Five times, the young Oklahoma bareback rider had the second place ride in the round. He was close, getting edged out by a half-point by Kelly Timberman in the fourth round and again by a scant half-point by two-time world champion Bobby Mote in round nine for a go-round buckle.

And McDaniel was O.K. with it.

"I came for one buckle," he explained.

McDaniel got a bonus. He left with two. Combining consistency with quality, McDaniel slowly climbed the world standings and finished just where he wanted: As the 2008 world champion.

"I've been dreaming about this my whole life," said the 22-year-old McDaniel, who is from Porum, Okla.

Along with the gold buckle, McDaniel earned the NFR average buckle, the second-most coveted buckle in professional rodeo.

"I wasn't trying to play it safe," McDaniel said. "I try to win every time I nod my head."

McDaniel shattered the NFR average record, going 859 points-averaging almost 86 points a ride-on 10 consecutive bucking horses. The previous record was 846, set by Will Lowe, of Canyon, Texas in 2007. Plus, he pocketed a healthy $126,292 in Las Vegas and was just shy of Lowe's NFR earnings record of $128,302, set in 2006.

McDaniel clinched the world and average titles with a nice 85-point ride aboard Star Burst of Kesler Rodeo.

"I knew I had to win the average to be a player in this," he said of the gold buckle chase. "You've just got to stay on your game and hope it works out for the best."

The average victory, which paid $42,998, allowed McDaniel to vault past Steven Dent, of Mullen, Neb., and Mote in the world standings. With $216,967 for 2008, McDaniel won his world title by $6,200 over Dent and $11,400 over Mote. Mote dominated the race until a questionable mark-out call in the eighth round put him out of the average race-essentially robbing him of his world title hopes.

"I traveled with Bobby some this year," McDaniel said. "I really learned a lot from him. I just wanted to start the NFR strong and jump out with some good rides. The Lord blessed me with some good horses all week."

McDaniel's ascent to rodeo stardom began in a dorm room at Vernon College in Wichita Falls, Texas. It was there that he and roommate Isaac Diaz would write down their rodeo goals for the month and for the year on a board that hung on the wall.

"We said we wanted to make the NFR, and we both did last year," said McDaniel. He finished third in the 2007 world standings. "The other was to win a world title. We talked about it coming down to the 10th round to win a world championship. It gave out chills."

He showed a glimpse of his promising future with an NFR-record 91.5 point ride on J Bar J Ranch's Delta Ship in the third round of the 2007 NFR. In fact, McDaniel came within a hair's breadth of winning the world last year. The score was matched twice by Mote during this year's NFR.

McDaniel helped himself this year by winning rodeo titles at five different rodeos, including Salinas, Calif., and the Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco. A good winter-he briefly led the world standings-was met by a painfully dry summer. "It was an up- and-down year," McDaniel said.

Prior to the NFR, he and Tilden Hooper went to Hooper's home town of Carthage, Texas, where stock contractor Scotty Lovelace allowed them to ride a couple of bareback horses to tune up their riding. One of the horses was Centennial, who is now retired.

"That really boosted my confidence a bunch," McDaniel said.

McDaniel carried that confidence to Las Vegas where he opened his second NFR with a nice 86-point ride for a third place. He also placed fifth in the second round. McDaniel would go on to earn a check in eight of 10 rounds.

"I knew coming in, I was kind of back," he said. "So I just wanted to be consistent all 10 rounds. I tried to pattern myself after Ty Murray, he was my biggest hero because he was the mentally toughest guy out there. I never really looked at the standings, but I knew I was getting close. I just had to keep nodding my head and riding my horses."

Dent had led the world bareback standings for most of the regular season after winning more than $50,000 at RodeoHouston. Mote became the new standings leader after winning the seventh round.

McDaniel leap-frogged them both on the final day of the NFR.

"I'm on cloud 9 right now," McDaniel said. "I'm sure this is going to change my life."