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BY BRYAN TITMAN

It all started when I was younger, and my parents would take me to rodeos so I could watch the bull-riding events.

Every day I would come home from school, watch old bull-riding tapes of my father’s and make my little brother get on all fours on the living room floor so I could hop on his back and act like the bull riders I had seen on TV. Sometimes I would even tell him to buck harder because it was too easy and I wanted to get on “the buckers.”

I’ve always chased after those 90-point rides.

Fast forward to two years ago in 2013, when I planned to start competing at Professional Bull Riders (PBR) events but I broke my pelvis and 85 percent of my right hip. At that point, I was told I wouldn’t be able to climb back on a bull for at least a year and a half.

I cut that down to only six months. I couldn’t sit still, and my hunger to win drove me harder. After a couple of tries in a practice pen and some small Texas rodeos to get my confidence back, I was finally ready to compete for a spot on the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) — he highest level of bull riding. Last summer I was able to enter in my first Touring Pro Division event, which is the minor league of the BFTS. I actually won the Brent Thurman Memorial event in Dripping Springs, Texas. That reminded me why I had worked so hard to get back from the injury.

Thankfully, I am living my bull riding dream. What I’ve wanted since I was a little fella, what I hoped to do all my life, is climb into those chutes and nod my head against the best bulls around, alongside the best bull riders in the world — including guys I have always looked up to — week in and week out.

In February, I began doing just that. It’s been an awesome year for me so far because competing on the BFTS is unlike anything else. I’m not sure it has even completely sunk in yet.

I am honored to be in the race for Rookie of the Year, yet I feel immense pressure. I must prove that I have the skill to ride the best bulls that the PBR has to offer. When I went to my first BFTS event in Sacramento, Calif., earlier this season, it felt as if I were at home in the practice pen. I was able to block everything out, including my nerves and the pressure.

But reality set in two weeks ago. My nerves finally showed up and started getting the best of me. I hit a rough patch, not being able to perform to the best of my ability. In order for me to stay on tour I need to start making the 8-second whistle more often.

I’ve started to work out a lot more at home, getting on practice bulls and focusing on additional cardio. When people think of PBR bull riders, they don’t always classify us as athletes, but we truly are. There is just as much time and preparation that goes into this sport as any other. We hit the gym, try to eat right, and do anything it takes to make sure we’re in the best shape possible to take on our 1,500 to 2,000-pound opponents.

I realize I have to start focusing more on the job at hand instead of the bright lights. It’s easy to get sidetracked at this level and let those distractions get the best of you. There is so much more going on outside of just riding bulls, from the media to the cameras, from the lights to the roar of the crowds. Any of it can quickly take your focus off of what you are here to do. Plain and simple, we show up each weekend to ride bulls.

I’m going to have clear my head of all distractions. Oddly enough, that includes myself. When you get into a slump, it can be easy to let the negativity and doubt take over and get into your head. Once you’re in the chute though, you have to let it all go. It’s a new bull, a new opportunity. This sport is so much about reacting in the moment. You can’t overthink things. You have to allow your body to do what you’ve trained it to do and ride bulls jump for jump.

I’m really excited about going into Seattle this weekend. Some of the veteran riders told me that Washington fans tend to be louder than most other places we go and that they really get into the action. As a rider, we feed off the energy in each arena, and there’s nothing like the overwhelming cheers and reactions from our fans to make us want to get after those 90-point rides.

This is where I belong. I know that being on the BFTS was God’s plan for me. It may not have happened as quickly as I would have liked, but I know that God has perfect timing! My moto going into this weekend is simple: “Set some goals, then demolish them”. I have set big goals for myself this weekend in hopes that I can overcome my buckoff streak and show Seattle who I really am.

Bryan Titman, a 26-year-old Professional Bull Riders (PBR) rookie, is a native of East Bernard, Texas. He will compete in the Built Ford Tough Series Seattle Invitational at KeyArena on Friday and Saturday.

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