LAS VEGAS – There is a grin as broad as Texas on Matt Bright’s face, and it’s adding to the City of Lights.
Bright, a 29-year-old bareback rider from Azle, Texas, has placed in back-to-back go-rounds at the Wrangler National finals Rodeo. Now in his third qualification to ProRodeo’s grand finale, the Tennessee-born cowboy has doubled the number of rounds in which he has placed – he earned checks in just one round in each previous season, 2010 and 2011.
“I’m just ready to keep things rolling,” said Bright, who attended the University of Tennessee-Martin on a rodeo scholarship. “I’m having a ball out here this year. I’m finally having a good time at the NFR.”
It helps to be riding as well, which Bright is. It also helps to have drawn a solid horse, since half the score on the 100-point scale depends on the animal. On Sunday night, Bright matched moves with Cervi Championship Rodeo’s Vitalix Hell’s Fire Hostage for 84.5 points to finish in a tie for fifth place in the fourth go-round. That earned the Texas cowboy a check worth $3,828 and pushed his NFR earnings to $11,583; he has earned $76,062 so far this season.
“I wasn’t familiar with that horse,” he said. “Heath Ford, our bareback riding director, told me it was just an electric, fun horse. Heath just said, ‘Let ’em fly, show off and have some fun,’ so that was the game plan.
“I was tickled to have a good horse and have some fun. This was our fun pen of horses, so I was stoked about it.”
And he’s showing the world. With family in Las Vegas for the NFR, he has that support, as well as that of others who haven’t made the trek to the Nevada desert.
“My family’s really been supporting me, and I’ve got a lot of people from back home, from college, from in Texas that are reaching out to me,” Bright said. “Everybody’s been calling, texting, sending me Facebook messages.
“It’s just awesome to have that kind of support. It makes you want to ride that much better when you’ve got those people behind you and rooting for you.”
Now he just needs to keep giving them something to cheer about.