Justin McBride has figured out a way to play his game at The American, the richest one-day rodeo in the world scheduled for March 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
McBride, the two-time world champion on the Professional Bull Riders tour, has accepted the exemption to be in the bull riding field at The American.
“The American gives me the opportunity to compete for $2 million against the best guys in the sport,” he said in release issued Wednesday. “It’s just a one day event, so I can continue to spend time with my family and work on my music career while returning to the arena to experience the thrill of competing.”
McBride experienced the competitive thrill last weekend while riding bulls at the first qualifier for The American, which took place in conjunction with the Professional Roughstock Series’ Midwest Classic in Salina, Kan. He also was in the 15-man field for the Midwest Classic. McBride scored a pair of 71s on his two rides last Saturday.
Maybe that’s why he’s decided to stick to bull riding. Though he’s just 34 years old, he hadn’t been on a bareback horse in competition since 1998. That’s 15 years between rides with the rigging.
Still, with a bull rope, McBride will be a powerful force inside the stadium that serves as home to the Dallas Cowboys.
“For me, Justin’s return to bull riding is another element that makes The American a must-see event,” Ty Murray, a rodeo legend and PBR co-founder, said in the release. “This is a legend that retired in his prime, and I’m not going to miss the chance to see how much gas he has left in the tank.”
McBride is the second cowboy to accept the exemption, joining saddle bronc riding world champion Dan Mortensen; the biggest difference between the two is Mortensen owns seven gold buckles but is 10 years older.
“When Justin retired, he was the best bull rider in the PBR,” said Cody Lambert, another PBR co-founder. “I really think he has a legitimate chance to win it.”
I don’t know whether McBride will continue to try to qualify for The American in bareback riding, and I haven’t been afforded the opportunity to find out from him. I hope he does. I think his attempt at chasing that elusive qualification is great for rodeo, and I’d love to see him continue to take that challenge head-on.
For now, though, I wish him the best as he prepares for his comeback to bull riding. It should be fun to watch.