LAS VEGAS – Cody Webster may be just 23 years old, but the Oklahoma bullfighter is a focused cowboy who is wise beyond his years.
The Wayne, Oklahoma, native is busy working his third career Wrangler National Finals Rodeo less than two months after protecting bull riders at his second consecutive PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals.
This is the second year in a row the young gun has pulled double duty at the pair of Las Vegas-based events, and Webster is having the time of his life.
He’s come a long way from the day he was an 11-year-old scrawny kid who showed up on the doorstep of neighbor “Fearsome” Frank Newsom with a dream of being a pro bullfighter, and now Webster is the one inspiring youngsters.
Webster – who won the Rex Dunn Freestyle Bullfighting World Championship in 2009 at the age of 17 – was in good spirits during this week’s NFR at the Thomas & Mack Center and talked at length about what makes him “tick,” why he loves what he does and what he wants to do when his days in rodeo are done.
How are the PBR World Finals and the Wrangler NFR similar, and how are they different?
CW: They’re similar because in my event, they’re both bull riding, but there’s really no comparing them in my books. The NFR is the Super Bowl of rodeo, and the PBR World Finals is the Super Bowl of bull riding. They’re two totally separate events and are different ballgames, and I’m blessed enough to be able to get to be in the middle of both of them. To get to work not just one, but both in the same year, very few people have done that, and it’s a total blessing. It’s the best of both worlds, and I’m just here in the middle of it smiling from ear to ear.
Is it a goal of yours every January to be selected to work both events, and will you get much time off after the NFR?
CW: Oh, most definitely. When I get done here, I’ll have the rest of December off and then when January rolls around, I’ll be working the whole month. I’ve got the PBR BlueDEF Tour events, then I’ll hit San (Antonio) and Houston and go back to the BlueDEF events.
Q: How many events have you worked in 2015, and how are you holding up physically?
CW: I think I’m going to be at about 160 performances this year. That’s a lot, and I’ve sure felt it this year. My body is getting tired and beat up, so when we get done (in Vegas), I’m going to go home and get a bunch of cow work and just kind of relax, heal up and get ready for the new year.
I’ve got a torn MCL and torn meniscus in my right knee. That only happened about 3-and-a-half weeks ago, and most guys would be still on crutches or whatever. I think that’s the difference in our industry than a lot of other sports. Will Lowe is riding with a broken ankle right now, and most of the time when a guy sprains his ankle in the NFL, he’s done for the month. It’s pretty crazy what your body can get used to if you don’t mind it.
Do you have any plans to have surgery to repair the tears?
CW: We’re going to talk to Dr. Tandy Freeman at the end of the week and see where we are. The MCL, it will scar up and heal, and with the meniscus, we’ll just gauge it and see how it goes. If it doesn’t bother me too bad, we’ll let it be, and if does, then we’ll go in, get it scoped and be back in a couple weeks.
You were the youngest bullfighter ever to work the NFR two years ago and tied Newsom as the youngest to work a PBR World Finals. How proud are you of those accomplishments?
CW: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s pretty crazy. I still think of myself as a small-town kid at home and just as Cody Webster, and being out here going to autograph signings for my great sponsors and having kids coming up who are star-struck is weird. I don’t really think of myself as that. I want to just keep myself grounded and let my work speak for itself.
Has it sunk in yet that this is your fifth big-time Finals in Las Vegas and you’re only 23?
CW: It’s crazy, it really is. It just seems like yesterday I was going in for my first NFR, and here we are at my third. Does it seem like three years have gone by? No. It seems like it’s been three months. The neat thing is, when January rolls around, you’re the guy who worked the NFR, but those bulls don’t care. You’ve got to get back to doing your job, proving yourself and trying to be the best you can be every day.
What’s the most fulfilling part of being a bullfighter for you? Is it making a big save to help the bull riders stay healthy and get to the next event?
CW: That’s an often-asked question. I just enjoy being a bullfighter, and I love being around the Western lifestyle. Getting to be a bullfighter and chase my dream is very fulfilling, but at the same time, I want to be real successful. I don’t want to rodeo all these years and then, when I get done, not have anything. So, I’m trying to make some wise decisions while getting my ranch and getting my cows running. Basically, I just want to be successful in whatever I do.
Do you feel like you’re getting better every year?
CW: Oh, definitely. There comes a time when people get comfortable and just try to get by and are happy with where they are. That’s the difference from being around Frank and guys like that. Dusty Tuckness and I, we’ve got our eye on the prize, and I want to be remembered as one of the greatest bullfighters ever to put on a pair of cleats. You don’t get that by just safetying up and getting by.
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