By: Justin Felisko
July 14, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – If you gave Jared Allen’s Air Time a piece of chalk and placed him inside a university lecture hall – let’s be honest, he is probably too big for an elementary school – how would he go about trying to answer a math equation?
Chances are the PBR’s white spotted bovine beast would likely blow some snot out of his black nose, crush the piece of chalk with his left hoof and then plow on through the chalkboard with reckless abandon.
The good thing though is a PBR bucking bull’s IQ is not based on SAT scores or simple math equations.
Instead, in many instances, the rankest bull’s in the PBR sometimes develop a lethal intelligence that combines with brute strength, speed and agility to create a one-two punch that leaves the best bull riders in the business bruise, battered and confused.
It is why when asked about Air Time’s 23-1 record on the Built Ford Tough Series, stock contractor Matt Scarping doesn’t reference any of his bovine superstar’s physical attributes. Scharping rather point to Air Time’s ever improving mental fortitude and skillset as one of his most deadly weapons inside the arena.
“It’s his maturity and his intelligence,” Scharping said. “I think he is just getting very smart. Air Time loves the game and has developed a love for the game, but he is so competitive. When a bull realizes this is my job, this is what I do, I think it gives them a touch of arrogance. They get this attitude of, ‘I don’t have to get stressed out because I am going to whip your ass once this gate opens.’”
Scharping can sometimes adopt the mindset of an obsessive football coach and he admits he studies his bulls on video more than he probably should.
He is simply fascinated with learning how his bulls react in different scenarios.
One thing Scharping has begun to notice this year is Air Time now senses when a rider is leaning one way or the other. Air Time will sometimes take a quick dip right out of the gate to immediately catch a bull rider off-guard and get him off-balance within milliseconds.
Then, if the initial belly roll out of the bucking chute isn’t enough, Air Time will proceed to turn back opposite of a rider’s momentum.
Case and point was Air Time’s 47-point outing in Phoenix for bucking off Joao Ricardo Vieira in 2.24 seconds.
Vieira had been favoring toward the left, expecting Air Time to spin to the left when the bull sensed what his opponent was up to.
“If you really study that out, if Joao wouldn’t have got off him when he did, Air Time was going back to the right,” Scharping said. “He blew out there like he was going to go around to the left and he was fixing to go back to the right by the way Joao was going. He is just getting real smart.”
The other instance that Scharping really thinks exemplifies how smart his bull has become during his third full season on the BFTS is his 45-point outing against two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney in Des Moines, Iowa.
The out wasn’t any mind-blowing performance of athletic ability, but rather it showed Air Time’s intelligence once again.
In their previous meeting, Air Time rocked Mauney to the ground in 4.57 seconds in Charlotte with brute strength. This year, it was a little two hop-skipper that caught Mauney by surprise.
“The outs with Mauney come to mind because J.B. can test one farther than most guys do,” Scharping said. “I know he didn’t score the highest this year with that out with J.B., but it shows he is really intelligent in the fact (he thinks), ‘If he has me with this way, I am going to belly roll and jerk him to the side to get him off.’”
Three of Air Time’s 21 consecutive buckoffs on the BFTS have come against Mauney.
“That bull is smart and has a lot of roll to him,” Mauney said in Des Moines. “He just rolled me from one side and kind of whipped me down. Next jump I was on the other side and went by his head that time.”
In June, PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert compared Air Time to a bull that was no stranger Mauney.
“Air Time is kind of filling Bushwacker’s shoes right now,” Lambert said. “He is doing some amazing stuff. He has finally got to where he is not so nervous inside the chute. He stands there and gets out clean. The only knock on him before was he either hurt himself in the chute or he couldn’t get out clean. Now, he is seasoned just enough that I see big things out of him and it is going to take one of those great riders to ride him, and when they do it will be something very special.”
Air Time is also now halfway toward tying Bushwacker’s PBR record for consecutive buckoffs on the BFTS (42). Riders are currently lasting only 3.03 seconds on Air Time during the consecutive buckoff streak. Nine of the 21 buckoffs were against World Champions.
Air Time still will likely need three more seasons to close in on the mark, but Scharping said the record is the least thing on his mind right now.
“I am honored and humbled that they put him in the same category as Bushwacker, but he is who he is and we are going to take care of him for who he is to make sure he is ready and prepared to do his thing and make the most of his time in his career,” Scharping said.
Air Time is 6-0 on the BFTS this season with an average bull score of 45.83 points. He also bucked off Cooper Davis at the Decatur, Texas, BlueDEF Tour event in 2.58 seconds.
Scharping’s preparation now is focused on getting two more strong outs under Air Time’s belt in Nashville on Aug. 19-20 and Charlotte on Sept. 16-17 with the goal of securing him a spot as one of the top seven World Champion Bull qualifiers.
Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team can then determine how much rest to give Air Time before the start of the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-7.
“Our main goal right now is to have him healthy and ready to go for Nashville,” Scharping said. “I know what I have slated and what I need to do. He is at six (outs) and he needs two more, so that is Nashville and Charlotte. If I feel like we need another, we will go to Nampa (Idaho).
“Let’s get him in position to where he needs to be going into the Finals. I want to make sure I do my homework and make sure I have the right things done for him to make him feel the best he can going into the Finals.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Throughout the month of July, PBR.com, and the PBR’s social media channels, will be featuring a variety of bulls in the race for the 2016 World Championship, as well as some of the other rankest bovines in the business.
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