By: Justin Felisko
December 14, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – It took him a week longer to make his 2017 season debut than he anticipated, but Cody Campbell couldn’t have asked for a better start following this past weekend’s Biloxi, Mississippi, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event.
Campbell went 2-for-2 to tie with 2004 World Champion Mike Lee for the event victory, but, more importantly, the 29-year-old earned an ever-so-important Built Ford Tough Series exemption for the Anaheim, California, event on Feb. 3-4.
“Yeah, that is great to know I got one to go to,” Campbell said. “Hopefully, I will keep rolling the next couple of weeks and can get a few more.”
Campbell earned 65 points toward the world standings in Biloxi and next heads to Southaven, Mississippi, for the final Velocity Tour event before the holiday season on Saturday night (7 p.m. CT; Landers Center).
Other top riders scheduled to tentatively compete in Southaven include Lee, three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, 2016 Velocity Tour Champion Chase Outlaw, 2015 Velocity Tour Champion Gage Gay, 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco, 2014 Rookie of the Year J.W. Harris, Matt Triplett and Fabiano Vieira.
It will be another chance to pick up another exemption, or potentially more points toward the world standings, as Campbell looks to make a full-time return to the BFTS for the first time since being cut in 2012 following the first five events.
Campbell had originally planned on making his Velocity debut three weeks ago in Hidalgo, Texas, but the Summerville, Oregon, bull rider wound up missing his flight because a miscommunication between him and the airline.
“That would be awesome to get another win under my belt next week,” Campbell said. “I was supposed to go Hidalgo and I had some flight issues. They sent me a notification saying my flight was delayed an hour. Then 30 minutes away from the airport they said it was back on time and I just missed it. They refunded my flight at least.”
The BFTS is not foreign territory to Campbell. He qualified for the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals for three consecutive seasons (2009-2011), but was cut from the BFTS in 2012.
Campbell then decided to take a break from the PBR grind and make his childhood dream of riding at the National Finals Rodeo a reality. He had his best year of his professional career in 2013, riding 45.9 percent of his bulls, according to Probullstats, and qualifying for the NFR.
“I always loved the PBR and dedicated my first large number of my career to the PBR,” Campbell explained. “I just wanted a change of pace, and I wanted to go to the NFR. That is the crown jewel of rodeoing. Growing up, you dream about going to the NFR and the PBR Finals. Those are the things you want to accomplish. I wanted to take a little break and try to do that.
“I accomplished that so now I am going back to these events and hopefully get back on tour and make it happen.”
Campbell only qualified for the NFR that one season before back-to-back surgeries and injuries in 2014 & 2015 derailed his performance.
“The last few years, I had a couple of surgeries,” he said. “Ankle one year and lower leg and ankle the next year. It just feels great to feel healthy and riding again and feeling good.”
Lee said Campbell has the talent to return to the BFTS in 2016.
“Cody has rode good for years,” Lee said. “He should be on tour. He has had struggles with staying healthy, but he has been an awesome bull rider for as long as I could remember.”
Like every bull rider, Campbell understands his health will be key in 2017.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “It just gives you that much confidence because in this game confidence is everything. If you have that little bit more of confidence knowing you are going in there feeling good and not battling injuries. You have to overcome those injuries in this sport or you are not going to make it. To have that extra boost of confidence knowing you are feeling good and riding good is everything in the world.”
Campbell finished last season 50th in the world standings after going 27-for-70 in 40 events at all levels of competition. He did win the Albany, New York, Velocity event to qualify for the Nampa, Idaho, BFTS event, but he was unable to climb his way from the bottom of the world standings.
Therefore, his victory in his first 2017 event is a big one. Campbell won four other Touring Pro Division events in 2016 but still couldn’t get back onto the BFTS.
He is well aware how hard it is to make your way onto the BFTS the farther the season progresses, so to get a headstart on the competition, as well as the exemption, is advantageous.
“It definitely is,” Campbell said. “Getting a couple of wins during the winter time. After the first five events of the Built Ford Tough, you are still in the hunt for points and being in the Top 35. It is that much better to have them (wins) early in the season rather than later on.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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