PUEBLO, Colo. – When Reese Cates and Chase Outlaw were kids growing up in Southern Arkansas, the two aspiring bull riders would wait for Outlaw’s dad to go to work before they headed outside.
They then would water-down some gasoline and pour it into the dirt, light it on fire (which was clearly not the safest of decisions) and pretend that they were being introduced at a PBR event.
The two then climbed aboard a bucking barrel and took turns trying to aggressively buck each other off.
Fast forward to nearly 15 years later, and Cates and Outlaw are now walking through the PBR ring of fire on a weekly basis on the organization’s marque circuit as Top-5 bull riders in the world.
“Oh yeah, it’s freaking awesome,” Outlaw said this past weekend following his best friend’s second BFTS victory of 2015. “It is what we both dreamed of since being little kids watching it together. Now, we are here living the dream and having a damn good time at it.”
Outlaw slapped Cates on the back and offered his congratulations just before the 26-year-old headed to the shark cage to receive the belt buckle for winning the Sacramento Invitational on Saturday night at Sleep Train Arena.
Cates took home the event title by going 2-for-3 and earning 455 event points, which carries over to the world standings.
Just before he attempted to ride Percolator in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, Outlaw was right on the bucking chute pulling Cates’ bull rope.
“I knew whenever I was getting on that bull in the short round, I knew who was going to be pulling my rope and vice versa,” Cates, who was bucked off in 4.35 seconds, said. “If he was getting on that bull in the short round for the win, he knew who was going to be there supporting him.”
Cates rode Imagine That for 86 points in the first round and then Earl Sports for 87.5 points in the second round at Sleep Train Arena.
The first month of the season has been a whirlwind for Cates. He won the season-opener in Baltimore after getting into the draw with the first of his three injury exemptions after undergoing right shoulder surgery last year, and he has used a 50 percent riding average to go along with those two wins to soar to the No. 3 ranking in the world.
Yet, what truly has been one of the special moments this season came two weeks ago in Oklahoma City during pre-event introductions. At the time of the event, Cates and Outlaw were both ranked inside the Top 5 of the world standings and were introduced on the top of the bucking chutes together.
In that moment, it all began to sink in for Cates.
“I hate to sound too cheesy, but it was a pretty emotional moment because we have been dreaming about this our whole lives,” Cates said. “Whenever I was at the top at the beginning of my career, Chase was too young to be here. Then whenever he stepped on the tour, I have been dealing with injuries. Now it seems like we both have things going in our favor and the sky is the limit.”
Cates is three-and-half years older than Outlaw and still laughs when talking about the first time he met Outlaw as kid. Outlaw was 3 years old and Cates’ mother told him that he was going to run into a little boy that he “couldn’t beat up.”
“I had to put up with him for three months before I finally got him away from anybody until I had an opportunity to kind of scold him,” Cates recalled. “Chase and I have fought each other more than we could ever fight anybody else and now we can get along so well and we got each other’s backs.”
Outlaw is currently ranked fifth in the world standings following his 0-for-2 showing in Sacramento, but he is still off to the best start in his career. The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider is 8-for-15 (53.33 percent) on the BFTS and won the Built Ford Tough Championship Round of the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden with a 90.75-point ride on Crack The Whip.
Cates credits Outlaw for keeping him motivated these past couple seasons when he was trying to overcome the mountain of injuries that were hampering his success as a bull rider.
“Whenever you go through injuries and you face adversity, a lot of times you need somebody to help believe in you, help motivate you and help keep you going. Chase and I, a lot of times we talk about stuff on the mental side of bull riding, but also especially on the physical side – little things we can both do better to ride better.
“Seeing him do well has motivated me more than anything he can say to me. It is a blessing to have somebody that close to you and see them succeed. It gives you the determination to keep going and the fact that they still believe in you and support you, you can’t replace that in your life.”
Outlaw said the motivation works both ways.
“Seeing Reese win makes me want to go win next week in Anaheim,” Outlaw said.
Most of all, their friendship will continue outside of the arena for years to come.
“Bull riding is a big part of both of our lives, but we were like brothers before bull riding and we will be like brothers after bull riding,” Cates said. “It is just pretty cool that we are both doing something we love at this level right now.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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