By: Justin Felisko
August 30, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – A red-faced Cooper Davis had just finished up an interview with Leah Garcia on CBS Sports Network following his Round 2-winning ride at the Express Employment Professionals Classic, presented by Osage Casino, when he slowly hunched over on Sunday afternoon.
The 22-year-old gingerly unzipped his riding vest and winced as he fumbled with his fingers around his right shoulder. Davis let out a deep breath, which became jagged as he was jolted with a shooting pain, shook his head and tried to regain his composure.
Davis’ chickens were scattered and he didn’t have much time to go to the PBR Sports Medicine room seeing as the Built Ford Tough Championship Round draft was minutes away.
“I landed like a sack of taters there,” Davis said. “I knew I was on the end of my arm and had to hang on as long as I could. I knew it was probably going to hurt whenever I hit the ground.”
Davis eventually made his way up to the top of the shark cage inside the BOK Center when he found enough air in his lungs to select Machinery Auctioneer’s Little Joe with the first pick of the draft.
He then hustled off the dirt and back to sports medicine where the medical staff went to work analyzing what happened to Davis’ shoulder when he was slammed to the dirt just beyond the 8-second mark by Psycho Path. Davis’ shoulder had taken the brunt of the impact, but even he didn’t think it was too bad at first glance.
Dr. Tandy Freeman eventually informed Davis he had separated his riding shoulder.
Quite frankly, there wasn’t much time to worry about that, Davis thought to himself. Therefore, he received some treatment and zippered his riding vest back up and began getting his bull rope ready for the final ride of the weekend.
Thirty minutes later it turned out the hardest part of Sunday afternoon for Davis ended being picking himself up at the end of Round 2.
Davis easily rode Little Joe for an event-winning 86.75 points, capping off a 3-for-3 performance that has the second-year pro on the cusp of taking over the world lead with eight Built Ford Tough Series events remaining until the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Nov. 2-6.
“It is something you have to block out,” Davis said. “I could feel it more toward the end then I could at the start. But the more he got me strung out, the more I could feel it. Heck, it is not the first time I have had to deal with something hurting before.”
Davis is 20.33 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco after earning 630 world points in Tulsa. Davis has won two consecutive events and picked up a massive 1,535 world points to jump from eighth to a career-best second in the world standings. He has earned 47.3 percent of his points in the last two weeks.
“It is becoming more of something that is right there in your hands’ reach and all you have to do is just keep doing what you’re doing type of deal,” Davis said about being in the thick of this year’s title race. “I don’t want to put more pressure on myself than I have in the past whether I was 35th or second, but it is a surreal deal and I just have to keep going at it the same way I am. I am not putting too much pressure on me to win that event. I am just going to let it keep happening the way it is.”
It was a year ago in Tulsa when PBR legend J.W. Hart and PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert told Davis he was “fat” and that he could reach the next level if he lost some weight.
Sure enough, the two PBR Ring of Honor inductees were correct and Davis went on to win the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals following a strict diet/workout regimen that resulted in Davis losing 24 pounds in three months.
Hart went up to congratulate Davis Sunday afternoon.
“There is certain guys you can just see it in their eyes,” Hart said. “When they go into the chute they are expecting to make the whistle. Then there are guys that get into the chute, you can see in their eyes they are hoping to make the whistle. These guys – Cooper and Lockwood, and a few of them – they expect it.”
Hart pegged Davis as his second-half dark horse candidate for the World Championship before the second half of the BFTS resumed last week in Nashville. He added that he saw that fire in Davis’ eyes early on his career, but he knew that Davis’ body was not on the same level as his mentality.
Now the mind and body are on equal playing fields and Davis is reaping the benefits.
“He has got physically in shape. He is mentally in shape and he is prepared,” Hart said. “You give him the first month of the season where he wasn’t hurt. He missed the first two events, and then he is hurt for another three or four events with his wrist trying to get ready. So he was six events behind before he was gathered up. I don’t know why he shouldn’t be the favorite at this point.”
Davis said it was in Thackerville, Oklahoma, last year where he started to feel the benefits from the early stages of his new physique. At the time, it had been three weeks after Hart and Lambert talked to him in Tulsa.
“Hart has been one of my biggest supporters, especially after I showed him a little dedication to it,” Davis said.
Davis will attempt to take over the world lead for the first time in his career at this weekend’s Winstar World Casino and Resort Invitational in Thackerville.
He has drawn Wicked for Saturday night’s 15/15 Bucking Battle, which airs on CBS national television Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. Davis is 0-4 against Wicked.
Davis confirmed on Tuesday morning he will be competing in Thackerville despite the shoulder injury. He said this week will involve plenty of ice and stretching.
“It is OK as long as I am not pulling against something,” Davis said in Tulsa. “When I went to rosin my rope there, I dang sure had to block it out for a few seconds. I didn’t know what I did. I felt funny. I can’t raise it up that high. It is just sore.”
And just like he wasn’t going to let that shoulder hold him back on Sunday, he doesn’t plan to let it get in the way in the coming weeks with a gold buckle firmly within his grasps.
“I won a Major, the Finals and a regular event now,” Davis concluded. “I guess it is time to win the whole thing.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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