By: Justin Felisko
October 18, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo.— Cooper Davis’ mind was racing when he walked out of JQH Arena in Springfield, Missouri, on Sept. 9 and headed back toward his hotel room to pack up his things.
Davis had no intentions of watching the final two days of competition and was already booking his flight to Dallas so he could meet first thing that Monday morning to go over X-rays of his right shoulder.
Dr. Tandy Freeman was pretty confident Davis had a clavicle fracture, but he couldn’t be 100 percent sure what the injury was or what the next steps were until he saw the X-ray.
Therefore, Davis – then the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings – was left stewing over what his future held.
By the time his head hit the pillow that same night, Kaique Pacheco had already retaken the world lead by winning Round 2 in Springfield.
At that point, it looked all but over.
“After I left Springfield, I wasn’t even sure if I could make it to the Finals or not,” Davis said Sunday following his victory in San Jose, California. “I asked Tandy what the worst possible situation was. He said I may or may not be back for the Finals. I had two or three days to sit there and ponder whether I would even be back for the Finals.
“To be back in two weeks was pretty great.”
Davis underwent surgery on Sept 14. He returned to competition in 17 days. He has now regained the world No. 1 ranking in only 32 days since Freeman used a steel plate and three screws to fix Davis’ clavicle.
The 22-year-old earned 620 points in San Jose by winning the 15/15 Bucking Battle with an 89.5-point ride on Big Cat and by riding Beaver Creek Beau for 89.75 points to cap his 3-for-3 victory in the regularly-formatted Built Ford Tough Series event.
The two rides are his two highest-scored rides on the Built Ford Tough Series this year outside of covering Crossfire for 91.5 points in March.
“To come back 17 days after surgery is pretty crazy and pretty honorable for anybody to be able to do that,” Cooper’s wife, Kaitlyn said.
“I am so proud. It makes me want to cry. He used to watch the PBR when he was Mackston’s age. He would come to all of these events. He used to tell his parents I want to be a World Champion.”
Cooper made a beeline dive for Kaitlyn and Mackston, the couple’s son – who was a fan favorite at the 2015 World Finals press conferences – in the moments after his victory on Sunday afternoon at the SAP Center.
Cooper kissed his wife quickly on the lips, gave his son a pat and kiss on the forehead and then rushed over to do a series of interviews.
Kaitlyn watched on, beaming with joy, while Mack had a blast running around the arena dirt.
It wasn’t too long ago when she was there with Cooper in Springfield, and then Dallas at Freeman’s office, as the second-year pro dealt with the fears of his World Championship aspirations slipping away into the unknown.
“He was really upset because I feel like he had put in all of this work to get to No. 1, which was a major goal, and then having a setback.”
Cooper said he couldn’t have fought his way back to the top in such a quick period without the support of his wife.
“She is dang sure a blessing,” Cooper said. “I would get down about it and she would say something to pick me right back up. Heck, it would be pretty hard to do this by myself. She just kept telling me whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen.
Basically, I would get down and she would say, ‘Heck, don’t get down about it because you may be back in two weeks, and if you do miss the Finals, you are still young enough to come back and you have plenty of years left to win a world title.”
Kaitlyn was right.
Cooper missed only two events and has gone 8-for-11 since his surgery to climb his way back atop the world standings heading into the regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona – the Cooper Tires Take the Money and Ride, presented by the Ak-Chin Indian Community.
He remembers the relief he felt following his first ride back in Eugene, Oregon, when he rode Crazy Days for 84.25 points.
“Going to Eugene I expected to have a little bit of pain and it felt great like nothing ever happened,” Cooper said. “After that, I wiped my mind clean and got back to riding bulls and quit worrying about everything. It was more being unsure of the strength that is in it. It really didn’t take long for it to show there was no pain at all and it was as strong as it was before.”
He is nine bulls away from potentially making his childhood dreams come true in Las Vegas on Nov. 6.
“Whenever you have this buckle that he calls it, the last one to win, and you have that in your mind, nothing can stop you,” Kaitlyn said. “When you have the drive and the mental capability, anything is possible.”
Cooper rode all four of his bulls in San Jose. It is his first event with four rides since winning the 2015 World Finals event title.
Robson Palermo is the only rider to win the World Finals in back-to-back seasons.
If Davis can become the second, he may just walk away as the 2016 World Champion as well.
“When you get to the Finals everything is going to buck,” Cooper concluded. “Last year at the Finals, I had to ride some really good bulls to get past them. To have that much confidence going into it this year, even more than I had last year, I am just stoked.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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