By: Justin Felisko
December 19, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – In between his two back-to-back shoulder surgeries last year, 2016 Velocity Tour champion Chase Outlaw had to find some ways to pay the bills.
Outlaw had to work some long hours mixing concrete and doing construction in southern Arkansas during his six-month recovery from his second reconstructive surgery last November and, while thankful for the job, he is hopeful he can stick to bull riding in the near future.
It is one reason why when Outlaw sat down for a CBS Sports Network production meeting before the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals that the 24-year-old looked down at his World Finals qualification ring with a sense of pride.
Outlaw, who finished seventh in Las Vegas this past November, had qualified for a fifth consecutive World Finals despite having only been able to compete less than half (21) of the BFTS events in the past two seasons.
“It ain’t that big one like J.B. (Mauney) wears, but we will get that one day,” Outlaw said. “Not too many people have one like this. I like to wear it.”
Outlaw concluded 2016 14th in the world standings despite missing the first six months of the season because of shoulder surgery.
The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider was one of the hottest riders in the final two months of the season — going 11-for-21 – and won Round 1 of the Finals with an 89.5-point ride on Air Marshall.
1997 World Champion Michael Gaffney was no stranger to shoulder surgeries during his Ring of Honor career.
Gaffney dealt with shoulder issues from 1994-1997 and once he won the world title he went under the knife in the spring of 1998.
The New Mexico native watched Outlaw’s first-round winning ride in person at T-Mobile Arena and has been impressed by the gritty Arkansas cowboy.
“Well, hearing the rumors about him being hurt. He had to recover from those shoulder surgeries,” Gaffney said. “My hat is off to him. That is a lot to deal with mentally and physically. I can kind of relate to that.
“Coming here last night and watching him win the perf – these guys. It is great to see the determination they have and the true grit. Speaking of the old claw, there is another one. Truly. He kind of fits that mold. For an old guy like me, it is great to see.”
Outlaw made his 2017 debut this past weekend at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event. He was bucked off by 98 in 4.88 seconds.
Outlaw yelled at himself briefly on his way to the locker room, but he said in Las Vegas that he knows he can’t let a buckoff fester at him.
“I’m pretty good about forgetting,” Outlaw said. “I will cuss myself and then I will get back there, sit down and soak on it for a minute. Once I put my stuff in the bag, then I know it is all over.”
Still, when he hears a rider of Gaffney’s caliber commend him, well, that only fuels his confidence for this coming year.
“It definitely pumps your chest up a little bit because they don’t have to say (anything) about you,” Outlaw said. “When they do, it is kind of badass.”
Outlaw still remembers being an 11-year-old aspiring bull rider in southern Arkansas when Gaffney made history aboard Little Yellow Jacket for a record-tying 96.5 points in Nampa, Idaho, in 2004.
“When he rode Yellow Jacket – that ride right there stands out in my mind,” Outlaw said. “When you think of Gaffney, you think of that ride.”
“Man, I liked how calm, cool and collected he was about it. He was sort of quieter and what not. Then he would get out there and style them out. Man, he would make them look pretty.”
Southaven is the earliest event Outlaw has been able to compete in since competing in November 2015 Velocity Tour events.
Outlaw wants to achieve what Gaffney and J.B. Mauney already have done, and that is to one day be a PBR World Champion.
Expectations will be high for Outlaw in 2017, especially if he can stay healthy for the entire season.
He won nine PBR events at all levels of competition, including the Velocity Tour Finals and the BFTS regular-season finale in Tucson, Arizona.
Outlaw may be poised for a breakout season, and he is certainly ready to get geared up for the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden on Jan. 6-8.
“Every time you have to make it count,” he said. “Because you never know when you will be out for six months. (Having surgery) made me go back home and think about why I was really riding bulls and why I love riding bulls. Not just that I was good enough to be on the PBR. I would just show up and get some rode. I had to tell myself again why I was here in the first place.”
And the answer was?
“I have the best job in the freaking world,” Outlaw said. “It won’t last forever, so I have to make it count when I can.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.