NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Michael Lane bent over outside the out gate behind the bucking chutes and went to grab his cowboy hat with his left hand.
Lane grimaced as he tried to keep his right shoulder stable following his 7.52-second buckoff on Pure Bull.
The rookie asked through his teeth, “What was my score?”
Once informed he fell just short of a qualified ride, the No. 30-seeded rider in this weekend’s Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout let out an exasperated sigh and winced again as the pain in his riding shoulder shot down his arm.
Lane is the leading candidate for a Cinderella story at Bridgestone Arena through the first two rounds of the last PBR Major of the season.
Despite going 0-for-2, the 25-year-old from North Tazewell, Virginia, is one of 12 riders, not including the eight to be determined riders competing in the Second Chance Bracket, left in the 36-rider field.
Lane has been able to grit his way into Saturday night’s Round 3 despite a significant right shoulder sprain (riding arm) and nerve damage.
“It puts a little extra into me to stay focused,” Lane said. “I don’t show up knowing I am healthy, but I tell myself that. The mind is so strong. If you can tell yourself something enough, eventually it is going to believe it. I feel like I am to that point with this shoulder.”
Lane sustained the injury attempting to ride Slash in Guymon, Oklahoma, last month at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
He is no stranger to shoulder injuries.
The 5-foot-9-inch bull rider missed a year and a half following back-to-back left shoulder surgeries starting in 2013. He missed all but two PBR events last season.
According to Lane, it is believed he has a labrum tear in his right shoulder.
It didn’t stop him from eliminating Rubens Barbosa (2.61 seconds) and 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi (3.43 seconds) on Friday night.
Lane defeated Barbosa with a 3.18-second time on Darth Vader and upset Marchi with 7.52 seconds on Pure Bull.
The performance brings back a similar memory of when Lane’s best friend Gage Gay burst onto the Built Ford Tough Series scene by eliminating three World Champions (Marchi, J.B. Mauney and Mike Lee) at the 2014 Iron Cowboy bracket event.
Lane is the only rider not ranked in the Top 20 of the world standings still alive for Round 3.
“Cinderella story?” Lane replied. “It feels cool. I try to not think about none of that. I am just riding bulls.”
Lane was thankful to move on, but was not happy with his performance.
“I was frustrated,” he said. “I am not happy winning this way. I truly ain’t. I feel like I lost tonight. I am thankful I did advance and luckily everybody else rode poorly that I was against. I didn’t ride my best. I didn’t stay on. I definitely need to pull something out (Saturday) and show them I am ready to win.”
Lane is slotted to take on Fabiano Vieira (No. 7) and will attempt to ride Rectify. The bovine athlete is 5-0 at all levels against right-handed riders.
Gay believes if Lane can stay alive in the tournament, he will get a qualified ride under his belt at some point.
“He is doing real good doing what he has to do to get to the next round,” Gay said. “He still hasn’t rode one, but he is going to ride one before the weekend is over if it goes long enough for him. He is looking good right now.”
Gay remembers how disconnected he was in 2014 at Iron Cowboy when he finished runner-up to Joao Ricardo Vieira. The then-rookie was almost obliviously to everything going on around him.
Gay finished runner-up to Joao Ricardo Vieira at the 2014 Iron Cowboy.
“I didn’t really know what was going on then,” Gay said. “There was a bunch of big lights and a lot of cameras to me at that time. I think if everything would have set in before I had to get on of where I was at and all the people and everything I probably wouldn’t have done as good.”
To prepare for Saturday night’s Round 3 and potentially another minimum of four bull rides, Lane went to Select Cryotherapy for a cryotherapy session like he did on Friday.
Select Cryotherapy was supposed to be closed on Saturday, but the company was willing to do a private session for Lane once they heard he was competing again.
“Yeah, I have been doing a lot to prevent that pain,” Lane said. “I went back there (to sports medicine) and they said we can tell it is getting worse. They are putting it my head, but I am hurt. I am just going to keep going at it with that same attitude. Don’t quit. Put everything you got every time. When you leave that bucking chute, and you nod your head, you should be all in every time. It is the most dangerous sport in the world. If you are going to do it, why not give it your best?”
The ultimate goal is to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the first time in his career.
He currently holds a 60.83-point lead on Robson Palermo, who is 35th in the world standings.
Lane’s journey has gotten that much harder with the injury, but he isn’t ready to make any excuses or complain about it.
For now, all he can do is try to rely on his mental willpower.
“I was out for almost two years,” Lane said. “I thank God every day that he gave me the strength to keep me this healthy.
“I am fighting through a little pain and going for a dream that I waited a lifetime to go for.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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