By: Justin Felisko
January 26, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – While there will sure be some uncertainty and nerves for Koal Livingston when he arrives at the Golden 1 Center for this weekend’s Frontier Communications Sacramento Clash, the 18-year-old at least knows he has a bull to get on.
When Livingston made the decision last month to drive 10 hours from his home in Burleson, Texas, to Biloxi, Mississippi, for the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event, the first alternate was unsure if he would be able to ride at the event.
Luckily for him, Brandon Davis dropped out of Biloxi, giving Livingston an opportunity to compete a week after tying for the Velocity Tour victory in Hidalgo, Texas.
“When I found out I was first alternate (for Biloxi), I decided I was going to come,” Livingston said in December. “We drove all the way out here and I didn’t find out I had a bull until 10:30 that morning. I was just going to tough it out if I didn’t get one.
“I dang sure didn’t want to miss a chance if I had a spot.”
Livingston made the most of his opportunity by winning Round 1 in Biloxi with 87 points on Western Moments and finishing third overall.
A week earlier, Livingston had gone 3-for-3 to tie with Kaique Pacheco for the event victory in Hidalgo, Texas, to earn a Built Ford Tough Series exemption for this weekend’s Sacramento Clash.
Friday will be Livingston’s BFTS debut.
“Man, it is great,” he said. “This just gives me more fuel to put in the fire. Keep on coming and winning. This year I am just focusing on PBR and trying to get on tour.”
Livingston has only competed in 15 PBR events since getting his PBR card last May when he turned 18 years old.
He is 5-for-11 (45.45 percent) on the Velocity Tour and is 24th in the world standings.
Livingston takes on Whiskey Trip (0-0, BFTS) in Round 1.
2017 is the teenager’s first full year of competing at PBR events after competing in amateur bull ridings during his high school career.
Livingston began riding calves when he was 4 years old.
His father, Nathan, introduced him to the sport. Nathan Livingston was a bull rider turned barrel man.
“He definitely helped me out riding bulls,” Koal said.
Koal also has three brothers, including his younger brother, Kane – a 17-year-old aspiring bull fighter.
As a freshman in high school, Koal won the North Texas High School Rodeo Association championship before competing solely at amateur bull riding events since he was 16.
2004 World Champion Mike Lee observed Livingston cut his teeth at the Velocity Tour level in November and December.
Lee liked what he saw and thinks the PBR may have another rider ready to compete for a BFTS draw spot.
Livingston used an 88-point ride on Slick Rick to clinch the co-victory in Hidalgo.
“He is an athletic little bird,” Lee said. “He can make a lot of moves. A lot of people would be bucked off where he keeps coming back. He has a lot of talent and he is going to be on the Built Ford Tough. I wish the best for him. I hope he keeps his mind right, keeps growing and keeps learning and it works out.”
Two of the three BFTS winners this season – Jess Lockwood and Derek Kolbaba – are younger than 21 years old.
Livingston said seeing the recent success of Lockwood and Pacheco, the last two Rookie of the Years, only gives him more confidence that he can come into the BFTS and make an immediate impact.
Last year, Lockwood became the second-youngest rider all time to win a BFTS event.
“It definitely gives me more of a drive to be the best at what I can do,” Livingston said.
Livingston spent most of his childhood looking up to another former Rookie of the Year that he will be sharing a locker room with in Sacramento.
“I think the best is J.B. Mauney,” Livingston said of the PBR’s 2006 Rookie of the Year. “That is just what I think, though. It will be great (being in the same locker room) with J.B.”
Livingston understands he must first earn a full-time spot on the BFTS, similar to Dener Barbosa last weekend in Oklahoma City, before he can make a push at qualifying for his first career PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals or winning the 2017 Rookie of the Year title.
He will attempt to write the next chapter of his PBR journey this weekend.
“I am sure them Built Ford Tough Series events will be an even bigger step up, but I am ready,” Livingston concluded. “I am ready to go win.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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