From the first day Justin McBride made his PBR debut, cofounder Cody Lambert has long admired him.
So with all due respect, he sat down next to the then-25-year-old bull rider, picked up his bull rope and as Lambert rolled the handle back and forth he told McBride to forget about his recent trouble. Then he dropped the rope on the floor in front of them and before he got up to walk away, he said, “You need to get yourself a new rope.”
It wasn’t as if the rope McBride was so worn out that it was on the verge of breaking in half.
In Lambert’s opinion, the handle was worn out enough that it rolled too far forward and it was causing McBride’s hand to pop out well before the 8-second whistle.
“He was spot on,” McBride recalled. “I never changed styles or anything like that. Cody just made me get a new one because mine was so wore out and it wasn’t something that I saw. I didn’t feel like my rope was wore out.”
But it certainly was.
A few months later, using a new rope, McBride won the first of two World Championships.
He followed up the 2005 title by winning his second gold buckle and surpassing $5 million in career earnings two years later, in 2007, for his second title in three years with the same new rope he got after listening to Lambert’s advice.
McBride is one of only four professional bull riders in the history of the PBR to have won multiple world titles. Silvano Alves (3), Adriano Moraes (3), and Chris Shivers (2), are the other three. Some would argue that McBride was the best rider of the group.
Lambert certainly thinks a case could be made for that.
McBride is content with what he accomplished in his career. At the time of his retirement, he earned in excess of $5.1 million in the arena, not including the millions he earned in sponsorship money during a 10-year career in which he set nearly every record.
In addition to a pair of world titles, he set the PBR mark for single-season event wins with eight, and the single-season earning mark with $1.8 million in 2007.
McBride was inducted into the Ring of Honor in 2009.
He retired prior to events like the Iron Cowboy, which will anchor the historic March weekend, and Last Cowboy Standing. However, he was still the first rider in PBR history to surpass $4 million and the only rider to reach $5 million in career earnings. In 2007, he collected $200,000 for a single 8-second ride when he covered Scene of the Crash in Columbus, Ohio.
That said, shortly after his retirement following the 2008 season, McBride said, “If I was still riding Cody Lambert would be my coach.”
McBride said near the end of his career — when the bull draft was in place — the only time he got bucked off was when he didn’t let Lambert pick his bulls for him.
“I’ve been a pretty strong advocate for it,” said McBride, of the idea of riders having coaches and mentors, “ever since that conversation started. I feel like there are a handful of guys who really understand it and they’re good at getting it across to where other people can understand it and, I think, Cody’s one of those guys.”
Lambert knows the mechanics of bull riding.
More importantly, according to McBride, he keeps it simple to where any bull rider will know what Lambert is talking about and be able to understand what he’s telling them. Someone might physically be able to ride bulls, but they’ll understand the proper steps to take to put themselves in a position to stay on.
“If I would have had a career in today’s world,” McBride said, “I don’t know if I would have been unstoppable, but it would have been really hard to beat me with somebody like him calling the shots for me and setting me up to be successful all the time.”
Without the draft in place until the final six months of his career, McBride said he could have used Lambert as a “life coach” to help him make better decisions than he did.
Call it a coincidence or, perhaps, it is ironic that Lambert will serve as a coach (or mentor) for the upcoming episodic web series that will conclude with an hour-long television special on CBS Sports Network.
Lambert has asked McBride and Jerome Robinson to help him during a four-day boot camp that will be held the week prior to the August event in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
Four BFTS riders — Silvano Alves, Matt Triplett, Nathan Schaper and Douglas Duncan — will also serve as assistant coaches for next month’s BlueDEF Bucking Madness: Bull Rider Reality boot camp at Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas.
There are 35 aspiring applicants looking to make the trip to Texas. Only 10 will have the opportunity. Fans will choose three, while the PBR will select seven riders.
The entire coaching staff will provide lessons and critique those competing as well as take part in strength training and nutritional lectures. The Top 5 riders will have a chance to compete at a BlueDEF Velocity event in Cleveland, Ohio, and two of those five will move on to the Velocity Finals, which take place, in Louisville, Kentucky, the week before the World Finals.
While the program serves to mostly set up a pair of young guns for the 2016 season, there is what is being called “a long, long, long shot” that one of these riders could in earn an invitation to the 2015 World Finals.
The entire experience, which will feature the riders camping as a means of bonding with one another, will be documented in a series of 10-minute long episodes. Brandon Bates is hosting.
The CBS Sports Network special will be broadcast in October.
“My ultimate goal is to make the bull riders better,” Lambert said. “In the past 23 years, the sport has gotten bigger and gotten better in every way, except the bull riders aren’t getting better. And that’s my ultimate goal, to try and help them get better.”
McBride said that not only will the 10 contestants benefit from being at Lambert’s ranch for a week, but so too will the four BFTS riders.
He believes the experience could elevate one of the younger riders from unknown status to contending for a spot on the elite televised tour and, more importantly, it could affect the outcome of this year’s world title race.
With three of those four riders ranked in the Top 10, McBride predicts they could learn something about the mindset of winning.
“I don’t want to sound like a (jerk), but I don’t want to sugarcoat it either,” said Lambert, who does intend to do this one time for a television show, “but (riders are) not as good as when we started the PBR and everything else is better.”
“For me, it would have had to have been somebody like (Lambert),” said McBride, who – in football terms – sees himself as a coordinator or, perhaps, a quarterback coach alongside Lambert, who sees as the more experienced head coach. “I can’t have somebody tell me what to do and then the next day they’re trying to be my drinking buddy. It wouldn’t have worked like that. For me, if I see any chink in the armor, I call bullshit on it and then I don’t believe in it. I don’t trust it and I’m not going to follow anything they say.
“That’s where I could have definitely used Cody in my career.”
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