PUEBLO, Colo. – Austin Meier walked through the corridor underneath Scottrade Center and made his way to the bull riders’ locker room at the end of the hallway.
He eventually headed inside and sat down on a folding chair in a corner nook of the room with the likes of J.B. Mauney, Chase Outlaw, Stormy Wing, Matt Triplett and others.
It had been nearly nine months since Meier was able to unzip his gear bag and slide on his riding jeans at a BFTS event, and there was a special bit of confidence packed inside his bag this weekend in St. Louis.
The pair of Wrangler blue jeans that Meier was about to slip on were from five years ago, the last time he weighed anywhere close to the 165 pounds he is currently at.
“After I started gaining weight back (the last few years), I put those jeans I got in the 2010 season aside and didn’t get rid of them because I told myself I was going to get back in them and I dang sure planned on getting back in them,” Meier said.
Meier caught the attention of multiple people in St. Louis for looking thinner, and he has finally been able to get back into his size 31 jeans after readjusting his diet and embracing some workout routines that he participated in during his high school years.
The Kinta, Oklahoma, bull rider estimates he lost about 25 pounds from the heaviest he ever weighed during the past couple seasons, which featured him going from a world title contender to a fringe BFTS rider.
It is much more than the physical benefits of being as light as he was during his best run at the PBR world title in 2010 when he finished second to World Champion Renato Nunes.
Instead, there is a genuine confidence that comes with fitting into those jeans and being as physically fit as he was as a young 23-year-old bull rider.
“It was really cool to see that weight start trimming off and just how you feel mentally,” Meier said. “It also brings back the success that I had in 2010 and the memories I had. It dang sure gives you the excitement to think being that light-weight again, ‘Is the (success) going to come back, too?’
“I think it will.”
2010 was Meier’s best in the PBR. He posted a career-high 56.44 percent riding average and rode a career-high 57 bulls during his runner-up finish to Nunes. He finished sixth in the world in 2011 and fifth in 2012 before finishing 36th in 2013 and 46th in 2014.
Meier may not have gotten rid of his smaller-sized jeans the past couple of years, but it doesn’t mean that he didn’t start to doubt if he would ever get back to such a lean riding weight.
“You sure start wondering because you try and try different things,” Meier said. “Heck that is one thing I learned too, as you get older your body changes and what may have worked then doesn’t work now. Once I figured out what did it for me exercise-wise, I went to hammering it.”
Meier explained last month that he was using a core-based workout strategy, which involved 1,000 to 2,000 ab exercise reps per day, to help get lean for the upcoming season.
So far the results have been positive beyond the waist band.
Even though Meier went 0-for-3 in St. Louis, he is still ranked 29th in the world standings thanks to his performance on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and the Touring Pro Division, where he has gone 13-for-25.
He also doesn’t have to worry about missing the Choctaw Casino Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki Strong, which he clinched a spot in the draw via his BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Worcester, Massachusetts, two weeks ago.
“It was a relief, just knowing where I was at points-wise,” Meier said. “I knew I was one strike away from being there. I had some close opportunities and I was like, ‘Come on.’ As soon as I knew I won it, I realized what kind of weekend it was and that it was a game-changing weekend.”
That is why Meier – with the approval of the PBR competition department – has taken up the opportunity to skip the BFTS event in Kansas City, Missouri, this coming weekend and compete at THE AMERICAN SEMIFINALS in Fort Worth, Texas, and at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Little Rock Arkansas.
He will ride in Fort Worth on Friday and Sunday in hopes of qualifying for THE AMERICAN and compete in Little Rock on Saturday.
Meier’s goal is to win the final bid to THE AMERICAN and make himself the sixth bull rider eligible to potentially win a share of the $1 million bonus that is offered to any qualifier who potentially wins one of the seven rodeo events – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and bull riding.
“Last year, when my wife and I started hearing rumors of THE AMERICAN and stuff like that, I was trying to figure out every way to get in aside from sneaking in and borrowing equipment and looking like somebody else. This year, it seems in reach and doesn’t seem farfetched. I am just letting things happen and be led where I am supposed to go and am just waiting to see what happens. I have a good feeling about it.”
Don’t be fooled though. Meier has plans on starting off his weekend in Arlington next week with at least a victory at the Iron Cowboy, which he won in 2013 following two runner-up finishes, even if his bid for THE AMERICAN falls short.
“I have won over $100,000 in just that arena,” Meier said. “It has been a pretty profitable event so it is cool to know that I have done that before and gives me excitement for going in this year.
“I know I have done it before and I can do it again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.