By: Justin Felisko
August 22, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jesse Byrne quickly stepped in and tossed his hands toward the face of Torch as Lachlan Richardson spider crawled his way toward the back of the bucking chutes inside Bridgestone Arena on Friday night.
Torch proceeded to then whip himself around and eyed in on veteran bullfighter Frank Newsom. As he has done so many other times before, Newsom took a peek back at Torch and then took off in a sprint toward the opposite end of the arena to get the bovine athlete away from the helpless rider.
However, it didn’t take to long for Newsom to get a welcome back to the Built Ford Tough Series present from Torch as Gene Owen’s bull ran down Newsom and drilled the Dickies Bullfighter directly in his lower back with a horn.
In true Frank fashion, Newsom then hopped up with a big grin on his face and a series of congratulatory slaps on the back from Byrne and Shorty Gorham.
Not many 41-year-old men would be craving a close encounter with a nearly 2,000-pound bull intent on running them over, but Newsom has made a career out of not being an ordinary dude.
“It was kind of relaxing,” Newsom said. “I don’t know. By the end of the night, I felt like I was really in my zone and things were really feeling good. Really good.”
Newsom was fighting bulls in his first Built Ford Tough Series event since Dr. Andrew Dossett fused together his C6 and C7 vertebrae at the recommendation of Dr. Tandy Freeman on April 27.
The Paoli, Oklahoma, bull fighter had previously been fighting bulls – protecting the PBR’s top riders – for three months earlier this year when he began to lose feeling in his arms, especially his left one, after taking a massive shot from JW Hughes Excavation in Oklahoma City.
If not for Newsom, it is likely the rider he was protecting – Kaique Pacheco – would have been injured and not be the current world No. 1 rider.
So why did Newsom need to be hit again to feel confident in Nashville?
Well, much like a football player returning from a knee injury, there is a period of time where they don’t fully trust the freshly healed knee. It takes a big hit, and getting back up from it, before they can fully trust their body again.
“I got here and my motor was running pretty hard last night,” Newsom said. “It was a good thing. I felt good going into the arena. I felt good all night. I kind of felt like things were going kind of fast there at the beginning.”
It was Newsom’s second event back after working the Amarillo, Texas, Touring Pro Division event on Aug. 6.
Gorham said he could relate to Newsom’s desire to take a shot in the arena.
“For me, when I am coming back from an injury or something, I like it because it brings you back to, ‘OK, this is just a normal workday. I still have a job to do, it is not going to kill me if he hits me.’ It kind of brings you back into reality that in this job you have go out there. I like that it happened real early on. If the first bull does it to me when I coming back, then I am right back in the groove.”
The bigger takeaway, Gorham believes, is how great of shape Newsom is in after having to sit out for just about three months.
Gorham went as far to say that Newsom appears to be in the best shape that he can remember.
“By the way, having a skinny Frank back is really awesome,” Gorham said. “When I saw Frank, I was shocked. I knew he was working hard to try and get ready to come back. I didn’t know how hard he was working, but it is evident he has been putting in the effort. He is in better shape than I have seen him in quite a few years. He always stayed in pretty good shape. He works out a lot. He is kind of a heavy-made guy naturally so it is hard for him to stay trimmed down. He looks great.”
Byrne, the youngest of the regular BFTS Dickies Bullfighter trio, said no one, himself included, truly understands or knows how hard Newsom has worked to recover from the surgery/injury.
Not to mention how hard it was to fight bulls for three months after sustaining the injury at the end of January.
“It is probably going to be hard for people to believe what Frank has been through since they have seen him last,” Byrne said. “I don’t think a lot of people really know or realize what Frank had going on. To be able to continue on like he did without anybody knowing and then to have the summer break to have surgery and get healthy.”
Newsom admitted this weekend in Nashville that there was a part of him in April that believed maybe the end of the road had finally arrived.
It isn’t like having a piece of your hip removed to fuse two of your neck vertebras together helps with one’s confidence in his ability either.
“I remember going into the first of the year feeing really good, really in shape,” Newsom said. “As soon as Oklahoma City, the third event, it was just then downhill from there. It was kind of like fighting a losing battle. Every week I was working hard just to not get any weaker almost, and I was still kind of losing strength in that left side. It really got to messing with my confidence.
“My train of thought was I just felt like maybe I was done. I didn’t really know. I just told myself I was going to quit thinking about it and focus on my family and focus on getting better. Take it one day at a time and see what happens. More or less, I just left it up to God and just tried to stay in the moment every day at the house.”
Newsom, who also thanked the Rider Relief Fund for their financial assistance during his recovery process, said he lost about five pounds and is currently floating around the 190-pound mark. He tried his best to maintain a healthy, clean diet of protein, vegetables, beans and rice while being confined to a neck brace for two months.
Even during those two months, Newsom would find ways to workout minimally to try and stay somewhat in shape. Newsom then doubled his workout routine into full octane once he was cleared to remove his brace in mid-June.
“I got home, had the surgery, quit thinking about it and got focused on doing what I need to do,” Newsom said. “That is work hard and trust Tandy and those doctors and know what they are doing.”
Not that Gorham or Byrne needed to be reminded about how tough and determined Newsom is, this was just another chapter in the book of Newsom.
“I will say I never heard Frank complain about something being really hard,” Byrne concluded. “You are going to take a piece from your hip and put it into your neck to fuse things together is a pretty legit deal by all means. It is just so awesome to have him back and know he is feeling good.
“It is one of those things. I don’t know what would slow Frank down. It is hard to fathom an injury or something being greater than Frank’s will power. It is pretty cool to see him overcome that and comeback and be as good as ever.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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