PUEBLO, Colo. – Cody Webster spun to his left and then jutted across to his right before making one more spin move like NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders to break away from Criminal Intent inside the Curry County Events Center in Clovis, New Mexico.
Fellow bullfighter Frank Newsom then followed suit when Criminal Intent locked eyes with him. Newsom, showing the same graceful agility as his young prodigy, spun to his right and worked his way to the left before finally breaking free from the charging bull.
Webster offered a congratulatory yell and high-five to Newsom, who was just as excited and proud before laughing about the close encounter, while Criminal Intent headed through the out gate.
It was one of many smiles, high-fives, and pats on the back the two bullfighters gave to each other since competing at the Built Ford Tough World Finals last month.
“It has been a breath of fresh air,” Newsom said. “I feel younger. It kind of revved me up. It has just been great.”
It is a similar feeling to when Newsom steps foot in Webster’s home in Wayne, Oklahoma.
Webster shares the 3-bedroom, double-wide trailer house with fellow bullfighters Dusty Tuckness and Chuck Swisher – all three have been selected to work the National Finals Rodeo in December.
The home is littered with bull riding memorabilia, books and autographed photos. There are pictures of Joe Baumgartner, Rob Smets and other bull fighting legends.
The backyard is a training setup for the bull fighters and features a bull fighting dummy.
“We don’t have cable or Dish or anything like that,” Webster said. “We have a DVD player and a VHS player. When we sit down to watch TV it is either bull fighting or bull riding and that is all there is. There are pictures, autographed pictures and everything you can imagine. It is all bullfighting and training devices.
“It is all bullfighting 24/7.”
Newsom said, “Everywhere you look is something to do with what we do. I like going over there. The older I have gotten, I got kids and other things we do, but to go over there it kind of rekindles that fire and it rejuvenates you and it makes you feel young. It just kind of starts that fire.”
Newsom has helped groom Webster into the bullfighter he is today since the now-22-year-old showed up on his front porch 11 years ago.
The two recently competed at the World Finals for the first time together two weeks ago and just this past weekend they worked the L.J. Jenkins Invitational.
There will be many more opportunities for them to work side-by-side in 2015 seeing as Webster was voted in as the fourth bull rider for the upcoming season.
When Webster is in the arena, there are small moments of pride for Newsom. Even if it is the little things, such as when Webster walks toward the chute to help get a bull to stop being uncooperative or if it is just seeing him pick up a bull rope for a fellow rider, Newsom can be seen beaming with pride.
Webster has also enjoyed the whirlwind of the last two weeks being able to work alongside his mentor.
“It’s been really great,” he said during World Finals. “Being able to come in here and work with this team (Shorty Gorham, Jesse Byrne and Newsom) of guys in a venue like this and the best bull riders and the best bulls is unbelievable.”
It all sunk in when he finally heard his name announced inside the Thomas & Mack Center on Oct. 22 during introductions for Round 1 of the World Finals.
It was very different than being a spectator, Webster said.
“Man, I have come here a couple of times in the past, but sitting up in the stands you don’t get nearly the vibe you get here – being apart and putting the cleats on down here is something else,” he explained.
Webster showed during the World Finals, and in Clovis, how much potential he has as a bull fighter. His footwork and agility are strongpoints for the young talent and he also has shown a fearlessness that is necessary to succeed in the sport.
Even more so, he was able to gel with Newsom, Gorham and Byrne relatively flawlessly in Las Vegas.
“I have been impressed with how well he has handled it,” Newsom said. “I always knew how handy he was, but for him to step into this deal and handle the nerves and be able to fit in to our program the way we do things has been awesome.
“I knew he could do it.”
The biggest key for a young bull fighter making the transition to the Built Ford Tough Series is not trying to do too much or attempting to make a big save to prove they belong.
It was one of the main qualities that Gorham talks about when describing Jesse Byrne’s World Finals debut in 2008. Gorham credited Byrne for not trying to be a hero, which was exactly what Webster made sure to focus on this year.
“It really hasn’t been too hard of an adjustment,” Webster said. “It is just kind of going back to it when you have a group of guys like this. You don’t try to be a hero; you just try and be a good teammate.”
In 2015, he will get more chances to work alongside the best on the BFTS.
“It is something I dreamed about my whole life and to come and be a part of and know I have a shot of getting some events next year and getting to hangout and work around these guys is a big deal,” he concluded. “It is something to really look forward too.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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