NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Never did Chase Outlaw think after earning his first career win in 2012 that it would take more than two years to stand again on the top of the shark cage at a Built Ford Tough Series event.
He was a high-flying 19-year-old rookie at the time with promising talent and high potential when he won the WinStar World Casino Invitational at Reliant Stadium in just his third career BFTS competition.
Yet, he was also a young and naïve athlete still trying to grasp how to become a professional in a sport where fruitful fortunes can evolve into demoralizing defeats and struggles in a matter of seconds.
Outlaw, who admits he was a “little shit” when he won that Houston event, believed success was going to be coming his way in a blink of an eye.
Mike White, a 2012 Ring of Honor inductee, also noticed Outlaw’s potential, but he also saw that Outlaw needed some guidance on how to become a professional athlete.
White reached out to the Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider during the 2012 season and has since attempted to become a mentor for Outlaw as the 22-year-old continues the process of growing up inside and outside of the arena.
“I told him he had all of the talent and ability in the world, but he needed to get his act together and take care of riding bulls now,” White said while Outlaw received his event belt buckle inside Bridgestone Arena. “Take care of business now when you have the ability and the health, and worry about the other things later.”
Of course, like every young athlete , there have been ups and downs along the way, but this past weekend was a moment for Outlaw to celebrate after falling short on previous occasions for that long-desired second victory.
He demonstrated the poise of a veteran rider after Mr. Bull became aggressive, bucking him off inside the chute during his pre-ride routine, and he showed no nerves after watching two-time World Champion Silvano Alves ride Rango for 92.25 points to take over the event lead prior to facing Mr. Bull.
There was still confetti falling onto the arena floor from Alves’ ride when Outlaw nodded his head and made the 8-second mark on Mr. Bull for 89.25 points to take over the event lead in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
White believed before the ride that the Outlaw vs. Mr. Bull matchup would be the best one of the championship round and thought that Julio Moreno’s bull fit Outlaw’s style well.
“He is a great bull rider and it is good to finally see that he is focusing on what he wants,” White said. “It is good to see somebody that you help and pull for win.
Outlaw understands now how hard things can be on the PBR’s rankest tour, just last week he fell short of an 8-second qualified ride by less than two seconds on two occasions in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
“That was just unacceptable,” the 2013 Touring Pro Division champion said. “I rather fall out right out of the box not knowing what is happening rather than ride them that long. You ride them that far, you might as well be able to ride the rest.”
He had missed five BFTS events to end the first half of the BFTS because of a groin injury and had only one Top-5 finish (a fourth-place performance last year in) after posting two-second place finishes in 2012 after his Houston victory.
Outlaw, who is currently ranked 19th in the world standings, is grateful for having White around as a friend and mentor; he goes as far as calling White a lifelong friend like other BFTS pals Stormy Wing and Douglas Duncan.
White easily didn’t have to reach out to him or offer up any kind of advice, Outlaw understands.
“He doesn’t have to, but when somebody like that sits there and believes in you as you believe in yourself you have to listen,” Outlaw said. “It will fire you up inside, that’s for sure.”
To help keep his mind focused on the task at hand, Outlaw even brought a new orange and white mountain bike with him to Nashville this weekend. He rode close to 10 miles along the Cumberland River on Friday and on Saturday he rode close to four miles before riding his bike to the arena for the Jack Daniel’s Invitational.
He has never been a fan of running, but wanted something to do during the day leading up to the event. Therefore, he went ahead and bought the bike a few weeks ago at WalMart.
“It is a lot better than sitting in that hotel room,” Outlaw said. “With a bicycle you go five to 10 miles and you can see a bunch of stuff. Coming here is great and it was awesome riding around downtown on my bicycle. It made me loose and it worked out.”
Is it a good luck charm?
Possibly, and Outlaw is thinking he may have to start bringing his bike to more events.
It is also safe to say that his 87-point ride on Pistols & Roses in Round 1 and his 85.75-point ride in Round 2 on Pay It Forward were much harder to achieve than a causal joy ride around downtown Nashville.
Even more so, there is no greater feeling than being on top of that shark cage at weekend’s end, and Outlaw has no intentions of going another two-plus years without a BFTS victory again.
“Hell, we are going to be there a lot more times than that,” Outlaw said immediately after stepping off the shark cage. “I guarantee that.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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