PUEBLO, Colo. – Tater Porter tipped his hat to the Thomas & Mack Center crowd following his 2.1-second buckoff against Voodoo Child at the 2007 World Finals and walked off to the closed confines of the Built Ford Tough Series locker room.
Once he got inside, Porter took the bells off his bull rope before tossing it into Justin McBride’s gear bag.
“I don’t need that anymore,” Porter said to McBride. “You can have that as a souvenir.”
A few weeks earlier, Porter had announced his ensuing retirement from the PBR after 11 years, over 150 qualified rides and nine World Finals qualifications.
Almost eight years later, McBride had to go up to his attic, dust off Porter’s old rope and bring it with him to Arlington, Texas, this past February to return to Porter for this this year’s Unfinished Business pay-per-view event at the J.W. Hart Invitational on May 30 in Decatur, Texas.
“I called him that week and said, ‘Hey, do you still have that rope?” Porter recalled in Arlington. “He said, ‘I sure do.’ So I said, ‘Bring it with you because I am going to need it again.’ He said, ‘I will get it out of the attic with mine and dust the cobwebs off them.”
Porter explained there is no need to get a new rope for simply one bull ride.
“You don’t have time to get on one bull and break in a new rope,” he said. “That was a fairly new rope at the time.”
Unfinished Business will be Porter’s first bull riding since going 3-for-8 at the 2007 Finals with a compound fracture in his right arm.
The Kenansville, Florida, native is competing in a winner-take-all $160,000 one-round bull riding against seven other PBR legends: Hart, McBride, two-time World Champion Chris Shivers, 2012 Ring of Honor inductee Ross Coleman, 1999 PBR Rookie of the Year and PRCA champion Mike White, 1997 World Champion Michael Gaffney and 1992 PRCA champion Cody Custer.
Hart’s event will be one more chance for Porter – a 2011 PBR Ring of Honor inductee – to feel that rush that every bull rider gets when he nods his head.
“There is a rush with bull riding that you can never fulfil – that adrenaline rush and the pump-up you get from riding,” says Porter, who began riding steers at 8 years old and attempted his first bull at 11.
However, the 44-year-old has been keeping his blood pumping in other ways since last nodding for the gate against Voodoo Child.
Porter has been a deputy sheriff with the Osceola County, Florida Sheriff Department’s agriculture and marine unit for the last two and a half years.
“I guess I could say that I still kind of live on the edge a little bit,” Porter said. “Sometimes on a call you still get that adrenaline rush. When you are running code and your lights and sirens and you are driving, you still get that rush. Not kind of like bull riding, but it is still a rush and I enjoy it.”
Porter compared the risk factor of being a sheriff to that of bull riding.
“I compare my job kind of to bull riding,” Porter said. “When you are in the bucking chute or whatever, it is a dangerous sport. You know what you are after, but when you nod your head anything can happen. It is the same thing with my job. You never really know. You pull over a car; you don’t know who it is or what can happen when you step up to that window – it could be the baddest guy you have ever met in your life. You just never know.”
The risk factors of fighting crime for a living have been well-documented and Porter knows that there is always a risk going to work as it was when he was riding bulls in the PBR.
Therefore, Porter has made it a priority to stay in shape since retiring from professional bull riding so that if he ever gets into a dicey situation he is prepared and ready.
“I fight crime every day,” Porter said. “I am against the bad guys, so I always want to stay in shape. If I get in a fight for my life, I want to be able to win and go home to my family.”
That is why, physically, Porter isn’t concerned about having to get in shape for J.W. Hart’s blockbuster event.
He may not be in the same riding condition that he was when he had a career-year in 2000, but he still feels like he is in “good enough shape.”
Porter finished that season third in the world and he went 38-for-67 (56.7 percent) to earn $405,774.37. He won the 2000 World Finals event average title by posting five qualified rides, including three for 90 or more points (93 vs. Cash, 91.5 vs. Lights Out and 90 vs. Assassin).
Beyond Las Vegas, he also earned victories in New Orleans and Nampa, Idaho, in 2000.
The Built Ford Tough Series is making its 18th stop in Nampa this weekend with the DeWALT Guaranteed Tough Invitational.
Porter was also victorious in Nampa in 2005, which makes him tied with Luke Snyder for the most BFTS wins in the Gem State.
He accepted Hart’s invitation to compete once he received the blessing to get on one more bull from his wife, Ashley.
Like many of the PBR Legends competing, Porter says there is a sentimental meaning of getting on one more bull so tht his children – Jason, Haley and Brenley – can have an opportunity to see him ride in person.
Jason and Haley saw Porter compete once – at the BFTS event in 2007 in Uncasville, Connecticut, where he broke his arm – while Brenley never saw him ride in person.
“They see it on YouTube and they hear the talk or whatever, but to actually go and experience it with me is going to be exciting.”
Of course, there is also the personal reason for accepting Hart’s challenge.
“I want to challenge myself,” Porter said “Can you do it again? That is part of it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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