LAS VEGAS – What a difference 8 seconds makes.
For Shane Proctor, a qualified ride in Round 5 of the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo was just what he needed as the $10 million event hit the midway point on Monday night. After taking a $20,731 second-place check for his 81.5-point ride aboard D&H Cattle’s No Regrets in Round 1, the 2011 PRCA champion hit the Thomas & Mack Center dirt three nights in a row.
He bucked off Air Marshall in Round 2, was dumped by Good Cop in the third round and failed to make the 8-second whistle on Triple 7’s in Round 4. The Grand Coulee, Washington, veteran was admittedly frustrated heading into the fifth round.
“I always expect more of myself, but part of being in Vegas is that sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” said Proctor, who finished 20th PBR world standings this year. “I had a really good bull in the second round, and he gave it to me. In the third round, I had a bull I’d seen a bunch this summer, and he kind of had a bad day and kind of dumped me off. (Sunday) night was just one of them deals.”
The four-time NFR qualifier drew Mr. Buddy in the fifth round and badly needed a check, not only to keep pace with the field, but to clear his head. He stayed in position throughout the 8-second battle and emerged with a 77-point score and his second qualified ride in five days.
“Tonight, to get that bull covered, it relaxes me and now I can have a lot more fun,” said Proctor, who tied reigning PRCA champion Sage Kimzey for sixth in the round to pocket $2,115. “It just takes one to get on a roll, especially here in Vegas. There’s so much money here in Vegas, and once you get things rolling, it’s going to add up.”
Proctor heads into the second half of the 10-day extravaganza sitting ninth in the PRCA standings with $111,860, and his 158.5-point total has him in a tie for sixth in the NFR average standings. The top eight finishers in the average on Saturday earn an extra check that could loom large in the world standings race when the dust clears.
He will be rewarded with a tough date against Brutus in Round 6. Brutus went 6-2 on the 2015 BFTS and has been ridden just three times in 26 outs at all PBR and rodeo events.
Even though Proctor is more than $100,000 behind standings leader Kimzey ($214,216), he could theoretically earn another $131,154 by winning the final five rounds and another $67,269 for grabbing the average title. The 30-year-old likely won’t close with a sweep like that, but he will be content to let the chips fall where they may as long as he puts forth his best effort.
“It’ll work out in the end, whether I’m pushing for a world title or if I’m just going competing and getting as much go-round money as I can,” Proctor said.
Proctor has specific goals for this year’s Finals.
“My goal is to win three rounds and to ride at least six out of 10,” he said. “I want to place in six rounds and spur five bulls. That’s my goal.
“I believe wholeheartedly I can do it, and there’s a lot of rodeo left.”
He’s already eclipsed his production from October’s PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals, where he went 0-for-5 and left Las Vegas shaking his head. That experience was already out of mind when Proctor arrived back in town for December’s Wrangler NFR.
“In this sport, you’ve just got to forget stuff real fast,” Proctor said. “I’ve been to seven PBR Finals, and this is my fourth NFR, so it’s not like I haven’t done well in this arena before. That’s not the first time I’ve bucked off all of them at the PBR Finals – I did it when I was a rookie back in 2005.
“You just have those weekends sometimes, and I feel like this is going to be a good week.”
Now that he’s broken his buck-off streak, Proctor can take it a bit easier on himself. He’s admittedly his own toughest critic.
“My biggest deal is I put so much pressure on myself,” he said. “It’s not the fans, it’s not my family and it’s not my friends. It’s me. I expect myself to do good each and every time, and I expect to win every night.”
Those kinds of lofty expectations can morph into self-destructive badgering, and Proctor knows that can affect his performance in the arena.
“You start trying to force things too much, and I’m more of an aggressive guy anyway,” Proctor said. “So, when I start trying to force stuff, I get really tight and start trying to muscle my maneuvers instead of just letting everything flow underneath me.
“(In Round 5), that bull wasn’t an easy one to track, and for him to move around underneath me, pull all the stops he did and to get him covered, I feel good about it. Instead of trying to make it happen, I can just let it happen and ride to win instead of ride to stay on.”
The good thing for Proctor – who has qualified for both PBR and PRCA championship finales three times in his career (2011, 2013, 2015) – is that his surgically repaired shoulders have withstood a season of more than 170 outs and are holding strong heading into the final five rounds of the NFR.
“Both of them feel really good, and I put a lot of work into (strengthening) them in the offseason,” said Proctor, who missed most of the 2014 season rehabbing the shoulders. “I can take some licks, and I’ve hung up to some big-time buckers. I take a lot of pride in making sure they’re that way.”
Proctor’s frustration never affected his confidence in his ability as an elite bull rider.
“I believe that, every time I get on (a bull), I’m one of the best ones out there, and I think I should be taking my fair share (of money) home,” he said.
Thanks to his successful fifth-round ride, Proctor is locked and loaded with five rounds to go.
“I’ve always finished the (Wrangler National) Finals strong in years past, and it’s just because I start relaxing and start having fun,” he said. “I know what my job is, and when you’re here at the Finals, sometimes strange things happen. There’s a lot of money to be won.”
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