DECATUR, Texas – Bryan Titman would be sitting in his family’s living room in Fresno, Texas, as a kid when he would climb aboard the back of his younger brother, Brandon, and try and re-enact one of the memorable rides they had just watched on their grainy television screen.
It didn’t matter if it was 1997 World Champion Michael Gaffney or 1994 Rookie of the Year J.W. Hart, Titman, now 26, and his brother would take turns trying to wow their living room crowd with 90-point rides.
Across the Texas-Arkansas border, Tyler Harr could also be found mesmerized by the PBR bull riders he was watching on his own television screen.
To this day, Harr is still amazed by Justin McBride’s 75-point ride aboard Camo to win the 2005 World Championship on the end of his fingertips, and Michael Gaffney’s 93.75-point ride on Little Yellow Jacket – the last of Gaffney’s illustrious career – at the 2004 PBR World Finals.
Never before did Titman, Harr and many of the other riders competing in Saturday’s J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Velocity Tour event expect to get the opportunity to compete alongside their childhood idols.
Yet, thanks to a genius idea by Hart and WC Challenger Charities, Titman and Harr are just two of a group of riders that will descend upon Decatur, Texas, and the Wise County Posse Arena to not only ride in the BDVT event, but also cheer on their heroes during the Built Ford Tough Ring of Honor: Unfinished Business, presented by BlueDEF, pay-per-view event, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.
McBride, Hart and Gaffney will be competing against fellow PBR Ring of Honor inductees Chris Shivers, Tater Porter, Mike White, Cody Custer and Ross Coleman in a winner-take-all, $160,000 challenge.
“We are all more excited to watch the old timers get on that than to be at the actual bull riding,” Titman said. “They are guys we saw on TV when it was a different type of TV. It wasn’t that clear and they would make 90-point bull rides on some of the best bulls in the world at that time. It just made you want to be a bull rider. I remember sitting down in front of the couch every single night watching bull riding.”
Harr added, “I watched those guys growing up and never thought I would get a chance to ride with them. Now, I can ride in the same event they are.”
Titman – a huge Lane Frost fan growing up – is currently in his first season on the Built Ford Tough Series after making his BFTS-debut in Sacramento, California. Since joining the BFTS, he has had the opportunity on a few occasions to sit down with McBride and pick his brain some about the sport.
“You couldn’t have asked for a better guy that gave everything he had every single time,” Titman said. “He never made an excuse. He just kind of worked for what he could. I am pulling for him or Mike White to win this deal.”
Harr was actually at White’s De Kalb, Texas, ranch when the 1999 PRCA champion and PBR Rookie of the Year attempted a practice bull earlier this year.
He came away impressed at how seamless White appeared to be despite retiring five years ago.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Harr said. “Of course, the bull he got on wasn’t a really rank bull, but mechanically you could tell he was really focused. You would think after that many years of not doing something your mind would be cloudy, but I guess it must be like riding a bicycle once you master it. I couldn’t believe how sharp he looked after being off for not that long.
“I have seen video of all those guys and they all look good.”
No. 2 bull rider in the world standings Matt Triplett is the highest-ranked bull rider competing in Decatur and said he would put his money on his childhood hero.
“I am going with my all-time hero and the bull rider I looked up to my whole life – Justin McBride,” Triplett said. “He has a no-quit attitude and rides bulls so correct. He don’t like to lose. He is a true winner and knows what it is going to take to win that.”
Guthrie Long is in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour draw and heads to Decatur a week after making his BFTS debut at Last Cowboy Standing.
The 27-year-old from Odessa, Texas, believes competing alongside the legends can only help his confidence heading into the summer break as he tries to crack the Top 35 of the world standings before the BFTS second-half opener in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Aug. 7.
“It is something to drive off,” Long said. “It just shows you the full dedication those World Champions obviously had going for them. Their determination to be a World Champion and to be around that motivation only drives you further.”
Yet this event is much more than a confidence builder for any of the riders.
Decatur is an opportunity for one night to live out a childhood dream.
“This is going to be an ultimate memory,” Long concluded. “No one is ever going to have a chance at my age to do this again. I grew up watching them all on TV and wanting to be there with them. At that age, obviously I couldn’t.
“It is going to be like I am a little kid again, but I get to ride with them.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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