FORT WORTH, Texas ― When asked if he was going to compete at the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy, newcomer Gage Gay simply replied, “Yep.”
Ask a yes or no question and the 19-year-old from Stanley, N.C., is going to answer with yes or no and about as much emotion as if you were talking about a Touring Pro Division event. That said, he was “ecstatic” upon hearing the news for the first time a few days earlier.
“Getting into that and being just a rookie is a pretty big deal,” Gay said.
Gay missed a call from Jay Daugherty, senior vice president of PBR events, on Feb. 11 and returned it that afternoon. Gay said he had no idea what Daugherty had called about or what he was about to hear over the phone.
“I didn’t figure I’d get in that—ever,” said Gay, who tried to contain himself on the phone. He said he whooped and hollered after hanging up. Then he called his family – his father was excited as he was – and a few friends.
That night he shared the news in-person with his running buddies Michael Lane, Carlos Garcia, Chad Vanamburg and Josh Faircloth.
Asked what went through his mind, while Daugherty was talking, and it’s no surprise, he replied, “Nothing really.”
Daugherty confirmed Gay was “nonchalant” when told the news.
Gay added, “I was just excited. I’ve never been in anything that big with that much money up for grabs.”
In fact this weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series event in Kansas City, Mo., will only be his fourth BFTS event this year and the sixth of his young career.
Gay is listed among contestants and World Champions like J.B. Mauney,Silvano Alves, Guilherme Marchi and Mike Lee, who he’s matched up against in Round 1 of the only single-elimination, bracket style format in professional bull riding.
However, there is a laundry list of top-named riders who failed to qualify for this year’s event.
Among them are Jory Markiss, Austin Meier, Ben Jones, Jordan Huppand 2010 World Champion Kody Lostroh – all of whom qualified for last year’s World Finals, but have not been so fortunate this season.
Gay originally missed the event by one spot, but found himself in the Iron Cowboy after Nathan Schaper suffered a broken leg in Anaheim, Calif. Gay called his inclusion a privilege and said he wished Schaper’s injury wouldn’t have happened, but he’s glad to have a chance to earn an unfathomable payday.
“I’m happy for the opportunity, but I’m sad for my buddy that got hurt,” said Gay, who was among the riders to visit Schaper in the hospital.
The Iron Cowboy, which takes place Saturday, March 1, at AT&T Stadium (formerly known as Cowboys Stadium), in Arlington, Texas, pays out $100,000 to the winner, who will then earn a chance at the Bad Boy Mowers Million Dollar Ride on Bushwacker.
Gay has never previously attempted the two-time World Champion Bull.
“It would be completely life-changing,” Gay said. “I don’t even know how much the Iron Cowboy pays to win it, but I know if you win it you get a chance at Bushwacker for a $1 million. That would be life-changing for me—yeah.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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