By: Justin Felisko
May 09, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – The glass is still half full when it comes to Nathan Schaper’s 2016 season.
Schaper, normally one of the most positive riders in the locker room, is refusing to dwell on his past failures this season or about any missed opportunities.
Instead, he is ready to look forward toward the rest of the Built Ford Tough Series as he begins to crawl his way back to the PBR’s premier tour after being cut earlier this season following the first eight events of 2016.
“I don’t know how to explain it and I don’t look into it,” Schaper said with a sigh in Des Moines, Iowa three weeks ago. “I don’t look back at what happened or what I did. It is something you don’t look back on. You look forward.”
Schaper went 3-for-4 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, this past weekend at the Clunie Cooper PBR Touring Pro Division event for a fourth- and second-place finish. He earned 45 world points, moving him up five spots in the world standings to 34th.
It is the first time Schaper has been ranked inside the Top 35 since being cut from the BFTS following the Duluth Invitational.
“My main goal every day is being consistent in everything I do,” Schaper said. “If you think and live like that, it is an everyday thing. You can’t just make it happen on the weekends.”
2016 has been an unexpected down year for Schaper. The 25-year-old began the year with high expectations after finishing 2015 a career-best 10th in the world standings and seemed poised for a potential breakout season.
However, Schaper is 8-for-30 (26.67 percent) on the BFTS in nine events following his career-best 29-for-81 (35.8 percent) 2015 season.
Schaper couldn’t pinpoint exactly what the difference has been this year, but he is ready to make sure a BFTS demotion isn’t on the docket again.
He has been 6-for-11 at all levels of PBR competition since being cut.
“It is hard to say,” Schaper said. “Everyone says you have to get hungry again and you lost your fire, but I don’t think I did. Maybe I did, but I don’t think so. It is something you can’t make happen. It has to be natural. It has to be in your heart. It has to come naturally. That is why the best guys in the world are here. That is what makes you the best bull rider in the world. That is always there inside of you, no matter what. The Fire. That is not something other people can help you with or give you.”
Schaper spent a couple of weeks after being cut from the BFTS at home, where he began to think back to being a kid and wanting to challenge the best steers in North Dakota.
He remembered being a fearless 12-year-old who wouldn’t say no to any steer or junior bull in his path.
“I was thinking about when I was little, no matter what, I always wanted to get on the rankest one there was,” Schaper said. “I think for a while you kind of lose that mentality at this level, wanting to get on the rankest bulls there is. I don’t know. Next time I get back and it is time to make the championship round, I’m going to roll the dice and pick the rankest one in the short round. That is why you ride bulls.”
There was a desire to meet any challenge head on, and he knew he had another challenge waiting for him when he arrived in Fresno, California, for the BlueDEF Tour event in April.
His first two BlueDEF Tour events, including Fresno, didn’t go as planned (0-for-2). He then came through with a 3-for-3 performance in Omaha, Nebraska, for his first career BlueDEF Tour victory.
The win earned him not only an important 80 world points, but also a trip back to the BFTS.
In Des Moines, Schaper took the time to remember how special it was to compete on the BFTS.
“Man, when you are gone you start watching it on TV a little bit and really missing it,” Shaper said. “You are like, when I get back I am not going to take things for granted anymore. I am going to enjoy every minute of it and make the most of it.”
The fourth-year pro didn’t even blink or hesitate when asked if maybe he took things for granted following such a strong 2015 season.
He had been a fringe World Champion contender and had seemingly raised his game to a new level now that he had begun traveling with four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris and BFTS veterans Stetson Lawrence and Aaron Roy.
“Oh yeah. For sure. I did,” Schaper said. “I showed up at the beginning of the year and I probably wasn’t enjoying these events as much as I used to. These are the best events in the world. They are so great. They allow us to make a living riding bulls and getting on the best bulls in the world. The money is great and this is where you want to be.”
Schaper has the ultimate opportunity in Las Vegas this weekend to solidify himself on the BFTS for the rest of the season. One rider can earn 1,250 of the 3,000 world points available at the final PBR Major of the first half.
Three years ago, Schaper nearly won Last Cowboy Standing before being bucked off by Lucky You in the fourth round.
He is 4-for-9 in Last Cowboy Standing formatted events and will get another chance this weekend at a potential $100,000 payday.
“At the end of the day, no matter where you are at or where you are riding, it just takes you back that need to stay on all of your bulls,” Schaper said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.