By: Justin Felisko
March 01, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jessi Proctor has been married to her husband, Shane, for seven years, and she has known him for the past eight.
The bull rider that is currently No. 1 in the world standings and is the 2016 Iron Cowboy is one Jessi has never seen before in her life, but it is one she has expected to one day see.
“Honestly, he did win the PRCA world championship in 2011, but about halfway through last year and up until now is the best I have ever seen him ride. Ever,” she said. “They say they worry about bull riders getting older, they don’t ride as good or they get the fear in them. I feel like the more he has gotten older, the more he has matured in his riding. It is crazy, the older he gets the better he rides.”
While Shane’s return to the No. 1 ranking in the world standings for the first time since two reconstructive shoulder surgeries wiped out his 2014 season is a credit to the 30-year-old’s commitment, the bigger difference is Proctor’s newfound mental attitude.
Jessi knew following Shane’s third-place finish at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo that he was getting close to turning a corner.
She could see it by the way he would no longer jump around or be too jacked up on the edge of the bucking chutes. She could feel it at home the way Shane would be at ease and no longer appear stressed about his performance or world standings rankings.
Something clicked in his mind, and that something was confidence.
“Before there would be times at home when we would just be riding horses or something and you could tell,” Jessi said. “I would be like, ‘Is there something wrong with you?’ and he would be like, ‘I am so stressed out about riding and this and that.’ He is just so much more relaxed now.”
Shane agreed with his wife’s assessment.
“Just confidence,” he said. “That is what this sport is 90 percent of. Believing in yourself and knowing what you can do as a person. You learn a lot about yourself in this sport because you can be king one day and the next day it is not that way. It is a very humbling sport and it is a selfish sport. It is hard on family and friends, but luckily I have a good support system and they stick with me.”
Proctor began the season 4-for-5 and was in a position to win the first PBR Major of the season before bucking off Sheep Creek in 2.26 seconds in New York.
Four weeks later he converted on his first championship round bull of the season with an 89-point ride on Cooper Tires Brown Sugar to win the Bass Pro Chute Out in St. Louis. It was his first BFTS victory one day after the 19-month anniversary of his second reconstructive shoulder surgery.
“The mental mindset from the (NFR) set him up to do good,” Jessi said. “Then in New York, he did pretty good. If he starts the year off good, he does good. If he does not the start the year off so good, it is a struggle.”
Shane has won two of the past three BFTS events, and Proctor showed in Arlington the mental fortitude to bounce back from his Round 2 buckoff on Asteroid.
In years past, he admittedly would have let that affect him.
“I think it is just age,” he said. “I think it is maturity. That has a lot to do with it. You just go and try and not let the moment control you. You control the moment.”
Proctor, who turns 31 on March 24, understands he is on the latter half of his bull riding career. He knows time is running out for him to accomplish more of his professional goals, which includes becoming the first bull rider to win a PBR world title and PRCA bull riding title in the same season.
It is why Proctor was on his way to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport at 4 a.m. Sunday morning to return to Scottsdale, Arizona, for the conclusion of a PRCA rodeo. He didn’t even leave AT&T Stadium until after midnight Saturday.
Twenty-four hours before Iron Cowboy, Proctor was bucked off right at the whistle at a rodeo in Tucson, Arizona. On Thursday, Proctor had ridden a bull for 78 points in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Proctor told his wife on the way to Arlington he was going to win the Iron Cowboy.
“He was just calmer,” Jessi recalled. “He wasn’t so worked up. It was almost like he was remembering to breathe. I don’t know how else to describe it. He said before we came here tonight he was going to win this event and I believed him. He just had that attitude tonight.”
The Grand Coulee, Washington, bull rider attempted a total of seven bulls in four days.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said Proctor’s performance was impressive even though he faced weaker bulls at the rodeo events.
“That is good to see,” Lambert said. “Shane has always been a really good bull rider. The Iron Cowboy is a tough event to win. You have to be tough and he is a tough guy, but you got to get lucky too.”
Proctor added, “I mean, the more bulls I get on, the better I am. I knew this kind of situation should fit me because I feel like I am in a little better shape than a lot of guys. A lot of it is just the mentality. When you get on a roll, and everything is going your way, you just keep fighting for it and that is what today was.”
Proctor has earned 1,640 points, or 90.52 percent, of his total world standings points in two of the past three weeks.
He takes a 161.66-point lead into the AK-Chin Invitational this weekend in Phoenix.
It is the first time Proctor is No. 1 in the world standings since heading into Last Cowboy Standing in May 2013 as the world leader.
Almost three years later, and Proctor believes he has the confidence and experience to head deeper into the season as the No. 1 ranked bull rider.
“I know how to handle it,” he said. “It is not a new situation. It is just another situation. There is a long season left. That is a big part of it. You just have to keep sticking to the grind. A couple of weeks ago, I was 23rd and with the cut coming up that was to close for comfort. You have to find it in yourself to push past that and push past all the b.s. and keep pushing forward.
“There is no better spot than No. 1.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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