By: Justin Felisko
March 28, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – It hasn’t taken long for 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel to prove he belongs in the PBR.
It took the 24-year-old only one event to win his first Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event, and his victory this past weekend in Glendale, Arizona, came in just his fourth career Built Ford Tough Series event.
Combine those two victories in less than two months with his 2012 PRCA championship belt buckle around his waist, a 2016 Calgary Stampede title and the endless list of prestigious rodeo victories on his resume and it would be easy for Teel to not view himself as a stereotypical PBR rookie.
Regardless, Teel is staying humbled as he takes his first stab at the toughest level of professional bull riding.
“I feel like a rookie, and I am a rookie,” Teel said pointedly. “That is what it is. I was pretty humbled coming over here. It is great competition with the best guys and best bulls. That is why I want to be here.
“I want to try and carve my own spot out. There is a lot more work to do, for sure, but it has been fun coming over and it’s been an awesome experience. I hope to continue.”
Teel finally got the breakthrough he had been hoping for since making his BFTS debut at Iron Cowboy last month by going 3-for-3 this past weekend at the Ak-Chin Invitational.
His talented riding ability was out in full force after beginning his weekend with an average 83-point ride on Booger Red.
Teel made a career-high 88-point ride away from his hand on Crazy Horse to win Round 2 on Sunday afternoon and give himself a much-needed confidence boost.
“I finally got a big ride,” Teel said in the minutes after the ride. “I had been waiting for that. I have had some opportunities I let slip by me. To get it here today, I was needing it.”
Teel was just getting started.
He sealed his first BFTS victory on the final ride of the event by making easy work of More Big Bucks for 87.25 points into his hand.
It was a flawless performance from the champion bull rider, yet Teel’s humility was front and center as he tried to catch his breath, wipe the sweat off his face and simply process the fact that he was holding his first BFTS belt buckle in his left hand.
“Hopefully this is one of many,” Teel said. “I have to look forward to next weekend and show back up and do it again. It is a what have you done lately for me sport.
“It is back to zero this week. It is a new weekend. It feels good having momentum on my side, but, at the same time, it is the past. I have to show up and do it all over again. Around here you can’t dwell on the past, bad or good.”
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray left Glendale impressed with Teel’s ability to make seamless moves on the back of his bovine opponents in relative ease.
“He looked the best here this weekend,” Murray said. “He is making his movements. When I say making his movements, sitting here today I see so many guys trying to hold a position. It doesn’t work. They know it doesn’t work. It is nice to see a guy nod his head and he is working and making the counter moves. Then it just takes the power away from the bull, and he was the one that did that the best.
“We saw him go away from his hand. We saw him go into his hand. He rode the same either way. I like seeing that as well.”
Teel began his BFTS career 2-for-8 with some embarrassing buckoffs before Glendale.
At Murray’s event in Albuquerque two weeks ago, Teel lasted an average of 2.75 seconds on his last two bulls after failing to finish his Round 1 ride on Dirt Man Do (7.52 seconds).
“As a competitor, I know what I am capable of and I expect a lot out of myself,” Teel said. “Shoot, like I said, this is a very humbling sport. Last weekend they dropped me pretty good. Quick and fast on my back a lot. You have to take that and keep moving on. It is going to be hard at times, especially in the borderline points situation like I was in.”
That is one less thing Teel will have to worry about when he heads into this coming weekend’s First PREMIER Bank PREMIER Bankcard Invitational in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Teel earned 515 point toward the world standings in Glendale to go from 38th in the world standings, and the last BFTS alternate spot, to 19th.
“I feel like you are always looking over your shoulder the whole time (near that cutline),” Teel admitted. “You can try to stick it as far back in your mind as you want to, but it is going to come up to the surface. You have to deal with that pressure.
“There is not a better feeling than being in that position and pulling through and do good. It is very rewarding sometimes.”
Murray said we have seen almost every rider struggle at first once they arrived at the BFTS level, so it is “pretty cool” watching Teel step up and win in just his fourth event.
He then added, “Don’t get me wrong. It is not just easy streaking from here on out. He is going to find the other end of the stick at this level. He ought to be here. He has the talent to be here.”
Teel has handled himself like a savvy veteran, which in ways he is because of his five-year career in the PRCA.
The Kountze, Texas, bull rider hasn’t arrived guns blazing looking to boast or brag inside the PBR locker room.
Instead, he has sat back and picked the brains primarily of two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, but also four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris and three-time World Champion Silvano Alves.
“J.B. has really gone out of his way to help me out and make sure I had all of the information I needed and has been a big encouragement.” Teel said.
Teel understands he knows how to ride bulls, but he is still adjusting to life in the PBR, which is why he does in many ways feel like the rookie he technically is.
Shoot, just this past weekend Teel had to figure out how to approach the Built Ford Tough Championship Round with the top selection for the draft.
“We don’t have this in rodeo,” Teel said. “Not at all. This is a little different for me, not being too familiar with a lot of the bulls. I have to do a little more homework during the week. I know those top bulls but then there are some other ones I am not familiar with. There are a lot of great bulls.”
Luckily, Teel had seen More Big Bucks many times before and felt comfortable with making that his selection after double-checking with Harris and five-year PBR veteran Stetson Lawrence.
Then there have been nights he has asked Alves for help with where to go for pre-event introductions or advice on a new set of bulls he has never seen before in his career.
Alves gave Teel a congratulatory pat on the back Sunday afternoon.
“That was pretty cool,” Teel said. “Everyone is rooting for each other. There are a lot of great guys here.”
So, yes, Teel will continue to have some rookie growing pains, but Teel took much more than a baby-step forward in Glendale.
It was a giant leap forward in proving he belongs not only in the PBR, but also in the conversation for 2017 Rookie of the Year.
“I want to win Rookie of the Year,” Teel, who is third in the rookie race, said. “Coming in later like I am, of course the ultimate goal is eventually a PBR world title. Whether that be in years to come or what, but my main goal is be Rookie of the Year, get to the PBR Finals and keep pushing forward.
“I want to be the best Rookie of the Year. You set your goals and try to knock them out. If you can shoot way past those then even better. I am not limiting myself to just that. I just need to keep pushing forward.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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