PUEBLO, Colo. – Bryan Titman walked through the Thomas & Mack Center last month and down the Hall of Champions and eventually found a seat in the locker room near Shane Proctor.
It wasn’t easy being there, but Titman had promised his buddies Proctor and 2015 World Finals event winner Cooper Davis, that he would be in Las Vegas to support them this year.
In his mind though, Titman should have been right there alongside them warming his rosin and putting on his chaps.
Instead, a broken left arm (free arm) in Cedar Park, Texas, at a Touring Pro Division event on Aug. 7 ruined the 27-year-old’s attempt at qualifying for his first World Finals.
Titman’s season officially came to an end when he underwent surgery 24 hours after first awkwardly landing on his elbow following a 5.53-second buckoff against Hooey in Cedar Park.
It was a gruesome break and the most painful injury of Titman’s career – one that has featured broken collarbones, ribs, pelvis and many more.
The break was so bad that his bone had ripped through the skin on the bottom of his arm and doctors needed two plates and 13 screws to mend the battered bull rider.
“Being at the World Finals and not being able to ride made it 10 times worse,” Titman said. “It was kind of upsetting because I knew this was going to be my year to focus on the PBR and make the Finals. I was right on the bubble trying to come back.”
Titman was ranked 44th in the world standings at the time of the injury and wound up finishing 53rd in his first full year of competition in the PBR.
He is returning to competition for the first time this weekend at the Touring Pro Division events in Enid, Oklahoma, and Goliad, Texas.
Titman also plans to compete at the 2015 PBR Canada Finals next weekend.
“It is still a little sore because I haven’t had a lot of time to use it much,” Titman said about his arm. “I am a little leery about how it is going to feel, but I feel pretty confident about it. I’ll have to wear a soccer shin deal on the side of my arm because if you run your fingers down the side of my arm you can feel all of the screws. I want something to block it from the bull if I get jerked down.”
The Texas, native made his Built Ford Tough Series debut with an 85.25-point ride in Sacramento, California, and won his first career round with a 87-point ride aboard Crazy Horse in Kansas City, Missouri.
Still, it pales in comparison to being able to ride at Iron Cowboy at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the next week.
“Crazy Horse was one of my best highlights, but my biggest highlight was Iron Cowboy,” Titman said. “I don’t know if it is because it is a home state deal or what it is, but that felt like Vegas to me. Walking across that stage and hearing my name was goosebumps.”
Titman rode Strong Heart for 86.5 points at Iron Cowboy to finish ninth overall. It was his second consecutive Top-10 finish of the season.
Overall, Titman only went 7-for-33 in 13 BFTS events and understands he will need to be better in 2016 and not get stuck overthinking things.
Titman admits during the middle portion of the season he began switching back-and-forth between different bull ropes and that he was even messing around with little parts of his riding style.
Titman now realizes those kind of changes and experiments should be left to the practice pen and not the PBR’s biggest stage where even the slightest mistake can prove costly.
It was one of the benefits Titman had being injured and going to the Finals.
He was able to take a step back and take everything in as a spectator, which also has him fired up for 2016.
“It gave me a stronger push for this year because that is where I want to be at,” Titman said. “For me to go see J.B. win the world face-to-face and being a part of that whole deal made me just want it more. That was a good wake up call to me.”
Titman isn’t worried about his comeback attempt this season as he works to qualify for the BFTS once again. He still remembers how many doubted his chances at even competing again, or even make it to the BFTS, when he broke his pelvis three years ago at a local Texas rodeo.
Titman is just geared up to nod his head for the first time in three months this coming weekend.
“I feel like I am on fire,” Titman said. “I don’t know if it is me getting ready to come back or what. My mind is set and fresh. This year I am going to prove to everyone what I am made of.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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