By: Justin Felisko
April 04, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Triplett lay helplessly on the ground inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center with his arms flailing in the air on Saturday night.
Triplett could only think, ‘Oh, shit,’ as Bottoms Up came crashing down to the ground during Triplett’s ride attempt in Round 2 of the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER Bankcard Invitational this past weekend, nearly crushing his knee to pieces in the process.
“It is an adrenaline rush,” Triplett said. “I am just happy he didn’t roll all the way over me. A 2,000-pound bull can roll all over me. Yeah, it is a little scary, but it is scary every time you nod your head. You just have to deal with it and move on.”
It was also another reminder to Triplett, who went on to win the Built Ford Tough Series event in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 24 hours later, that his career – and life – can be over in milliseconds as a professional bull rider.
The close-call reiterated what his father, Pat, had talked to him about prior to Triplett packing his bags and heading out to South Dakota last week.
Pat had called his son a few days after the Ak-Chin Invitational in Glendale, Arizona, to give Matt some much-needed fatherly advice.
No, it wasn’t pretty either.
Matt had just finished the event 0-for-2 with buckoffs of 1.92 and 2.63 seconds and Pat decided it was time for his son to hear some harsh criticism.
“I am very proud of him,” Pat said Tuesday via phone. “I have always been proud of him, but it just came to a point where I had to tell him you can either be digging a ditch for $10 an hour or you can keep your hand shut.”
The always brutally honest father continued, “I told him, ‘Dude you have to pull your head out of your ass.’ I was like, ‘Where is the kid that grew up riding everything with hair? The want? The try? Where is it at? Where are you in your life you don’t want to try so hard?’ He didn’t have a whole lot to say about it. I told him you are better than that. I told him the reality of bull riding. You can do what you are doing and get cut from tour and have to start over. There is a lot of money to be won.”
Most of all, Pat reminded his son that a year ago his season was basically ended when he sustained a left shoulder injury in Sioux Falls that needed to be surgically fixed.
Therefore, Matt shouldn’t take his career for granted.
“There may not be a next week,” Pat said. “He may get hurt. That is what I was explaining. This deal could be done tomorrow. All of the bull riders know that. So why not take advantage of what you have to the fullest?”
Triplett took his dad’s advice to heart and went 3-for-4 in Sioux Falls to earn his first BFTS victory since February 2015 (Anaheim, California).
Triplett began his weekend with 82.25 points on Black Sugar in Round 1 and 87.25 points on Red Sails in the Sunset. He then had to rebound from his Round 3 buckoff against Biker Bob (5.75 seconds) to ride Little Red Jacket for 87.25 points in the championship round.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider now heads into his home state event this weekend – the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational in Billings – ranked ninth after earning 625 points toward the world standings.
“I have to thank everything I have done this week to my dad,” Triplett said. “He really talked to me and pulled my head together. He was just pretty disgusted with me last weekend. I didn’t even make it 4 seconds on two bulls. It really sunk in. I just love it that he is there to support me.”
Pat said he was just doing what any other good dad would do.
“I don’t care who he is. He is just my kid,” Pat said. “It is just being a parent. At the end of the day, it is being a dad. There is nothing special about that.”
Quite the contrary, Matt countered.
Matt considers his dad one of his best friends and loves everything his dad has taught him in and out of the arena.
Pat competed as a bull rider in local and pro rodeos for 15 years. He would travel sometimes 24 hours to compete for just the chance at winning $1,000.
Matt can remember his dad bringing him to Rimrock Auto Arena for PBR events as a kid and those times where he would get grounded for “mouthing off” a little too much.
Then, of course, he will never forget the tears they both shed when he won his first of two Montana State High School Rodeo bull riding titles as a teenager.
“I love him and I appreciate everything he teaches me,” Matt said while holding his Sioux Falls victory belt buckle. “My dad is my biggest supporter. He trains me mentally. He helps with my moves. He has been my supporter my whole life. I love it.”
Pat, who also hauls bulls to select Built Ford Tough Series events, said he doesn’t pull punches when it comes to giving fatherly advice.
It is something his father taught him, and it is something he has passed down to his son.
“I told him a lot of things he didn’t want to hear, but I think I got his attention,” Pat said. “That is how he used to ride. You have to be brutally honest. That is how I am with Matt. Yeah, he will get mad at me for a week and not talk to me, but I don’t care. It seems to be working I guess.”
Matt knows his dad was hard on him because he loves him so much.
“It does weigh on you some,” Matt said. “He taught me everything I know. It hurts a little bit when your dad says that, but he does that out of the kindness of his heart because he knows how much talent I have.
“Next weekend he will be in Billings so that will be awesome.”
Pat laughed when asked what his son had to say Sunday night after his victory.
“‘It sure feels good to listen,’” Matt told his dad via text. “‘I am listening now. You got my attention.’”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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