By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – There have been times over the past two years in which Daylon Swearingen was frantically trying to keep up with his college studies.
Swearingen is a full-time student at Panola College in Carthage, Texas, as well a professional athlete, and last year was a true test for the Piffard, New York, native in more than one way.
Not only did Swearingen have to learn how to balance the travel rigors associated with making a push at qualifying for the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and 2019 PBR World Finals, but he also had to dedicate time in his hotel room to finishing his homework assignments or watching online seminars.
Swearingen – the 2019 collegiate national champion bull rider – not only succeeded last year in becoming the youngest bull rider to ever qualify for both the NFR and the World Finals, but he also has kept his grades up.
The sophomore is now in the final stages of finishing up his associate degree in land and ranch management.
Swearingen explained last week that he hasn’t had to make too many changes to his coursework like some college students across the United States because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, as he has been taking his classes online because of his bull riding career.
“It really hasn’t affected me seeing as all my classes were online already,” Swearingen said. “I am in my last semester, and I might have one or two classes to finish up, and I should graduate with an associate’s degree.”
Last year, Swearingen received excused absences from the PBR’s competition committee so that he could compete at collegiate rodeos that overlapped with Unleash The Beast events.
“I am really thankful, and it is a really good opportunity,” Swearingen said of collegiate rodeo last year. “Other young guys should take advance of it. If these schools are paying people to go rodeo, we should take advantage of it and do it.
“It is definitely hard, but in the long run I think it pays off. A (college degree) will help me in the long run, and anything can happen in this sport.”
Swearingen has not had to miss any Unleash The Beast events in 2020 because of collegiate commitments.
Now, while Swearingen would much rather be riding bulls than be stuck at home, he understands the severity of the worldwide situation, and he is using the time to focus on his studies at home in Georgia and help out on his family’s ranch.
For now, the No. 4-ranked bull rider’s pursuit of a World Championship is on hold, but Swearingen is hopeful that when the PBR does pick back up, he will be ready to make an even stronger push up the world rankings.
Swearingen finished in third place at the last Unleash The Beast event in Duluth, Georgia, with a 2-for-3 showing in the non-public event.
“I wouldn’t say it was hard to get used to, but it was just something you kind of had to make a little adjustment,” Swearingen said. “On the second day, I kind of stayed in the locker room a little more. It is always the same back there. We are always joking around and having a good time so I just kind of stayed back there.”
The second-year pro bounced back from a Round 1 buckoff to ride Joker for 86.5 points and Lil 2 Train for 89 points in the championship round inside the empty Infinite Energy Center.
Swearingen called the experience surreal.
“It was definitely way different than being at one of the big events, or any event, really,” Swearingen said. “There was nobody out there. You had to pump yourself up when you got into the bucking chute, but everything went back to routine anyways. At least for me, when I climb down there, I can’t really remember anything. You let your muscle memory take over. It is definitely something I will not forget.”
Swearingen trails world leader Jose Vitor Leme by 193.84 points.
He has already set a new career-high in qualified rides on the premier series (14), and is riding at a 46.67% clip compared to his 12-for-39 (30.77%) showing in 2019.
“I definitely am feeling a little bit better,” Swearingen said. “I am not getting on bulls every single day. I am working on being a little more consistent. Not being happy with my spurring. Being more controlled and getting out there and going after them. Hopefully, you can spur and stay on. I am trying to be controlled when I am doing it.”
Swearingen won the first event of his career earlier this year in Chicago, and he has posted four Top-3 finishes in nine events.
There is still another level Swearingen believes he can get to, though, and he plans to try to improve his physical condition during his time away from the arena.
“That is one thing I am going to take advantage of because I have a little fat I am going to lose,” Swearingen said. “I am going to lose a little bit of weight and be 100% when everything does kick back up. I work out at my house, so this has not really affected me. I have a little gym and everything here in Georgia so it all works out.
“God has a greater plan. I have to kind of just be a little more consistent and keep adapting to these changes that I have to make to be a world champ.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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