By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Andrew Alvidrez still cannot tell you what was beating harder inside AT&T Stadium 10 years ago – his heart or the loudspeakers – when Valdiron de Oliveira climbed into the bucking chute.
A then-13-year-old with bull riding dreams looked on in awe as Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blared throughout the stadium.
Oliveira was attempting to win $260,000, and Alvidrez was on the edge of his seat.
“Oh man, I remember exactly that day,” Alvidrez recalled this week. “Valdiron was getting on his last bull and they put that song on, ‘Lose Yourself’ by Eminem. I remember visualizing how I would handle that pressure because I knew that one day I was going to be in that situation.
“I would always be thinking, ‘What I would do in that situation?’ after that.”
Alvidrez was supposed to finally get his moment inside AT&T Stadium next month at the 2020 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast. The 2020 Rookie of the Year contender had already locked up a qualifying spot, and he was looking forward to sharing in a dream come true with his parents, fiancée and others in Arlington, Texas.
However, the now-24-year-old’s first World Finals appearance will have to wait one more year after Alvidrez fractured his C-7 vertebrae on Oct. 10 when Oreo bucked him off in 3.71 seconds in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“When I hit, I felt something was wrong immediately,” Alvidrez admitted. “I was moving my neck around and I was like, ‘Well, I think I got nothing serious.’ (Dr.) Tandy (Freeman) did a strength test (in the sports medicine room), and he said, ‘Let’s do a test Monday (in Dallas) because it is the spine and neck.’ Sure enough, it came, he dropped the news that I won’t be at the Finals this year, and I was like, ‘Dang.’
“That is why I say bull riding is so humbling. You can think you are the king and have this empire, and then all of a sudden it gets taken from you. This is why I have so much respect for this sport.”
Alvidrez did not expect to have his season end on an early fall night in Tulsa.
He walked out of the arena knowing his neck was in some pain, but he did not anticipate learning 48 hours later that he had actually broken his neck when he went over those test results with Freeman in Dallas.
The Seminole, Texas, native said the news was obviously “frustrating” in the moment, but Alvidrez is trying to remain positive as he has done throughout the ebbs and flows of his rookie season.
“For some reason, the first thing I thought was how badass of a story will this to be to come back from a broken neck,” Alvidrez said. “That is the first thing I thought. Yeah, it is frustrating, but this is a lesson God is trying to show me. Yeah it bummed me out that I won’t be able to go to the World Finals this year, but I just get pumped up for next year, honestly.”
Alvidrez was sitting fourth in the 2020 Rookie of the Year race at the time of his injury. He made a splashing debut in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a second-place finish, and he would finish runner-up again last month in Billings, Montana.
The Texan concludes his rookie season 9-for-33 on the Unleash The Beast.
“There is a lot of perspective I can lean on,” Alvidrez said. “I know I did everything I could this year giving it my best. I can lean on that, but then again I expect better from myself. I am too good to get hurt. I know that sounds arrogant, but as a professional athlete I hold myself to that standard. I train, I do everything I physically can to keep myself in top physical condition.”
Alvidrez’s path to his first World Finals qualification may have taken him six years since he first turned pro at 18 years old, but the 2018 Touring Pro Division champion has continued to show improvement.
The son of an amateur boxer, Alvidrez spent those teenage years after watching Oliveira win Iron Cowboy as a two-sport athlete in Texas.
Alvidrez, who did not compete competitively as a boxer, did set a Texas High School Powerlifting Association record when he won the state title his senior year in the Division 2, 148-pound weight class in 2015. He lifted a combined 1,510 pounds — 600 on the squat, 320 on the bench press and 590 in the dead lift. Not only did Alvidrez win the state powerlifting title, but the night before he rode both of his bulls at a high school rodeo in Sweetwater, Texas, to win his regional championship.
Alvidrez is following the guidance of Dr. Andrew Dossett, who specializes in spinal injuries, for his recovery, and Alvidrez expects to be out of competition for three months. He is hopeful he can return to action in January when the 2021 Unleash The Beast gets underway.
“2021 I will be firing on all cylinders,” Alvidrez said. “This is a discomforting moment, but we don’t learn in comfort.”
That does not mean, though, that Alvidrez will not be making the 350-mile drive to Arlington.
Alvidrez plans on attending the World Finals as a fan and cheering on his buddies, such as traveling mate Ezekiel Mitchell, as they look to make history at the first Finals held in Texas.
“Oh yeah, I am coming to the World Finals,” Alvidrez concluded. “It ain’t about me. It is about the camaraderie we have back there. I want to see my brothers ride just as bad as I want to ride. It is going to be exciting to see the Finals in Arlington.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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