By: James Youness
PUEBLO, Colo. – There are a lot of aspects that go into making one’s debut.
The first week at a new job, or with a new company, typically involves a fair share of paperwork, some handshakes, an onboarding chat with human resources and maybe even a “welcome lunch” of the sorts.
By the time Friday rolls around, new employees have their email established, are familiar with some of their coworkers and might even dig into a project or two to show their commitment.
Essentially, you’d have to screw up pretty badly in order for the introduction to be viewed as anything other than a success.
In the bull riding industry, however, it’s a bit different.
Budding superstar John Crimber understood his intentions and goals a few weekends back in Tucson, Arizona, as the prized talent prepared to make his Unleash The Beast debut. The 18-year-old had imagined this moment in his head several times over, occupying his mind yet serving as motivation for the past few years.
This was the big stage, after all. Where he was born to ride. Born to shine.
But after just 3.71 seconds aboard his first-ever UTB bovine opponent, Border Wall, Crimber came crashing down to reality after beginning his journey with an 0-for-1 record. The deepest of holes for the youngster who had officially been greeted by the world’s most talented animal athletes.
“After the first bull, I was pretty upset, but I knew it was a new day and I got a good bull drawn (leading into Saturday’s Round 2). The night before, I was talking to Jose (Vitor Leme) about him (Sky Walker) and he told me that if I just stayed in the middle, I would probably win the round, so I listened to him and it worked out,” Crimber shared.
“I try to listen to a lot of people and what they have to say. Sage (Kimzey) and Jose and all of those guys have been there and done that before, so I try to listen to those guys because they know what they’re talking about.”
Hanging with and listening to the best of the best quickly proved dividends for Crimber, as he went on to win Round 2 courtesy of his 89-point conversion. The first requisite 8 of his Unleash The Beast career.
“Just being there with guys like Jose and Sage, it was different. It made me want to ride better in a way. I knew they were going to give it everything they had, so I wanted to try to beat them guys,” Crimber shared a few days before hitting the road for St. Louis.
“Being around those type of people fired me up a whole lot more than just a regular high school rodeo, that’s for dang sure. It’s a dream come true, really.”
Comparing high school rodeos to the sport’s most prized tour isn’t exactly exchanging apples for oranges, but rather speaks to just how quickly the talented 18-year-old transcended from his amateur status to becoming one of the most promising riders featured this season on Unleash The Beast.
As the son of Paulo Crimber, it’s no surprise that the bull riding world has been watching on for the past four or five years as the youngster carefully carved his craft. But it wasn’t the bloodline specifically which continued to earn him the attention.
It was the rank rides he was producing.
And despite receiving all of the coaching, pointers and support in the world leading into any given go, pops wasn’t out there on the bull. It was just John, riding like it was his job.
Capturing the National High School Finals Rodeo’s top honors in both 2021 and 2022, it had already been established that Crimber would be a force to be reckoned with if he elected to compete within PBR’s extensive network of opportunities. It was merely a waiting a game as the 17-year-old crossed each day off his calendar, with Aug. 11 circled, starred and eyed as the golden prize.
Not just because it was his birthday, of course. But because that day would officially mark the transition between just going to work and actually punching the clock. (Cash register’s *Cha-ching* sounds in the distance)
Fast forward a few years, and well, he’s officially making it a career after declaring as a pro just one day after turning 18 this past summer.
While the premier series surely would welcome the pizzaz and following the talented phenom would bring with him, he would have to earn his spot just like the other riders who had given their all. Luckily for Crimber, he’s been blessed with plenty of health, a whole lot of flexibility and again, his age, now 30 years younger than UTB’s oldest competitor (Ednei Caminhas, 48).
Rather than looking at his opportunities to excel within Challenger Series and PBR Canada events as boxes that needed to be check to achieve his ultimate goal, he accepted them as learning experiences. Between making new friends north of the border, competing against well-tuned professionals for the first time and taking some time to simply soak it all in, why not have some fun with it all?
Not to mention going head-to-head with completely different batches of bulls. Different than the ones he’s grown up seeing in Texas.
“Going up there to Canada, those bulls are a lot bigger and not as showy as here. Here (UTB) they have something different on them,” he explained.
“I’ve always tried to challenge myself, but this year has been kind of the point where I’ve been really trying to challenge myself and get on some PBR bulls at different bull ridings.”
Exiting his premier series debut with an 11th place result, Crimber currently occupies the No. 9 rank in the UTB rankings. Plenty to learn, yet plenty to prove.
Set to participate in his second-ever UTB event this weekend in St. Louis, Crimber represents one of the many skilled riders who are representing this season’s rookie class. While it was Crimber who the industry has practically already crowned the 2024 Rookie of the Year, fellow first-year standout Caden Bunch wasted little time in reminding Crimber he was far from the only one gunning for that title, though.
“Caden Bunch, me and him always rode in the high school rodeos and stuff. He’s always been a pretty dang good bull riding. He motivates me too, all of those guys motivate me to be better every day,” Crimber offered.
“In Tucson he was riding good, everybody was riding everything, so I said, ‘I gotta stay on my bull, too. I don’t want to be the only one who falls off,” so, it’s definitely nice to have guys like that to push you a little harder.”
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Keeping it simple, as bull riders often praise, Crimber isn’t overthinking anything heading into his next opportunity to show out. With a Saturday night matchup against Caesar inside Enterprise Center awaiting, perhaps enduring another set of practice bulls at the two-time World Champion’s house is just what the doctor ordered.
“Get on some practice bulls, get my mind right and that’s about it. Just be ready for this weekend.”
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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