By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Chase Outlaw climbed into the makeshift bull riding ring and put his hand forward to help the little boy sitting aboard his mechanical bull gain his balance.
Outlaw offered a few words of encouragement and got ready to cheer the boy on as he prepared to make a memorable ride aboard the mechanical bucker beneath him.
The eight-time PBR World Finals qualifier was grinning from ear to ear. As much as Outlaw would rather have been entertaining fans inside the real bull riding arena at the Ogden Ranch in Prairie Grove, Arkansas, on July 17-18, getting a chance to still give back to his fans and interact with them vs. staying at home recovering from an injury to his left shoulder was still important.
“I want to be proactive with the fans and just being there and giving back,” Outlaw said. “Just to see the smiles on those kids there seeing me running (the mechanical bull). You know they are going to try so hard to ride that thing because they want to show me. Like when I was a kid, I wanted to show those guys (that I looked up to) I can ride these things, too.
“I just know I rode a mechanical bull so much as a little kid and it brought me joy. Running it so far, seeing the smile on those kids’ faces, it is the same as doing a bull riding school without sitting there and instructing every kid and, yes, it is not with a live animal. It can be for anyone. Even just for a kid who was dropped off at the rodeo.
“This keeps me at the place I love, which is the rodeo or bull riding.”
Outlaw and his wife, Nicole, launched their Outlaw Nation clothing and lifestyle brand earlier this year, and they recently purchased a mechanical bull – the Outlaw Bucker, as Chase calls it – from PBR partner Mechanical Bull Sales to bring to events. Outlaw hopes to one day bring his bull to PBR events when possible in select markets.
“I would like to be with my fans, and for my sponsors,” Outlaw said. “This brand we have is t-shirts, hats and really just me being a country boy and a bull rider. We ain’t trying to take the world over or nothing. We are just trying to provide something for my fans.”
The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider did not expect to be running a mechanical bull this summer or fall, but that was the case when Outlaw injured his left shoulder during the bull riding at the Whitesboro Pro Rodeo in Whitesboro, Texas, over the Fourth of July run.
Outlaw had successfully ridden his bull before the bovine ran over the top of him as he was attempting to crawl to safety.
The tough-as-nails bull rider knew right away that his left shoulder, the one that Dr. Tandy Freeman had surgically repaired this past December, was dislocated. Local EMT’s were unable to get Outlaw’s shoulder back into socket, and it would take another two hours, sedation and a trip to the hospital before doctors were finally able to get his shoulder back into place.
“Gosh damn, I know I am tough,” Outlaw recalled. “But like J.B. (Mauney) says, I am tired of proving it, and I did not want to prove it for two hours. That was some excruciating pain when you are talking about two hours.”
Toughness is never a question when it comes to Outlaw, but even he admits that he felt a whole new level of pain on that hot Texas night in Whitesboro.
Outlaw made sure to call Freeman and schedule a follow-up MRI to check on the status of his shoulder.
Outlaw was attempting to come back from his fourth reconstructive shoulder surgery (second on his left) in the past five seasons, and he was already off to a great start. A day earlier, he had won the PBR Touring Pro Division event at the 90th annual Texas Cowboy Reunion rodeo in Stamford, Texas, with an 89-point ride on Dixie Explosion. It was only his second PBR event after missing the first six months recovering from his December surgery.
Outlaw had been vigorously rehabbing and training, and was extremely cautious about not coming back too soon this season. He wanted to avoid any chance of a setback.
Yet, there he was.
Back in Dallas, frustratingly waiting to learn the fate of his shoulder that second week of July following a bad luck injury.
Outlaw received a mixed bag of news from Freeman.
All of the surgical work Freeman did in December was still intact.
Outlaw needed a different surgery, but this one would not be nearly as severe as his past surgeries.
Regardless, Outlaw will now undergo surgery for a fifth time since 2015 on Aug. 12 – ending his 2020 season and a potential late run at the 2020 PBR World Finals.
“It did not tear anything that Tandy fixed. All it did was it went through the middle of the capsule,” Outlaw said. “It didn’t tear the capsule loose from the socket, and it didn’t tear it loose from the ball, it cut it right through the middle of the tissue like a knife. He is going to go in there and scope and fix that capsule back together. It is a three-month recovery. I’m basically done for the year.”
Outlaw was confident he would have qualified for a ninth consecutive World Finals this year if not for this second surgery.
He is trying to stay positive despite his disappointment that his 2020 season never even really got started. The world is amidst a worldwide pandemic, and there are a lot of others with more serious problems currently.
“It just sucks,” Outlaw said. “I knew I was able to make the points up because nobody had been getting points, but I knew I would be able to make it up it to the Top 20, easily. But the way everything is going in the world, it is a shitshow.”
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports analyst Justin McBride was extremely disappointed when he learned Outlaw would not be making his highly anticipated push for the 2020 World Finals during the second half.
“It has been a screwed up deal this year, anyway,” McBride said. “It sucks for me because things are better when Chase is there, just all the way around. You know what you get with Outlaw. You get a lot of guts every time he is there. He is freaking entertaining. He reminds me of a UFC fighter.”
Outlaw was sensational in 2019, going a career-best 47-for-94 (50%) with eight 90-point rides, four event wins and eight Top-5 finishes. If not for historically great years by two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood and current world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme, Outlaw may have left T-Mobile Arena last season as the World Champion.
It was expected Outlaw would contend for a championship again in 2020 before he learned in the offseason that he needed surgery.
Those world title expectations will carry over into 2021, no doubt.
Once the Unleash The Beast season begins, tentatively scheduled for January, Outlaw will be fully recovered from this minor setback and be healthy for a full season and push at the PBR’s $1 million championship.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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