Nevada Newman, 23, got the call to compete in his first career Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series event last week in St. Louis.
“My dad told me, once you get on tour, make a statement and let everyone know you’re there to be the best,” Newman said.
Newman did that by choosing to ride Mississippi Hippy, a 2,300-pound behemoth that barely fits into the bucking chute, in the championship round. Eight seconds and 87.75 points later, Newman got his message across.
“I felt blessed and thankful and to jump out and win the first round, I was like, ‘Shoot, this is going better than I thought.’ It could’ve went better. I could’ve rode all four bulls,” Newman said. “But riding those two was plenty good with me and the place I ended up, I was plum tickled.”
Newman finished second, along with Brazilian rookie Wallace Vieira de Oliveira.
Newman is just the latest rookie to make an impact in the young 2016 season. Vieira de Oliveira entered the Kansas City Clash at the Sprint Center third in the world standings. Derek Kolbaba is ninth, and Newman vaulted into 10th after his performance in St. Louis.
Kolbaba got his boot in the door late last season, and performed well enough to earn a full-time spot on the PBR’s top tour this year.
“It’s awesome, and being in the top 10 in the world is something people strive to do,” Kolbaba said. “It’s early, but it’s definitely a start.”
The PBR is no different than other major sports — things move faster at the top level. The competition is stiffer, both in terms of riders and bulls.
“It can help you or go against you,” Kolbaba said. “Other than that, at the end of the day, it’s still bull riding. You’ve got one job, to get the bull underneath you rode.”
To that end, Kolbaba had the same goal as Newman when he arrived at the Built Ford Tough Series.
“I’m not there to be a guy,” Kolbaba said. “I want to go in there and make things happen. That’s my goal.”
Kolbaba sounds confident, because he is. It takes a lot of strength to hold onto a bull intent on flinging you off … but that’s not the kind of strength needed to succeed.
“I’ve sat out two years with injuries, and the whole time I’m sitting out I’m thinking, ‘Am I good enough?’ If you bring a positive attitude and stay confident, that’s all you need to be successful on tour,” Newman said.
Confidence is how the rookies got to the top level of the PBR. It’s how they plan on staying there.
“Some might call it cocky, but in our sport, it’s 90 percent in our head,” Kolbaba said. “If you’re not right between your ears, you’ll have a tough time. It’s something I dreamed about since I was a kid, getting that level and getting that experience.”