Ryan Dirteater, aka The Cherokee Kid, of Hulbert was one of the hottest riders on the Professional Bull Riders Tour in 2009, qualifying second for the PBR Finals. But he couldn't compete for the world title that year after dislocating his knee in the final regular-season event.
He was forced to skip the entire 2010 season and also missed significant time the past three years because of knee and elbow injuries. Even though he missed more than four months last year after tearing his ACL in April, Dirteater finished sixth at the 2013 PBR Finals and 14th on the season.
The 24-year-old bull rider is currently 12th after three events this season entering this weekend's Express Invitational at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Q: Are you a bull rider because your father was a bull rider?
A: He showed me a lot through my early life and still today. I just watched bull riding at an early age and I thought it was cool. It was an extreme sport. I wanted to try it and I did it and I love it.
Did you ever fear bulls?
Every time I climb on one. Fear is always there. If they say they don't fear it, they are lying to you. That's the toughest part of the game, the fear and the mental side of the sport. You can psyche yourself out because you are climbing on a 2,000-pound animal. It's only for eight seconds but it's the hardest eight seconds of your life.
Talk about the start of your season. How important is it for you to get off to a good start?
The first five events are very important and making that first cut. Thirty-five guys are guaranteed five events. Past that, you got to ride up to par to stay on the tour. After that fifth event and you are not in the top 30 in points, you get cut from the tour and have to earn your way back up in the minor league events. Oklahoma City is the fourth stop, so we are closing in on it.
As many injuries as you've have had the past four years, do you feel snakebit?
I have had my share of injuries. It's just part of the plan that was put out there for me. I have learned through that. You try to take all the positives out of it you can.