PUEBLO, Colo. – Brennon Eldred didn’t have to learn how to ride a 2,000-pound animal from Jess Lockwood or Cooper Davis.
Instead, Eldred spent the last month of the 2017 season, including five days in Las Vegas during the PBR World Finals, analyzing and watching how the two World Champions handled themselves.
You didn’t have to look too far to find Eldred inside T-Mobile Arena.
If Eldred wasn’t sitting near the two young PBR superstars, then he was having one of them pull his bull rope on the back of the bucking chutes or he was there looking on as Lockwood was spurring his way to three round wins and a $1 million World Championship.
“The biggest deal for me is making sure I show up every single time,” Eldred said. “I am looking forward to next year because I feel I have that extra confidence to go win a world title. Hanging out with Jess and Cooper, all them guys, watching them accomplish what they did was huge for me.”
Eldred, who finished 2017 ranked 27th in the world standings, knew he struggled with his focus at times during his rookie season.
The 23-year-old spent too much time trying to adjust to the bright lights of the PBR’s Premier Series, the endless interview requests and the on-going analysis of his performance.
Eldred always knew he could ride, but what he learned was that he couldn’t just expect to show up and have success.
There are no off-days in the PBR.
Therefore, Eldred wanted to surround himself with winners in the locker room and riders that appeared to have a strong, mental grasp on the sport.
“The people you surround yourself with is how you are going to be,” Eldred said. “I want to surround myself with winners. They are not only winners inside the arena, but outside of it.”
On the dirt, Eldred noticed that Lockwood and Davis had a fierce focus.
“Their attitude,” Eldred explained. “How they approach things. They want to win every time they compete. They are winners and they are champions.
“That is what I want to be.”
Eldred, who also spent time with Davis during Team USA’s Global Cup victory in Edmonton, Alberta, last month, will be able to put what he learned into action this coming week at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The Sulphur, Oklahoma, bull rider is making his second trip to the Thomas & Mack Center and is ranked 12th in the bull riding standings.
Eldred understands he has his work cut out for him in Las Vegas if he hopes to run down PRCA No. 1 bull rider Sage Kimzey and overcome a $144,161.35 deficit in the standings.
Kimzey has been a runaway train toward a fourth consecutive PRCA bull riding championship, but there is more than enough money for Eldred or any rider to usurp Kimzey atop the standings if the PRCA’s top bull rider stubs his toe during the 10-day event.
One rider can earn potentially $329,576.93 at the NFR if he were to win every round (each round winner receives $26,230.77) plus the event average ($67,269.23) at the NFR. However, that is not including the possibility of ground money.
The PRCA is now counting ground money at the NFR this year toward the bull riding standings. Therefore, if say only one rider were to reach 8 seconds in a round, he could pocket $84,615.38. Or, for example, if only three riders reach the 8-second mark, they would split the remaining ground money.
The PRCA crowns its bull riding champion based on total money earned throughout the year, while the PBR World Champion is the rider who accumulates the most world standings points in PBR-sanctioned events.
Riders placing first through sixth per round at the NFR earn money toward the standings, as well as riders placing first through seventh in the average.
“I didn’t get to go to all of the rodeos like I did in the past, so I am at the bottom of the pack,” Eldred said. “But it is Vegas and anything can happen. There is tons of money up for grabs and all the ground money counts. Really anybody can go in there and sweep it up. I am going to go in and take it bull for bull and ride all 10.”
The last rider to go a perfect 10-for-10 at the NFR was three-time PBR World Champion Adriano Moraes, who rode all of his bulls at the 1994 NFR
Eldred also has the confidence knowing he went 6-for-10 last year during his NFR debut, which was highlighted by a sensational 94.25-point ride on now two-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser.
While he would love to pull off a memorable come-from-behind championship, Eldred realistically thinks it is more likely to focus on winning the NFR event average.
“I am not in a good position to win the world,” Eldred admitted. “That would be tough. The least I can do is go in there and win the Finals. I am just going to go in and get 10 down. Last year, I rode six and am going to try and build off that.”
Eldred won seven different rodeos in 2017 to qualify for the NFR.
On the PBR trail, Eldred finished the year 14-for-38 (36.84 percent) after making his debut in Billings, Montana in April.
Two of Eldred’s rides came at the World Finals where he rode Element 79 (87.25 points) and Cooper Tire’s Brown Sugar (89.25 points).
Brown Sugar is scheduled to compete at the NFR.
“Coming off the PBR World Finals and getting some bulls rode there was huge for me,” Eldred concluded. “My confidence is high.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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