ARLINGTON, Texas – 2012 PRCA Champion Cody Teel walked into AT&T Stadium five months ago for the Texas A&M-Arkansas college football game and he immediately got chills down the back of his spine.
Teel looked around at 60,000-plus fans inside the home of the Dallas Cowboys and he knew there was no question he wanted to one day ride bulls at the house that Jerry Jones built.
The 24-year-old just didn’t think it would happen this year.
Teel is set to make his Built Ford Tough Series debut on Saturday night at the Frontier Communication’s Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki.
Fans can watch the conclusion of Iron Cowboy exclusively on CBS national television Sunday at noon ET.
It has been less than a month since Teel made his 2017 PBR debut and all he needed was two Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour events to earn a spot in the draw for the PBR Major event, arguably the biggest on the PBR schedule outside of the World Finals.
“Oh, I am real excited for Saturday,” Teel said Thursday evening. “That was the first time I was in that building. I told myself with the Iron Cowboy I need to ride here one day. I didn’t think it would be this year because I was getting a late start going to them, but it worked out that way.
“Shoot, I am really pumped to get to go in there and compete for that type of money on great bulls.”
Teel earned one of five Velocity Tour event exemptions for Iron Cowboy by winning his season-debut in Roanoke, Virginia.
The Kountze, Texas, bull rider went a perfect 3-for-3 in his first PBR event on American soil since 2010.
He then placed third at the Velocity Tour event in Reno, Nevada, the following week.
“It is not like I feel like I am doing anything that is mind-blowing,” Teel said. “I had three great bulls and three opportunities to do good, and I was able to take advantage of it. That is a big part of it. Take advantage of the opportunities when you get them and I was able to do it. I am not dwelling on the win there. You have to keep moving forward, especially when you go into an event like Iron Cowboy. It is the best bulls and the best guys, you have to keep moving forward.
“It is a new day. You have to prove yourself every day in this.”
Teel got a late start on 2017 after breaking his clavicle at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo two months ago. According to Teel, Dr. Tandy Freeman used six screws and a plate to surgically repair his clavicle on Dec. 14.
2016 was Teel’s fifth consecutive NFR qualification and he has ridden 53-percent or more of his bulls in five consecutive seasons, according to ProBullStats.
Teel said the time has finally come where he is ready to focus on the PBR full time and put rodeo on the backburner until possibly the summer.
“It was one of those deals I knew it was time and something I wanted to do,” Teel said. “More so as a competitor. It really has me feeling feelings I haven’t felt in long time since I started riding bulls. I love that part of it. That nervous, anxious feeling and learning how to control it and trying to rise to the top in every big moment. That is bull riding. That is what makes it fun.”
He then continued, “You get that feeling. That is something I wasn’t getting last year. Not that it wasn’t challenging. It wasn’t like I was just dominating and I was bored. It wasn’t that at all. It was a matter of the feeling and being viewed as one of the best. That is what I want to accomplish coming over here.”
Teel has won two NFR event average (2013 & 2015) titles at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, and he has come through in marque moments before.
“He is going to do great,” said 2016 NFR bull riding winner and PBR veteran Shane Proctor. “It may take a little bit of a learning period, but from there he is going to do good. He just stays real consistent. He rides really good away from his hand and moves over there. He will do really well at this level. The kid has a lot of talent.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride said, “I watched him only in the NFR. That is the only rodeoing I get to see every year. He looks like he has some ability. It is always you never know how they are going to hold up. They have never faced this type of bull week in and week out. That is always the challenge. You don’t know how they are going to respond to it until you see them out, but I know he is a kid that can really ride.”
“In the back of my mind, I knew I was going to go to the PBR one day,” Teel said. “It just got really pushed to the front last year. I was ready to take on that wall. Doing what I was doing, I knew I wanted to do something different. I went to Calgary and had that experience around J.B. Mauney and all the top PBR guys. It was a really cool experience to be around that type of atmosphere in the locker room.”
Teel has drawn Chute Boss (0-2, BFTS) for Round 1 of Iron Cowboy.
He knows there will be some jitters this weekend.
“Absolutely,” Teel said. “Those jitters fuel the fire. As a competitor, I feed off that. Our nervous, anxious feelings. When you can go into something with that kind of feeling and come out and pull through, and do your job like you are supposed to do, there is no feeling in the world like it.”
Teel was previously offered a BFTS exemption in 2014 alongside J.W. Harris and Sage Kimzey, but was unable to accept because of a broken ankle.
His father, Robbie, was a professional bull rider in the PRCA in the 1980s.
Cody won the 2011 College National Finals Rodeo and is also a two-time Texas High School State Champion.
Teel grew up about an hour from Davis, who he roomed with in Calgary, and the two competed against each other in high school rodeos.
“We rodeoed in the same region in high school. He graduated my sophomore year and I was happy because I finally had a shot,” Davis joked. “Cody is not really flashy, but it is probably going to happen when he nods his head. I don’t see that guy fall off many. I don’t think there is a whole lot of transition period where you see him fall off.
“He is going to come here and do what Cody Teel does.”
Teel agreed he isn’t the flashiest rider.
The job is simple for the 5-foot-11-inch bull rider: Just make the whistle.
“I am not real stylish,” Teel said. “I am kind of a taller guy. My memo is get the job done 8 seconds at a time. That is the way I like to go at it. Just let the consistency pay off in the end.”
Teel is currently 39th in the world standings, but he is only 10 points away from cracking the Top 35 and competing next weekend in St. Louis.
Tuff Hedeman is the only bull rider with a PRCA and PBR gold buckle on his resume.
“That is on the list of goals, but right now I need to get on tour and get to the Finals,” Teel said. “Then maybe I could go for Rookie of the Year. That is the first step and we will go from there.
“I know what I am capable of. I have my goals set. It is one of those deals, no matter how long it takes or what it takes I want to accomplish my goals.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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