Sunday, November 22, 2009
By Melanie Jarrett
ESPN.com was at the 2009 Professional Bull Riders Challenger Series Championship in Duluth, Ga. (which also served as the kickoff to the 2010 Built Ford Tough Series) to ask the bull riders and entertainers what they were thankful for this year. In a season where riders won more money than ever before, these guys had plenty to say.
Flint Rasmussen, PBR entertainer
PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen has a lot to be thankful for after surviving a heart attack in 2009.
"I'm actually thankful for, in this interesting year, I'm thankful to be here, because I had health issues this year (Rasmussen suffered a minor heart attack in March but has since fully recovered). So I'm very thankful to be feeling good, and all tying in with that I'm thankful for my children (Rasmussen has two daughters, Shelby and Paige, ages 10 and eight), my wife, and the life I've been provided by using a talent that I have to make a living."
Austin Meier Ended the 2009 season ranked sixth in the Built Ford Tough Series world standings
"I mean, basically what I'm thankful for is my health. You know, this is the best year I've had other than my elbow surgery, and that didn't really hurt me none. So health immediately, and just my family and being able to be successful at this sport at this level. I just look forward to things to come.
ESPN.com: What about your performance at the World Finals, you must be thankful for that, too (Meier finished sixth in the average at the 2009 PBR World Finals)? The first half was kind of hit and miss, and over the three day break I just kind of told myself in the second half, if I was going to do any good, I was going to have to step it up. I had to continue to pick smart bulls that I thought would fit me, and it went my way. I picked bulls that you could be 88 to 90 on but I still felt that fit me, and it worked out to a T.
Ryan McConnel Ended the 2009 season ranked seventh in the Built Ford Tough Series world standings
"This year I'm thankful for the years prior to this one to give me the experience and help me step up to be where I am this year.
ESPN.com: What about your lung, are you thankful to be feeling better (McConnel was involved in a life-threatening car accident shortly before the World Finals and suffered a punctured lung along with various other contusions)? It's real good, actually the lung probably healed up before the Finals was over, but when I got stepped on I was still pretty sore over that. My sternum and my back is a little sore when I breathe real deep or anything like that, but I can move pretty good without it being too terribly sore. I was just told it was going to be sore for a long time. I'm putting up with it, and I think it'll be fine.
J.B. Mauney Winner of the 2009 PBR World Finals, runner-up for world title
Bull rider Kasey Hayes says he's "thankful that fans come and watch us do this crazy stuff."
"I mean, just being healthy and being with my family, doing what I love doing and being able to do it like I've been doing it (in 2009 Mauney became the first man in the history of the PBR to successfully ride all eight of his bulls at the World Finals).
ESPN.com: You must be thankful for the great season you've had, too. Oh yeah, definitely. It could have been better, but I can't complain I guess. It can always be better.
Dustin Elliott Ended the 2009 season ranked 13th in the Built Ford Tough Series World Standings
"I'm not going to be home for Thanksgiving, so I'm thankful I'm going to be in the mountains of Montana hunting. It's my first hunt of the year, and then when I get home I'm going to go late-season muzzle loader hunting with my grandpa, who's in his eighties. He's never killed anything with a muzzle loader so we're going to go hunting in December in Nebraska."
L.J. Jenkins Ended the 2009 season ranked 17th in the Built Ford Tough Series world standings
"I'm just thankful for being healthy — starting off the year healthy, and getting through the Finals. We have a great year ahead of us, and all of us are healthy and it's ready to go."
ESPN.com: Are you thankful that this Challenger Series championship is now also the first Built Ford Tough Series of the 2010 season? "Yeah, I think it's good, it's going to make it more competitive and it's going to start the year off right. Whoever can win this deal's gonna win a lot of money and start the year off great."
Kasey Hayes Ended the 2009 season ranked in the top 30 in the Built Ford Tough Series world standings
"I'm thankful for being able to be here at these events and compete here, thankful for my family and thankful for what God did for us so we could be here. And I'm thankful that fans come and watch us do this crazy stuff."
Cody Nance Built Ford Tough Series 2009 Daisy Rookie of the Year
"I'm thankful for a lot. I'm thankful that Jesus died on the cross so that he could save me, and I'm thankful that my family and I are healthy. And I'm thankful that I'm here and that I can still compete."