Mason Taylor hasn’t been to Las Vegas since 2015, the one and only year he attended the PBR World Finals as a fan at Thomas &Mack Center.
“I looked at my buddies that I went with, and said ‘I ain’t never going back until I make it,’ ” Taylor recalled.
He made it all right, because he’s back in Las Vegas this week.
Taylor, 20, is competing in the PBR World Finals in his first year on the tour as one of the top contenders for the PBR’s Rookie of the Year. He rode in 38 events ahead of the PBR World Finals, tallying one victory in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on April 5 and more than $100,000 in prize money thus far.
He was bucked off his bull in 7.03 seconds on Wednesday night and didn’t score during his first ride at T-Mobile Arena. But he hopes to put forth a good showing the rest of the week in his first championship event.
“It just kind of assures me that all my hard work pays off. The time, dedication and everything I put into it is finally paying off,” he said of his return to Las Vegas. “I can’t describe what it feels like. … There’s a bunch of people that make it and try to do this for a living. It’s kind of surreal that I’m able to do this for a living and do what I want to do.”
Taylor grew up in Maypearl, Texas, dreaming of becoming a professional bull rider. And only a professional bull rider. His father rode bulls and coached him in the sport during his childhood.
His mother Angela remembers him as a toddler, practicing on a custom bucking barrel in preparation for a professional career.
“We really noticed the passion, constantly talking about it,” she said. “At the age of 4, he was telling us that he was going to be a world champion. It’s all he’s ever wanted to do his whole life.”
And all he ever did during his his childhood and adolescence.
Taylor said he first realized he could indeed become a professional cowboy after successfully riding a PBR World Finals bull at the age of 14. His confidence flourished, and he accelerated through the amateur circuit and lower level professional leagues before qualifying for the PBR Tour ahead the 2019 season.
He debuted in Reno on Jan. 11 and has spent the season adjusting to the rigors of the top tour.
He was ranked No. 3 in the Rookie of the Year race ahead of the first night of the PBR World Finals and No. 12 overall.
Not bad for a PBR debutante.
“It’s a lot to get used to. Lights, cameras and all that,” he said. “It’s more than what I expected. It’s more than what I hoped for. This is my rookie season and finishing in the top 15, right now going into the finals to finish out the season. I’ve just been building everything toward that.”
Aparecido shines in opener
Eleven cowboys completed an eight-second bull ride Wednesday night.
None competed better than Eduardo Aparecido.
The Brazilian, 29, scored 91.25 during his first ride, tops among the 40 cowboys at the PBR World Finals. Chase Outlaw and Dalton Kasel finished tied for second, each with 88.5, and Cody Teel was at 88.25.
Season points leader Jose Vitor Leme also completed his run in the final ride of the night and scored 88 to best second-place Jess Lockwood, who scored 86.5.
The PBR World Finals continue Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.