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Graney: Sky is limit for NFR rookie bull rider named Creek

Updated December 7, 2021 - 6:57 am

I’m not sure the fear factor ever really disappears. Not when 36 percent of the injuries are considered severe. Not when fractures are the most common while concussions and neck ailments compromise another 10.6 percent.

Then there are those other pesky head and facial mishaps.

“You deal with it at every level,” Creek Young said. “I struggled with it when I was moving up each division and getting on bigger stock. There is always a little fear to it.

“They’re animals. There’s no telling what kind of day they’re going to have. They can change their minds at any minute. You just don’t want it to be the wrong one.”

Yeah. Animals that tip the scale at 2,000 pounds.

His name is Creek and he’s a professional bull rider. So let that “up the creek,” braided-leather handle of irony sink in for a second. He’s also just 21 and the Resistol Rookie of the Year, having qualified for his first National Finals Rodeo at Thomas & Mack Center.

This was the goal when beginning the season, what he wanted, what he planned for most. He didn’t have much success to start before winning his first rodeo. Then one victory became two and two became three and he totaled nine before arriving in Las Vegas.

He says the key is to take it one bull at a time.

Is there any other way given the danger? Look what happened to star bull rider J.B. Mauney on Friday. He was knocked off unconscious. Such is not the life to look ahead.

An old soul

Young’s father died when he was 2 and his mother when he was 11. He was raised by an aunt in Rogersville, Missouri.

“When he was little, he’d ask very deep questions. He was like an old man in a young man’s body,” his aunt, Michelle Porter, told the Rodeo News. “He loves his quiet time and is contemplated and focused. He has a strong moral compass and has this wisdom about him that’s like an old man. It’s impressive.”

His showing so far in Las Vegas has been an up-and-down journey with the up part being most impressive. Young won the third go-round with a score of 92 and the $29,827 that came with it.

He wouldn’t record a score those first two nights — eight seconds can seen a lifetime on one of those hefty animals, friends — and didn’t make the whistle again Monday.

Perhaps that was because Young was atop Cliff Hanger, who no one has ridden to time in nine outings this season.

Big Ol’ Cliff seems to be giving them hell, all right.

Still, Young finds himself fourth in the world standings.

“I’m excited for the big moments like this, regardless of how things go,” he said. “I’ll enjoy it and see how many bulls we can get rode. If we can get our share, we’ll see what happens. I should at least place well in the average.”

Don’t get comfortable

The next obvious question: How good can he be? Bull riding is not for the faint of heart or weak of back. It’s hardly a career based on longevity.

If you get 10 professional seasons under your Bauer helmet and make a decent living, you’re far ahead of most. Young already seems on such a path.

“As long as he stays healthy and keeps working,” said Derrion, the 28-year-old brother of Creek and a former bull rider. “He can’t get complacent and comfortable just making Rookie of the Year. He has to keep that same drive and passion for the sport that he has now.

“Make it a priority. Don’t get distracted. Keep his head straight. If he does all that, the sky is the limit. He can do whatever he wants in this sport.”

I’m not sure the fear factor ever really disappears.

But one of the sport’s highest levels hasn’t stopped Young.

His name is Creek and he’s a bull rider.

Of course he is.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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