World Champion Teel shows mettle through injury-plagued season

It’s no secret that professional bull riders are some of the toughest – and craziest – athletes on the planet.

I’ve seen that theory confirmed time and time again through the years, and I’ve written about it on more than one occasion. Virtually every bull rider has a horror story, or six, about injuries they’ve suffered, and those wrecks have ranged the gamut from cruel to scary.

World champions are not immune, as numerous gold buckle holders have worn their hard-earned hardware to doctor’s offices around the country for a multitude of calamities. Reigning World Champion Bull Rider Cody Teel may be just 21 years old, but he’s had his fair share of scrapes, including in 2013.

Reigning World Champion Bull Rider Cody Teel

Reigning World Champion Bull Rider Cody Teel

Looking at the PRCA world standings, however, one who didn’t know any better would think his season has been just one long, sweet parade. Teel, of Kountze, Texas, sits atop the standings with $69,693, but his ascension to the pinnacle of his event hasn’t come without a painful price.

In March, Teel was slammed to the arena dirt in an unsanctioned bull riding in Houston and suffered a broken left elbow, an injury to his free arm that required 10 screws and two plates to repair during a March 7 surgery. The cruel irony of his injury was that it occurred the day after he was honored in his hometown for his gold buckle.

He was out of commission for nearly three months, but came back strong nonetheless.

“It’s not like it was, that’s for sure,” Teel said of the elbow. “I can’t extend it all the way, and I’ve still got all the screws and plates in there. They’re supposed to take them out eventually. It’s still kind of tender, but it hasn’t been holding me back.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be.”

Shortly after his return, Teel suffered a broken jaw in Hugo, Okla., and has been riding with a metal plate in his chin and a jaw that’s been wired shut. It’s just another day in the life of a professional bull rider.

Those afflictions are just the latest in a growing list of injuries for the talented Texan.

“I’ve been pretty consistent with injuries,” he said. “In the fall of my rookie year, I ruptured my intestines, and that put me out for quite a bit. Then, last year, I broke my fibula in April and sat out about a month with that. This year with my arm, it just kind of happened, and you can’t let it get you down.

“Hopefully, I’ve gotten all of my injuries out of the way for a while.”

Cody Teel placed in four rounds at last year's Wrangler NFR en route to the gold buckle.  --PRCA photo by Mike Copeman

Cody Teel placed in four rounds at last year’s Wrangler NFR en route to the gold buckle. –PRCA photo by Mike Copeman

Being laid up with an injury is mental torture for ProRodeo contestants. They have to sit still while their buddies and rivals compete for big pay days doing the thing they love most, and that is a tough pill to swallow.

But it also gives a competitor pause and perspective.

“It really makes you appreciate it a lot more,” Teel said of being injured. “You might have a bad week, but that’s a lot better than sitting at the house on the couch.”

When he has been able to nod his head, Teel has excelled again this season. He shared the bull riding title in San Angelo, Texas, and won Rodeo de Santa Fe, the Cody/Yellowstone Xtreme Bulls Tour event and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Teel’s philosophy for competing and being successful at the highest level is simple.

“You just have to stay on bulls,” he said. “The good ones, the bad ones and all of them – you just have to stay on. You just take one bull at a time and don’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

Cody Teel became the youngest World Champion Bull Rider in ProRodeo history in December at age 20.  --PRCA photo by Mike Copeman

Cody Teel became the youngest World Champion Bull Rider in ProRodeo history in December at age 20. –PRCA photo by Mike Copeman

Teel, who edged three-time World Champion J.W. Harris by $1,056 for last year’s title, said he hasn’t felt different being at rodeos as the reigning world champion. What has changed a bit has been his rodeo schedule, which he’s adjusted this season.

“This year being my third year (as a pro) has been a lot different than in years past,” said Teel, the youngest world champion bull rider in ProRodeo history. “I’ve been picking and choosing a little more, for sure, than I did the last two years. This year, it’s been flying by a lot faster, it’s seemed like.

“After going to the Finals last year, I really realized that going there (to Vegas) and having a good Finals is the key to winning (a world title). So, I’ve been picking and choosing a lot more. But there’s so much money to be won out there, and anything can happen both good and bad, so you’ve got to go out there and keep riding like you have all year to win the world.”

All the while, Teel has made sure he’s enjoyed himself along the way.

“To be able to do this every day is pretty cool,” Teel said. “Everything feels pretty good, and I’m thankful for that.”

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