McALESTER, Okla. – Cord McCoy has something to prove, and he plans to start at the Choctaw Casino’s McAlester ProRodeo Presented by Sam Wampler’s Freedom Ford, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 12-13, at the Southeast Expo Center.
The lifelong cowboy from nearby Tupelo, Okla., McCoy made his name as a young man in rodeo as an all-around hand who competed primarily in all three roughstock events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
He had great success in bull riding, where he was a six-time qualifier to the PBR World Finals and was a 2005 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. But he’s always loved riding bucking horses.
“A lot of people talk about things they want to do, and I didn’t want to talk about it,” McCoy said of his return to bronc riding after more than a decade away from it. “I’m not doing anything but getting older. I may be old as a bull rider, but I’ve got some years left in me in bronc riding.”
Now 35, the talented cowboy is ready to embark a season chasing gold buckle dreams in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. This marks the first time since the 2006 season that McCoy has been part of the PRCA; he hasn’t been on a bronc in ProRodeo competition since September 2004, when he suffered a serious head injury on the final day of the Oklahoma State Fair Rodeo in Oklahoma City that season.
He focused on riding bulls for several years after that, then retired in the fall of 2013.
“Maybe nobody else believes in me, but I believe in myself,” he said. “I love riding broncs. Even the whole time when I switched over to the PBR, I felt like I left something behind. There’s a different challenge in it. It’s not just staying on; it’s who is making it look best.
“It’s different than bull riding, especially with the caliber of bulls out there now. If you make the whistle in bull riding, they’re going to write you a check.”
Saddle bronc riders not only must stay on for the qualifying eight-second ride, but they also must showcase a classic spur stroke in rhythm with the horse’s bucking motion if they are to receive adequate scores. While he has more than a decade away from that aspect of the game, McCoy has something of an X factor.
“At the level I want to compete at, I feel like I’ve got to ride better than I ever did before,” McCoy said. “It’s not like I could pick up where I left off. I’ve got to make some improvements.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of advantages over a whole group of 18- and 19-year-old kids. There are sure 15 years of knowledge that I think I can use to my advantage. Even though it’s a different sport, competing at the highest level gives you a lot of experience you can’t pay for and can’t learn in the practice pen.”
Nearly a dozen years ago, a bronc bucked off McCoy, then kicked him in the head. Surgeons had to repair a circular fracture to the cowboy’s skull, and doctors warned that he would need to wear a helmet if he were to continue to ride bucking animals. Since he had worn a facemask while riding bulls, it was an easy transition as he continued his career through his PBR career.
Now he may be the only bronc rider to wear a helmet, but he’s pushing forward with every horse he rides.
“When I got on that one bronc at a little open rodeo last summer, that was to say, ‘I did it again,’ ” he said. “Now the idea is to take it one bronc at a time; if it works, move on. You can’t get better training than to nod your head at a rodeo. A man spends $500 or $600 to get on one bronc and then messes up, it’ll make you remember your mistakes.”
Every step of the way is just part of the learning process for McCoy. He’s excited to be part of the McAlester ProRodeo.
“McAlester is the heart of rodeo country,” said McCoy, who will have some of his own bulls bucking at the rodeo as part of a lease agreement with Hi Lo ProRodeo, the stock contractor. “I think there’s so many people who are excited about rodeo coming back to McAlester.
“I went to college with Dustin Murray, who is producing the event for Hi Lo. He does a top-of-the-line event, so I’m excited about it.”
He should be excited. He’ll kick-start his 2016 ProRodeo season just an hour from his house in Tupelo. It’s the perfect location for a home-grown cowboy.