Humble beginnings define him, but bull rider is on a summer hot streak
After his first qualification to the National Finals Rodeo, Dustin Boquet realized bull riding was the life for him.
He was going to make the NFR every year. As one of the best in the game, he’d made it, and he was going to be on easy street from then on out. He’d won the sixth go-round in Las Vegas, and bull riding seemed to be an effortless enterprise.
That was in 2018, and he couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Come ’19, I rode some bulls, but I wasn’t riding like I wanted to,” said Boquet, 27, from tiny Bourg, Louisiana, just a few mils upstream from the Gulf of Mexico. “I tore my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in Del Rio (Texas), then everyone’s out there in Vegas for the NFR. I was duck hunting in South Dakota, and I watched one round of the NFR and said, ‘This is stupid. I’ll never miss the NFR if I’m still riding bulls.’
“I wasn’t putting in the work. You can’t half-ass it in this, because that’s when you’re going to get hurt, and I had more pride in myself than that. It humbled me, that’s for sure.”
He’s been hard at it ever since.
If his return to the NFR in 2020 wasn’t proof enough, gander at his run through a few weeks in July and early August. He won the bull riding titles at Dodge City and Abilene, Kansas; Sikeston, Missouri; the Rifle (Colorado) Xtreme Bulls; Spanish Fork, Utah; and placed at other events along the way. That was worth a payday of $43,303 and accounted for almost half of his earnings as of late August.
That worked out to be about $14,000 per week and proved as a perfect catapult to his 2021 campaign. More importantly, the run of fortune also provided Boquet with a big dose of confidence heading into the final month-plus of ProRodeo’s regular season.
“I want to make consecutive NFRs,” he said. “It got slow for me after the winter. I don’t know why it always does that for me, but I struggle some through the year. I usually struggle a little bit in the summer, but the last half of the summer has been really good.
“I mean … really good.”
He laughed at the thought of such a big payday in such a short amount of time. In fact, it’s just a hair more than he earned at the 2020 NFR, the rodeo that offered the largest payout of any ProRodeo event last year.
“I’m riding good, and I’m drawing good,” Boquet said. “That’s always a plus when those two come together.
“You can’t take those suckers for granted. You’ve just got to stay focused and humbled and do the job you know how to do.”
His job is riding bulls, and what he did over those few summer weeks was virtually assure himself a shot at returning to ProRodeo’s grand finale, set for Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Truthfully, though, his season may have received its biggest boost in February, when he earned the San Antonio Xtreme Bulls title.
“I’ve always done good at the San Antonio rodeo, and I’ve always wanted to win that bull riding,” he said. “Going in there this year, it was heck to get there with that ice storm. We didn’t get to go to anything else that week because of the storm. Getting that win was a big accomplishment.”
Riding bulls may seem second nature to the Cajun cowboy from the bayous of Louisiana. When one is raised southwest of New Orleans, that’s deep in the Louisiana swamps. Still, with a grandfather that raised livestock, Boquet found himself horseback from an early age. His first levels of competition involved the equine side of things in team penning and ranch sortings.
He was 12 years old when he attempted to ride his first steer. It seemed to come rather naturally, and he rode three out of the first four bulls he got on.
“My family has been in the whole cattle deer and the whole horse deal, and I never dreamed of being where I’m at today when I was little,” Boquet said, his Cajun accent giving way to a bit of east Texas twang these days. “I was a hardcore baseball player, and that’s one thing I did love. I played baseball until I was 16 or 17, and my mom told me I had to pick one I wanted today.
“I’m not playing baseball today, so I think I picked the right one.”
Apparently, he’s right. When the world standings were released Aug. 23, he was just shy of $100,000 for the season. He has credited a strong mental approach to an always-humbling sport for carrying him through another strong campaign. His greatest lessons came from his biggest mistakes, so he has recognized why every ride – good and bad – can be an important step to the next bull.
Being a professional bull rider isn’t a job for the weary. He’s been slammed in the dirt plenty, but there’s something that drives him through every mile and beyond every buckoff and onto the next opportunity.
“I guess it’s just the love for it that drives me,” he said. “Anybody can go out there and play baseball. Bull riding ain’t easy; if it was, anybody’d go do it. It’s cowboy, and I’ve always wanted to be a cowboy since I was little.
“The adrenaline it gave me and knowing you’re still on the bull after hearing the buzzer … that’s what you feel when you conquer the animal.”
No matter if he’s traveling to the Northwest to complete a run of lucrative rodeos or living on his place in Athens, Texas, home will always be in that swamp land in southern Louisiana. A fishing venture can begin with loading up the boat, which was actually in the front yard. Within 15 minutes, he could be in salt water, snagging his limit of redfish.
“If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be slaving my life away working in the oil field and hating every day of it,” Boquet said.
He enjoys his time with family and eating some Creole cookin’, but he loves the life rodeo provides him and being a rodeo cowboy with goals to accomplish.
“Before I’m done riding bulls – and I don’t know what God’s plan for me is – but I want to wear a gold buckle,” he said, referring to the Montana Silversmiths hardware awarded to the world champions each year. “I have all the faith in the world that I can do it as long as I keep my head on straight.
“I’m pretty dadgum confident right now. I’m not trying to sound cocky, but I feel like if you run anything underneath me, I know I can ride them.”