The rise of Zach Call

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Zach Call makes a round with a bull during the 2016 Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. The Nebraska man has quickly made himself one of the best in the world. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)
Zach Call makes a round with a bull during the 2016 Bullfighters Only Roughy Cup in Las Vegas. The Nebraska man has quickly made himself one of the best in the world. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Nebraska man is working his way up the Bullfighters Only standings

THEDFORD, Neb. – There is a rugged mentality that is just part with living and working in the Nebraska sandhills.

It comes from harsh winters and dry summers that can lay a burden on people who reside in the 20,000 square miles of prairie grass over sand dunes. Like the winds that sweep across them, the sandhills have a way of crafting a soul.

Zach Call is 24 years old and owns the lifestyle. He grew up working on a ranch and now handles day work for various ranches across north-central Nebraska. It allows him the opportunity to work for everything he owns while also providing him with the ability to escape and chase his dreams.

Call is a bullfighter, and he’s pretty darn good. He has worked his way through the inaugural Bullfighters Only season to be among the best in the game, and he proved his talent even more during the BFO’s Las Vegas Championship this past December. Over seven days of freestyle bullfighting competition, Call earned $11,000 and became a showcase player in one of the greatest extreme sports spectacles in the world.

“In bullfighting, you’re basically the underdog every match you go into,” he said. “It’s cool that you can stay focused enough that even though you’re going up against something that’s bigger, stronger and faster than you, you can come out unscathed.

“The only way to beat the bull is with your head. You don’t outrun them. You have to outsmart them.”

He has done that quite often, utilizing his exceptional athleticism to maneuver past the agile bulls, which are bred to be aggressive and quick. With scores based on a 100-point scale, men can earn up to 50 points per fight based on their ability to exhibit control and style while maneuvering around or over an animal; a bull can earn up to 50 points based on its quickness, aggression and willingness to stay with the bullfighter.

The best in the business are making it matter through Bullfighters Only. It’s quite a statement for Call, who only began fighting bulls four years ago.

“I came back one summer after my sophomore year in college,” he said of his hometown of Mullen, Neb. “They had our hometown bull riding, and I asked my brother if I could fight it. (Bullfighting legend) Miles Hare was there judging it, and I talked to him afterward. It all took off from there.”

It’s still taking off, much like a space shuttle leaving Cape Canaveral.

“We discovered him off a Facebook video when he won the bullfight in Rapid City (S.D.) a couple years ago,” said Aaron Ferguson, founder and CEO of Bullfighters Only. “Once he figured it out, he’s been pretty much unstoppable. He’s really made a name for himself.”

That he has. Call was a four-sport athlete at Mullen High School, and that athleticism is a big reason he’s found success in the BFO. Throw in a little sandhills work ethic, and Zach Call’s rise to the top is no surprise to those that know him.

“He’s definitely a very tough guy,” said Beau Scheuth, who has worked and traveled with Call for the past couple of years. “I think his greatest strength is his mental side. He doesn’t let things rattle him. He might get in a tight situation, but he doesn’t let that frustrate him.

“During the short round in Vegas, he had a bull that caught him in the corner, but because he was aware of it, he got out of it. Some other people might have gotten trapped there and beaten up pretty good.”

It goes well beyond being tough, more than continuing the fight after taking a shot or series of shots. It’s a reflection on those days working cattle in the prairie grass in the rolling hills.

“It’s in the middle of nowhere,” Call said of his home. “There’s not a lot there. It’s nice and quiet. There’s always people needing help, and that’s what I like doing.

“Where I’ve grown up around cattle, just learning the way they move, you can learn a lot from them even when you’re out on the pasture. You pick up on things that some people might not pay attention to.”

Understanding cattle is vital when going face to face with beasts hell bent on running over him. When it’s mixed with fantastic athleticism, the show is amazing.

“To me, a lot about bullfighting is reading the animal,” he said. “When you get into a sticky spot, that athleticism is what gets you out of it. Footwork is one of the most important things, and that’s what I pay attention to. To step into the right spot at the right time can mean all the difference in the world.”

He’s stepping in the right direction, and he’s excited about where he’s heading with Bullfighters Only.

“The popularity of freestyle bullfighting is unreal,” Call said. “I think for a long time, bullfighting was put on the back burner. The BFO has done a good job about making people realize we’re athletes. To see it get to this point is really cool.”

Zach Call is cool, too, and it’s served him well.


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