Veteran bullfighter has regained his place in time for BFO bullfights in Salinas
Ross Hill didn’t really want to take a break from freestyle bullfighting, but his body was demanding it.
A knee injury originally suffered in 2009 reared its head twice in 2016, sidelining the Bullfighters Only pioneer and forcing Hill to re-evaluate his career, his passions and his life.
“I just needed a break from bullfighting,” said Hill, 35, of Muscle Shoals, Ala. “I had done it for money all my life. There comes a time when it’s got to be worth more than money. I went until I couldn’t go any further; 2016 was my final year on that knee. It was the start of the BFO and the last of the Mohicans for the old ‘Alabama Slamma.’
“I had an ACL replacement surgery, and they cleaned up a couple of meniscus tears. It was a pretty horrific surgery. The second time I hurt it in 2016 did it in. I just have to say to any kid out there to never go that long without surgery. Get that thing fixed.”
But it wasn’t the end of a brilliant career. In fact, Hill returns to action this week at the BFO Wrangler Bullfight Tour stop in Salinas, Calif., one of the most storied events in freestyle bullfighting history. The bullfights run four straight days, taking place Friday, July 19-Monday, July 22, in conjunction with the California Rodeo Salinas.
“I don’t know what it’s like to sit out and come back, but the time I took off has all added up to this one moment in Salinas,” Hill said. “It was so worth it to be here and be healthy. Just to know I took the time to work out and took the time to get my knee fixed and took the time to heal myself.
“I’ve been eating better stuff, working out hard and doing some personal growth work. It took me a year of personal growth work and seeing what it is that makes me great to get me ready for this moment.”
It’s not the only big event for this weekend. The next BFO stand-alone event will feature 12 of the top bullfighters in the game Saturday, July 20, in Fortuna, Calif. It will feature four 3-man rounds, with the winners advancing to the Hooey Championship Round. Though he’ll still be in Salinas for that five-man, four-round bullfight, Hill knows how special the BFO is to the game he’s loved most of his life.
“The thing about the BFO is it’s the best bullfighters in the world, and I have yet to win that title,” he said. “Now that we’ve started the BFO, it’s like a whole new set of goals.”
In Salinas, Hill will be matched with Weston Rutkowski, the reigning two-time world champion from Haskell, Texas, and Toby Inman, the No. 1 man in the BFO Pendleton Whisky World Standings and the defending Salinas champion. Hill will know quickly if he is up to par; also in the mix are Nathan Harp of Tuttle, Okla., Cody Emerson of Marble Falls, Texas, and Zach Flatt of Fittstown, Okla.
“Salinas is a magical place,” Hill said. “It’s in the valley between two mountains. The weather is always 50 degrees at night and 75 in the daytime. I think it has a lot to do with the people, the community and the rodeo. It’s just a good rodeo with a long history.”