'I will persevere': Shane Proctor, Washington's top bull rider, battles a grueling physical and emotional year for 6th NFR

<p><p>A nod of the head and the chute gate slams open.</p></p><p><p>The force of a nearly 1-ton bull surges into the arena, hooves slamming the dirt as Shane Proctor holds on with one hand and keeps the other in the air.</p></p><p><p>After what may be the longest 8 seconds in sports, a buzzer sounds.</p></p><p><p>There’s little time after those 8 seconds for the Grand Coulee, Washington, rodeo cowboy to fret about what went right or wrong.</p></p><p><p>On the rodeo circuit, another bull in another gate in another state awaits.</p></p><p><p>This year Proctor’s luck ran a little light. There was a sore shoulder from being bucked off at one rodeo. And a pesky groin injury and lack of sleep. </p></p><p><p>The worst came when a bull stepped on his ankle.</p></p><p><p>Proctor, quoting his favorite movie, “8 Seconds,” said: “They say it’s not when you get hurt in bull riding, it’s how bad.”</p></p><p><p>It’s always hard getting to the National Finals Rodeo, but this year was especially arduous for the 36-year-old Proctor, the 2011 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) bull riding champion who was born and raised in Grand Coulee and is the state’s top rodeo athlete.</p></p><p><p>Proctor’s 2021 season began in November 2020, a month after the 2020 regular season had concluded, in Austin, Texas, where he rode for 90 points and second place. Although the solid ride and event placing was a great start to the season, it came at a cost.</p></p><p><p>“I ended up messing up my TCL again in my right knee, which I messed up four years ago and turned down surgery,” Proctor said. “But that one came at a really good time because it wasn’t the heart of the season and was kind of before everything kicked up.”</p></p><p><p>The uncommon downtime also gave Proctor a chance to be with his wife Haley and his daughter Coulee May Proctor, who was born just five days later.</p></p><p><p>After the eventful start, Proctor hit the indoor winter rodeos in Texas and the “California run” in the spring, where he would get a big win in Red Bluff, an event he’s always wanted to win in his 17 years of professional bull riding.</p></p><p><p>As the intense (and potentially extremely lucrative) summer of the season approached, Proctor was heating up and found himself 13th in the standings and climbing. But on a June night in Ponka City, Oklahoma, everything changed.</p></p><p><p>Proctor would ride his bull for 85.50 points and place fourth, but the ride also resulted in a shattered leg. He broke his right fibula in three spots, requiring surgeons to insert a plate and three screws. </p></p><p><p>“After that I had to sit out the 4th of July run and the doctors told me it would be three months before I could ride because I had some tendon issues going on in my ankle when I broke my leg,” Proctor said.</p></p><p><p>Three months off in the heart of the season threatened to end any shot he had of success at the rodeo finals, where the top 15 money earners at the end of the year qualify. Proctor’s season could have ended right then and there.</p></p><p><p>He refused to quit. Rodeo has earned him more than a million dollars. He’s been to the finals five times and won a separate championship at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.</p></p><p><p>“My mindset with my leg and getting on two months early was that it didn’t hurt as I thought it was going to,” Proctor said. “It hurt, but it wasn’t what was built up in my mind. And that’s kind of been my philosophy. My old rodeo coach (at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming) Gavin Gleich once asked me, ‘Are you injured, or are you hurt? If you’re hurt you can ride, if you’re injured you can’t.’ Now this year I kind of pushed the border a little bit,” he said with a chuckle.</p></p><p><p>With an invitation to the prestigious Calgary Stampede, Proctor cut his cast off a month after surgery and headed north to Canada.</p></p><p><p>By the time of Cheyenne Frontier Days in the Wyoming capital arrived in late July, Proctor had dropped 17 spots to 30th and it was time to change it up a bit.</p></p><p><p>“At that point it was just to prove to everybody and myself that I can do this regardless,” Proctor said. “I modified a lot of the way this season went based off of that conclusion; I entered a little differently, I had to switch to riding boots that had to lace up, I had to wear pads on my ankle, at times it seemed like a fight more than a fun trip, but I wanted to prove I could do it to myself more than anything else in the world.”</p></p><p><p>Proctor hit the road like any other August, earning solid rides and money around the country as well as a win in Lynden, Washington.</p></p><p><p>Come September, with a month left in the season, the Northwest run brought Proctor back home.</p></p><p><p>At the Ellensburg Xtreme Bulls event he rode for 88 points and second place in the round to finish in a tie for third and fourth overall, but Proctor tore both rotator cuffs and his surgically repaired left shoulder came out of place.</p></p><p><p>“It’s frustrating when this summer, I have rode with nothing but pain. From the broken leg to this. But I will persevere,” Proctor said in an Instagram post.</p></p><p><p>“This year I learned more mentally and physically about myself than any other year,” Proctor said. “It was definitely the most trying and gritting out I’ve had to do. I’ve had problems with my shoulders before, but this is one year that I really learned a lot about myself and what I can put up with.”</p></p><p><p>At the finals in Las Vegas, Proctor rode his first two bulls. Then the injuries flared. </p></p><p><p>“It’s mentally exhausting because sometimes you start doubting yourself and really this sport has a lot to do with confidence,” Proctor said. “Everywhere we go we pay for our own gas, our own food, our entry fees, and everything we need to get down the road, so you’re essentially gambling on yourself every time to do good and win. And the fact that you’re tired from traveling and those 18-hour drives all night, then riding bulls, getting out and going again, those long nights are a lot of thinking to yourself and finding out what you’re made of.”</p></p><p><p>The countless challenges can be frustrating and discouraging, but Proctor has a great set of supporters in his corner, his family, who have always tried to keep his spirits up and help him down the road, such as his father, Lucky, who drives his son all over the rodeo circuit when Proctor needs a break behind the wheel.</p></p><p><p>“My parents have always worried about me when I’m out on the road, but they’ve also always been my No. 1 fans and greatest supporters, my wife is the same way,” Proctor said. “They’re always motivating me and pushing me to be better.”</p></p><p><p>And although this year’s National Finals Rodeo may not have gone the way Proctor had hoped, having his daughter Coulee there was the most meaningful aspect of the event.</p></p><p><p>“Having my daughter on stage when we got our back numbers and just having her there to see and experience what her dad does even though I know she won’t remember, but we’ll have pictures to show her just how special she was for us there,” Proctor said.</p></p><p><p>Family is also the reason Proctor looks to take a bit of a step back from bull riding in 2022 and mostly follow his wife Haley, who performs a specialty act with her horses at rodeos across the country, and compete where she is performing.</p></p><p><p>“Bull riding is a very selfish sport; we spend so much time just going up and down the road thinking of ourselves and after having a little girl I didn’t do that anymore,” Proctor said. “Our little girl’s been to 22 states already in her first year of life and it was amazing to get to take her to those places, but at the same time it was heartbreaking being away from her. I kind of decided half way through the summer that I didn’t want to go to bed with Coulee and not be there when she woke up, which I had to do a couple times this year.”</p></p><p><p>Nonetheless, Proctor is grateful he is able to raise Coulee around rodeo, the sport that has given him “everything in life,” from paying for a college education, the title of a champion, traveling the country, to meeting his wife and having a baby girl.</p></p><p><p>A lifetime and a year defined by much more than 8 seconds at a time, taken one day, one mile and one bull at a time.</p></p><p><p>“I have nothing to prove,” Proctor said.</p></p>