“This is what I love to do and I just praise God that I was able to do this again,” said Outlaw, who had previously experienced the loneliness of being injured.
By the time he returned from his third shoulder surgery, Outlaw admitted that during the mounting months away from bull riding he felt abandon.
Even with family, time away from the sport is often fraught with loneliness.
He was at home, while seemingly every one else was on the trail competing. In reality, riders – even his own travel partners – were battling their injuries and slumps and trying to qualify for the World Finals. By the time he returned to competition in late May, Outlaw said he was going to be lone wolf and focus on his own career.
In less than two months, he suffered the most devastating injury of his career.
However, if this injury did anything it was a reminder for the 26-year-old Arkansas native of just how much people – friends, family and fans – care about him.
This time, he never felt alone.
“I didn’t know so many people cared,” said an unusually soft-spoken Outlaw, who was overwhelmed by the prayers, thoughts and contributions to a Go Fund Me account set up by the girlfriend of fellow Monster Energy rider Gage Gay. “That really meant a lot.”
He hopes to harness that feeling and carry it going forward.
Bull riding is an individual sport, but he is looking to emotionally carry all that support with him and use it to his advantage.
“Yeah, that’s true,” Outlaw admitted. “Pretty much the whole state of Arkansas is behind me.”
So too is the entire cowboy community and western culture, and he’s a better person because of it. Married and the father of two children, he had already matured from his first years on the elite televised tour but now it’s as if he truly grew up overnight.
He’s ridden his opening round bulls in each of the past two events – Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Greensboro, North Carolina – and looked good doing it. Better yet, he felt good about his riding.
He was 87.5 points on Switch Hitter and then 86.75 on Black Cat respectively.
Outlaw is confident he has what it takes to win the final regular-season event in Nampa, Idaho, and it is not a stretch to think he could do it.
It may or may not be his last opportunity to qualify for the PBR Finals, in Vegas. Last year, the PBR let riders with injury exemptions use one for the Velocity Finals. If that’s the case again this year, Outlaw would have one more event to crack the Top 35.
He has won in the past when his back was against the wall.
And is sure the story of 2018 is not over with yet.
“Look what I’ve come back from,” he said, “but I won’t accept that. I’m going to win.”
In an otherwise serious conversation, Outlaw concluded, “Just keep your (expletive) popcorn ready.”