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Eight in eight

3/20/2009

Each week, ESPN Bull Riding asks the winner of the most recent PBR Built Ford Tough Series event eight pressing questions in eight minutes. This week, it's young gun Ryan McConnel, who won his first event on the Built Ford Tough Series Tour at the Pike Electric Invitational in Birmingham, Ala. McConnel went over his eight question limit, but ESPN.com let it slide... this time.

ESPN.com: What did it feel like to get your first PBR Built Ford Tough Series win, and what does it mean for you?
Ryan McConnel: It was awesome. I couldn't really explain it because I'd been waiting on it all year long and I knew it was coming. But I didn't really know how to take it. I don't know if it's 100 percent set in.

I'm glad that I did good and I realize that I did bump up in the world a couple spots and everything, but it's just kind of hard to get [used to saying] 'I actually got my first win,' and everything because that means just as much as me moving up in the world and more.

It means everything to me at this point, but I've already set new goals for what's in store for the rest of the year.

ESPN.com: What are the new goals?
McConnel: When the PBR gets about halfway through the season, they start putting five guys in the spotlight in the intro and it's just frontrunners of the world title going into the second half of the year, and I want to be standing in that spotlight by that time.

I've just got a couple more spots to move up — I'd like to move up about eight more spots being that I'm ninth, though.

ESPN.com: It was your first time to break 90 points when you rode Say I Won't Gunner in the short go, was that your best ride? And what made that ride a 90-pointer?
McConnel: Being in the short round and having as good a bull as I had, I knew I could be over 90. It means everything to me as well, because, well, I mean, it was a really good weekend for things like that to happen to me. I've been 90 about everywhere else: in the Challenger Tour, when I was going to amateur rodeos and things like that. I hadn't ever really had an opportunity to be over 90 [on the BFTS] until I got on Big Tex a couple weeks ago, but I plan on being about 93 or 94 the next time I get on him, which is hopefully the next short round I make where he's in it.

ESPN.com: I understand that you were planning on picking Big Tex but Chad Berger talked you out of it? What was the deal there, and do you think you could have ridden him?
McConnel: I don't know if Chad so much talked me out of it. I could have said, 'I'm not doing you no favors,' you know, and picked the bull.

I walked up to him and he's all, 'What are you picking?' And he knew dang good and well that I was going to pick Big Tex again because I was close on him last time and I want to get him down

I told him, I said, 'I want Big Tex.' And he said, 'Well, he had the lowest bull score with you that he's had all year, and tonight runs on bull scores and everything, but it's your choice.'

I was like, 'Well, I want to get on him.' And he was like, 'Your style of riding is going to drop his bull score.'

I was like, 'Alright, I'm going to do you a favor just this one time, but I'm coming back for him.'

ESPN.com: What is your style of riding?
McConnel: I don't know. I couldn't really speak for myself like that to be honest, but a lot of guys tell me I really keep my body down on a bull instead of getting lifted up and out of position. I got a good way of staying down a lot more.

And [other riders] got their advantages, but the way I hold my free arm and the way I was taught by my dad, that's pretty much where that comes from.

ESPN.com: Is your dad the biggest influence on your bull riding? And who are some of the riders you look up to?
McConnel: I like Tuff Hedeman riding bulls, but my dad was probably one of my main influences on my whole bull riding career. My whole family was, for that matter. If I had heroes and people to look at on TV and be like, 'He's my favorite,' it'd dang sure be tough.

ESPN.com: So, back to Big Tex, you're pretty sure you can ride him — and that you'll get another shot?
McConnel: I guarantee I'll get another shot at him, and I feel like I can ride him. Whether I do or not the next time, I couldn't tell you, but I'm dang sure going to try to. I'm pretty heart-set on that.

That'll be my next smaller goal — it's a big deal, but being in the top five in the world's a big deal too.

ESPN.com: You had three good bulls and you managed to ride them all last weekend — what does that mean for your confidence going forward?
McConnel: My confidence — it is, it's carrying on — I got off the phone with my dad a while ago and I told him I'd probably be shooting for some of the bulls on the West Coast. Some of the toughest are Troubadour and Charlie Bullware, but White Magic's also in there. If I go to the short round again and I'm setting good, I want to win again this weekend and them's the three I've got my eye on.

Hopefully I'll draw good enough to stay in the top five or so in the rounds, and I dang sure got that done last weekend. This coming weekend, I know my first round bull's name, but that's about it. I've heard of him. But I'm hoping that everything works out again, and I'm confident. I'm sure it will.

ESPN.com: So, you think there's a little luck of the draw involved in getting that first bull?
McConnel: Yeah. The draw sure has a lot to do with it. I'm not saying it's a drawing contest by no means, but there are some better bulls that you're going to score higher on. I was right in the middle of the pen the first night and the second night I drew probably one of the top two or three bulls in the round last weekend, so it worked out really good.

ESPN.com: Predictions?
McConnel: I'm going to give it 100 percent, I'll guarantee you that. I look forward to doing pretty good because my confidence level's up and when I can go into a weekend with my confidence up, usually things turn out a lot better.

Previous Eight in Eight: Guilherme Marchi