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, ESPN caught up with Michael Manes, an alternate on the Built Ford Tough Series tour who won last weekend's NILE Invitational in Billings, Mont., to find out, 'Who is Michael Manes?'
ESPN.com: So, what's your day job when you're not riding bulls?
Michael Manes: I work at National Home Center (Conway, Ark.). I'm considered a load builder; I drive a forklift. I gather materials whatever it takes to build a house get it together, band it up, load it on the truck, ship it out.
I had an agreement with my boss when they hired me, that I ride bulls. So, you know, when it's time for me to go I just… clock out and take off.
My boss is really good to me he's a good guy.
ESPN.com: You're 29 and I read that you spent 11 years on the lower levels of bull riding like the Challenger Tour…
Manes: Well, actually, I've been in the PBR maybe four years. Now, I've been riding bulls probably 11 between 11 and 15 years, you know, I'm not really sure. But I seen that on the Internet the other day, too.
ESPN.com: So, you spent a little time on the Challenger Tour and you made the move up to the BFTS this year what's different about this year?
Manes: I'm really not doing anything different I've been just getting on my bulls. Maybe I want it a lot more now? I'm getting older and I'm 'bout to run out of time, and maybe that's making me kind of step it up a notch or two. I'm really not sure, I'm doing everything the same, though, that I've always done.
I mean, I made the cut this year, but then I turned around and got cut again, and actually I'm just getting to go as an alternate right now.
ESPN.com: Does winning last weekend give you more chances?
Manes: Yeah. From listening to what other people tell me, I'm pretty much guaranteed at the World Finals this year. I don't know how true that is, but that's what people have told me.
I think I was 39th or 40th in points or something like that, and that [win] put me to 33rd, and you've got to be in the top 30 to stay on. But, as far as the world standings going toward the Finals, I think I'm in 15th right now [in the money].
ESPN.com: What's made you keep after it for so long?
Manes: Once bull riding's in the blood, it's hard to get it out. That and the money you know, I make a living doing it and that's pretty much why I do it.
ESPN.com: What aspects of being in the "big show" are different from what you're used to?
Manes: The cameras and the TV and, you know, riding against the people that I used to look up to. It's just like, 'Wow. I'm finally here.'
Justin McKee grabbed me the other day. I rode my second round bull and I was walking out and he grabbed me and he was like, 'Hey, boy, what are you doing different? You're riding like you're on fire, what are you doing different?'
I just told him I was nervous, you know. I wasn't expecting him to grab me, and the only thing that came into my head was, 'I was just tired of falling off.'
But that's the first time I've ever had to do anything like that [TV interviews]. But I need to work on that part of it.
It took me a couple months to get adjusted, but I'm where I belong now, I think. I really believe that that's where I belong, and I plan on staying there.
ESPN.com: Does it make you nervous to get out there in front of a crowd like that?
Manes: No, the crowd actually pumps me up. I love big crowds and stuff that actually makes it better but the TVs and the lights, you know, that kind of stuff took me a little bit to get used to. But as far as the people, the more people there, the better I like it.
ESPN.com: What does it mean for you to get this win?
Manes: Words can't really explain it. It's been a long time coming for me and it's my dream. It's like a big chip off my shoulder now.
My confidence is where it needs to be. It took me a little bit to get comfortable at them events, but now I feel the same at the Built Ford Tough deal as I do at the Challenger deals. I look at it the same, now.
The first one I went to this year, I was nervous and I was riding in front of people that I used to look up to. I was looking at them face to face. So, it took me a little while to get adjusted, but I'm there now. I can see that I ride just as good as them guys do.
Jodi Newberry pumped through my head forever that I was a Top 10 bull rider in the world. Now, I think I'm starting to believe. That's all it took was just for me to finally believe in myself.
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