LAS VEGAS — Dustin Elliott is no stranger to success when it comes to bull riding in fact, his résumé reads like a how-to guide on becoming a professional bull rider.
Elliott was the state bull riding champion in his home state of Oregon in his senior year of high school, then went on to Chadron State College in Nebraska, where he was the 2001 college national bull riding champion. From there he earned his PRCA card and qualified for the National Finals Rodeo three times, winning the world championship in 2004.
But an employer looking at that résumé would notice one major discrepancy: a gap in major accomplishments from 2006 forward. That's when Elliott made the switch to the PBR, and since that time, he has taken a backseat to superstars like Justin McBride, Adriano Moraes, and Chris Shivers. The lack of a major title shouldn't be taken as a sign of failure Elliott has quietly earned more than $285,000 in his three years on the Built Ford Tough Series.
So why the switch from the PRCA?
"It's comparing apples to oranges. They're both fruit, but they're really different," says Elliott. "In the PRCA, those rodeos have a committee that puts them on, and they're just happy that you're at their rodeo. Here (in the PBR) there's millions and millions of dollars wrapped up into every one of these events that we go to… it's just a lot more lights and explosions."
But from the looks of Elliott's 2009 season, it appears he just may be ready to finally assert himself as one of the top PBR riders alongside the Shivers and Lostrohs of the bull riding world. Elliott is having a career year, coming into the 2009 PBR World Finals in 15th place in the world after finishing in the top five at four different BFTS events, earning $91,450 along the way.
Elliott has carried that success into the first week of the Finals, where he is one of only 11 riders to have covered two of three bulls, placing him 11th in the average with a shot to make a significant statement on the world stage. With the fourth round a draw, Elliott will need a good out to place him in a high draft position for the following rounds. He'll match up with Derringer on Thursday night, a bull he has ridden once in Albuquerque for 89 points and which the PBR's resident bull expert, Slade Long, has highlighted as "one to watch."
"After the next draw, it's just about being smart," says Elliott. "Like for Kody [Lostroh], he needs to pick bulls that fit him to ride, not necessarily try to go out and win every round because that's not what he needs. He's in it for a million dollars.
"I need to get bulls that I can win some rounds on. So, different guys are going to pick different with different goals in mind."
Elliott's second round draft choice, Lucky Strike, had some questioning the wisdom of his pick – until he proved his doubters wrong with a score of 86.25, good for 10th in the round.
"A lot of people kind of raised their eyebrows as to why I picked him, because I've been on him six times and I've only rode him once," Elliott said. "But three of the times he bucked me off right at the whistle. I knew how he felt and I really liked him, and in that round of bulls there were a lot of rank ones."
If Elliott can post a qualified ride on Derringer in Round Four, he'll need to continue choosing his bulls wisely to maintain or improve his position in the average standings. He spent his off days in Las Vegas watching the ABBI Futurity bulls, many of whom will become the next generation of top bulls in the PBR.
"I love bull riding," says Elliott. "And I love watching it."
In his time away from the PBR ranks, Elliott owns and operates Elliott Cattle Co. with the hopes of one day contributing to the rank pen of bulls here at the Finals. But a few more big rides here at the Thomas & Mack Center, and the first thing Elliott might be adding to his resume just might be a World Finals title.
Make sure to follow ESPN Rodeo + Bull Riding @ www.twitter.com/espnrodeo for live updates from inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
Check back with ESPN.com and pbrnow.com all week long for continuing coverage of the 2009 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.