LAS VEGAS - In 1992, the PBR was founded as a means for creating a better future for the sport of professional bull riding.
World Champions such as Ty Murray, Jim Sharp, Ted Nuce, Jerome Davis, Cody Custer and Tuff Hedeman stood united with the likes of legendary riders Cody Lambert, Clint Branger, David Fournier, Aaron Semas and 10 other great riders to form what they believed was the foundation of a standalone sport they felt would one day rival the mainstream sports seen on network television.
It was about looking ahead and working for a better tomorrow.
Four years later, in 1996, with help of former PBR CEO Randy Bernard, they created the Ring of Honor as a way of recognizing the past.
Today the Ring of Honor symbolizes those who how have had a profound impact on bull riding, both in and out of the arena.
Until now, 34 men had been inducted into this rather exclusive club.
It started with the inaugural class, which included Jim Shoulders and Harry Tompkins, along with founders Lambert and Nuce. Tuesday evening, two additional deserving men - Ross Coleman and Mike White - slipped on the prestigious ring and stood alongside the Heroes & Legends who rode before the PBR's formation as well as in the PBR.
"When we came around, 20 guys had created this wonderful standalone sport of bull riding," said Justin McBride, a two-time World Champion and 2009 inductee into the Ring of Honor. "They were in the twilight of their careers, and they needed these young guys that were like-minded and had the same work ethic and the same grit and determination, but had youth on their side. Mike White was that guy. Chris Shivers was that guy. And a guy that embodied that second to none, in my opinion, this year's inductee into the Ring of Honor: Ross Coleman."
Coleman and White were inducted among fellow Ring of Honor members Daryl Mills, Carl Nafzgar, Scott Mendes, J.W. Hart, Jerome Robinson, Adriano Moraes, Larry Mahan, Michael Gaffney, Troy Dunn, Fournier, Lambert, McBride, Custer, Bernard, Semas, Sharp and Davis.
Also honored on Tuesday, in a ceremony and reception held in the Grand Ballroom at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa, were Dillinger, Jackie Dunn and Tom Teague.
Dunn became the third woman to receive the Sharon Shoulders Award since Ms. Shoulders was honored in 2009. Shoulders is the widow of Jim Shoulders, who is commonly known as the Babe Ruth of Rodeo.
Leanne Lambert received the honor last year, while Tiffany Davis was honored in 2010.
Ms. Shoulders, who said she feels as though she's the PBR matriarch, said that Dunn deserves to be honored, not just for being the wife of a great bull rider, but also for the continued work she's done for all bull riders.
Dunn, who is the wife of former World Champion Troy Dunn, has been influential not only in terms of helping to grow the sport and the PBR's presence in Australia, but has also played a key role in helping riders like Brendon Clark and Ben Jones make the transition from Down Under to competing in the United States.
Her husband joked that anyone who spends time with her knows what hard work is all about.
"I didn't think I was qualified for the job," said Jackie, who is the vice president of PBR Australia. "Six years later I'm still there."
Last year, the Jim Shoulders Lifetime Achievement Award was created to recognize those non-riders - stock contractors, bullfighters, employees and others - who have contributed to the global phenomenon that is known as the PBR.
It was only fitting the award be named after a 16-time World Champion, who is widely recognized as the greatest Western athlete of all time. Last year's first recipient was former bullfighter Rob Smets.
Like Shoulders, Tom Teague has tirelessly worked to help make the PBR what it is today.
Teague also talked about having written a research paper on Jim Shoulders when he was in high school.
Bernard said that since meeting Teague, he's become more than a friend. Teague has been an inspirational business partner and board member.
It was Teague who fronted the PBR more than $3 million needed to buy its television rights when no bank would give them the loan. Hart said Teague has single-handedly done more for the PBR than any other non-rider.
"I've been lucky and the good Lord blessed me," said a humbled Teague, who explained the award meant more to him than any other award he's received to date. "I'm very proud to be a part of the PBR."
As great as the people who have been involved in the PBR have been, so too have the bulls, and with good reason the Brand of Honor was created, last year, to recognize the legendary bovine athletes.
In 2011, it was Little Yellow Jacket, who was recognized only months after passing away. This year, two-time World Champion Bull Dillinger, who was recognized for a spirit and skill that has surpassed even the highest expectations in the PBR.
According to www.probullstats.com, Dillinger is still recognized the No. 1 ranked bull of all time.
Adriano Moraes, the only three-time World Champion in PBR history, said he tried setting a trap on one particular out, and another time he rode Dillinger with his eyes closed. Neither time he made the whistle on what he called, "One of the rankest ever."
Two-time World Champion Chris Shivers, who rode Dillinger for 96.5 points at the 2001 World Finals, said when people ask whowas the rankest bull he's ever ridden, he has a hard time telling them Dillinger. While he wants to say it was Dillinger, he admitted that "everything was in time" that night in Las Vegas, which made it feel like "it was going to be 88 points."
Robbie Herrington, who purchased Dillinger two weeks after the 2000 World Finals, talked about the humble beginnings in which Dillinger was originally purchased at a sale barn. After his passing, Herrington said, "The memories linger forever."
However, what seems to connect the past to the present is the simple fact that PBR riders have always seen to it that those who come after will have more than they ever dreamed.
Two riders to exemplify that are White and Coleman, who are known as much or more for what they continue to do for others as they are for their own accomplishments in the arena.
Dickies DuraBullfighter Shorty Gorham talked about the two annual events White hosts. There's a pasture roping at his ranch in DeKalb, Texas, and a Touring Pro Division event in Lake Charles, La., but Gorham said most folks don't know "is every bit of the proceeds from both events goes to charity."
"When we came around, 20 guys had created this wonderful standalone sport of bull riding; they were in the twilight of their careers and they needed these young guys," said Justin McBride.
For all the entertaining travel stories Shivers could share from their 11 years on the road - and there are plenty - he choked up talking about the fact that he looks up to White and respects him as a man for what he does for those who are less fortunate.
Shivers shared some insight of the many hospital visits White has made over the years.
"That means more to me than being a good bull rider," said Shivers, who is retiring after this year's finals and a shoe-in to become the 37th member of the prestigious Ring of Honor. "Being a bull rider (isn't) everything."
White took the stage without a pre-written speech or even a list of people to thank. He started by joking that the gravity of Tuesday evening's reception "didn't dawn on me until I walked into here tonight."
He thanked the 20 founders and said because of their foresight and sacrifice, he was able to purchase a 600-acre ranch, which was all he ever wanted.
"It's a great honor to get this ring," said White, who added there are plenty of bull riders who have done more than him in the area and are without the coveted Ring of Honor.
McBride said that his college rodeo teammate didn't have a choice - he was born to be a cowboy.
But neither McBride nor Lambert dwelled on Coleman's
accomplishments in the arena - first rider to record 800 career
outs at the Built Ford Tough Series and the first to earn 400
qualified rides - instead, they talked about toughness, heart and
lending a helping hand.
They shared stories of how he affected people's lives. They talked about the smile that lit up rooms from coast to coast. They talked about how he's become an ambassador for the PBR.
Lambert said that knowing Coleman "makes me proud" because even after retiring from competition he contributes to the PBR every day. He later added, "There's nothing phony about him."
After receiving a standing ovation, not once but twice, Coleman said, "This is a cool deal." He thanked his parents, Steve and Kathy Coleman, along with his sisters, brothers, children and his wife, Amy. He thanked the likes of Lambert and Murray as well as Bernard and Teague.
Coleman credited his determination to succeed to the work ethic exemplified by his father, "who outworks everyone in this room."
On a night when an organization which prides itself on setting the standards by which tomorrow will be compared, they took a moment in time to look at their past and say, "Thank you."
Over the course of two hours one speaker after another used adjectives like passion, heart, tough, cowboy, classy, instrumental, respect, love, proud, inspirational and influential. They talked about family and friends as well as having no excuses and being great people.
In the end, they honored the longstanding cowboy code.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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