Colby Yates mentioned Cody Johnson when talking about the Touring Pro Division events this past summer. Cord McCoy was impressed as well and Shane Proctor said, "The kid is talented and he's going to show some people what's up."
Johnson, 19, will make his Built Ford Tough Series debut this weekend in Tulsa, Okla.
He was highly touted a year ago coming out of high school and said a major difference between then and now is that he feels confident. According to Johnson, a year ago, he would ride his long round bulls, but would get "nervous and pressed up" when it came time for the short round.
"This year I'm just relaxing," he said, last weekend at a Touring Pro Division event in Molalla, Ore., "taking my time and not thinking about anything. I'm just worried about riding one bull at a time."
And he ride he has.
Johnson won a pair of TPD events at the start of the summer run, including a first and second place finish in Gonzales, Texas. He recently finished first for a third time in Livingston, Mont., and had four other Top 5 finishes in the past few weeks.
"It's been good," he said.
Johnson later added, "I know I have the ability and can do it. Now it's just a matter of doing it and putting it to work. I'm very thankful and I've been blessed."
According to the veteran riders there are several young riders who have made their presence felt this summer. Chris Lowe won in Redding, Calif., but Johnson's success for the past three months has undoubtedly been the most impressive.
Luke Snyder took the summer off, but even the Missouri native heard about the youngster from Kaufman, Texas.
"He came up to me (in Molalla)," Johnson recalled, "and said, 'I heard you been kicking butt everywhere.' I said, 'Yes sir. I'm trying to.' That was kind of cool, him coming up to me. I had never even met him before, so I thought that was pretty cool."
He said it wasn't until a couple weeks ago that it occurred to him how good of a summer he's put together. "I thought to myself," Johnson said, "I've been doing this for about 10 weeks straight."
Johnson followed in his father's footsteps.
Clay Johnson rode saddle bronc, bareback, bulls and still team ropes. His mother, Tonya Long, ran barrels and a few uncles own ranches in East Texas.
He started out mutton busting at the age of three. "I had no idea what I was doing," he said, "and I just started spurring both feet right out of the gate." While he didn't compete on his high school rodeo team, he won or finished in the Top 5 of the standings for all the youth organizations he rode in through the years.
At 15, he began riding at open bull riding events and was already competing against some pro riders from the PBR.
He was a virtual unknown then, but that is no longer the case.
Johnson admitted that knowing top-ranked riders are watching and waiting for him puts some pressure on him to performance consistently, but it's also been a source of sustained confidence that has helped him to get to where he's at.
Though he's known for some time that he would be in Tulsa, this weekend, he said he's thought more about being in Las Vegas then he has Oklahoma.
He's currently ranked 41st in the qualifier standings--six spots outside of the World Finals draw--with more than $32,000 in winnings.
"My No. 1 goal is to make the Finals," said Johnson, who is equally focused on staying positive, "so I can be in the first (draw) for the Built Ford Tough next year and get a good start at it."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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