FORT WORTH, Texas ― When Shane Proctor heard his re-ride option was going to be Slim's Ghost there was a sigh of relief.
He had ridden the Panhandle Slim clone twice before in past 12 months ― once for 86 points and another time for 83 points ― and was in need of a qualified ride to have any chance of qualifying for the World Finals.
It was last Built Ford Tough Series event of the 2012 season, and Proctor was feeling the pressure.
"The lowest point of last year was at Columbus, Ohio, I got on one of the clones that I had ridden twice before," he recalled. "I got on him as a re-ride and I needed to ride him to make the Finals and I bucked off and that was the end of my season. That was when my heart broke.
"I don't want it to happen again, so I'm working as hard as I can to not let it happen."
Sunday evening, the hard work paid off.
Only 121 days later Proctor became the No. 1 ranked professional bull rider in the world.
"It's cool," he said, when asked how the turnaround felt. "It's another day at the office.
"I made a good comeback and I'm just going to keep on pushing. The work is never done and there's another bull riding (event) next weekend and that's where my focus is going to be at tomorrow."
Sunday he celebrated his second BFTS win in the past four weeks, and on Monday he began preparing for this weekend's three-day event in St. Louis, Mo.
"I got on him as a re-ride and I needed to ride him to make the Finals and I bucked off and that was the end of my season. That was when my heart broke."
Four weeks ago, Proctor was the seventh alternate listed for the event in Winston-Salem, N.C., which has become something of a home state event after the Washington native relocated to Mooresville. Having not forgotten his Columbus experience, he was determined to cover all three bulls.
Proctor was 3-for-3 and won the fourth BFTS event in his career.
He's now won two of six BFTS events in 2013 and two of the four he's ridden in. In addition to his second win of the season this past weekend in Anaheim, Calif., he's recorded two other Top 10 finishes, including a third place finish in Oklahoma City.
During that span he's ridden 11-of-16 bulls for a career-high 68.75 percent average, which is nearly 30 points better than his career average of 39.11 percent.
"It's early on in the year and there (are) a whole lot of events left," Proctor said, "but to just have that much success ― I've been in the Top 10 the past (four) events and we're trying to put pressure on Silvano (Alves)."
Alves, who had been the top-ranked rider since August of last year, is the two-time defending World Champion. Proctor surpassed him in Anaheim.
Proctor had a breakthrough season in 2011 when he finished ninth in the PBR standings and won a PRCA title two months later.
However, he severely broke his left free arm in the last round of the National Finals Rodeo and missed the start of the 2012 season while recovering and rehabbing from surgery. The 27-year-old ― he turns 28 in March ― never fully got on track last season.
A year after setting career marks in nearly every statistical category ― Top 5 finishes (4), Top 10 finishes (11) and money earned with $250,492 ― he equaled his lowest production since the 2007 season.
"I never doubted my riding," Proctor said. "That's why I was so mad at myself for all of last year because I never doubted I could do it again. I just had to learn to relax. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed every time I ride and this year I'm going and I'm a little more relaxed and letting it happen instead of fighting it and tense up.
"I was thinking I had to get stuff done right now and I didn't need to do that. I put too much pressure on myself to win every day and I just need to be covering bulls and getting my job done. I was trying to be 90 on bulls you can be 84 on and just overriding them and not doing (my) job."
Earlier when Proctor refers to "we" he's speaking of his brother-in-law J.B. Mauney, who is ranked third in the world standings right behind Alves.
Much like the Brazilians support one another, Proctor and Mauney are like a team in keeping twice the pressure on him.
Unfortunately, Mauney suffered a possible fractured fibula this weekend and will miss the St. Louis event. He is expected to undergo X-rays this week. However, said in addition to being consistent throughout the year, the two often review video clips of their performance together.
"We're always pushing each other," said Proctor, who knows all too well how long and grueling the season can be.
"You want to challenge yourself every day."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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