CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Jerome Davis was lying in a Reno, Nevada, hospital 27 years ago with a tube shoved down his throat.
The tube was inserted long before the ambulance left the rodeo fairgrounds as a way to try to help the injured bull rider breathe.
“I about suffocated,” Davis recalled this year. “They got me draining so I could get some air.”
Orange Pop had bucked Davis off during the historic Reno Rodeo, and the rookie bull rider received a harrowing taste of the professional ranks of bull riding.
The 2,000-pound bovine athlete had crushed six of Davis’ ribs, broke his collarbone and punctured his lung.
It was quite a few days for the 21-year-old bull rider, you could say.
Two days earlier, Davis had been celebrating his 1992 National International Collegiate Bull Riding Championship in Bozeman, Montana, before making the drive to Reno.
Now here he was – parents by his side – in the hospital and unable to breathe or eat on his own.
It is in these kind of moments that a question sometimes races through a professional bull rider’s mind, Davis recalled last month after being named coach of Team Mexico for the 2020 WinStar World Casino and Resort Global Cup USA, presented by Monster Energy.
“It is one of those deals you have to step back and ask yourself, ‘Is this something you really want to do?’” Davis said.
“If you ever doubt yourself, you better not do it. But there was never a doubt in my mind, and there never was one in Chase Outlaw’s mind.
“That is why he is Top 5 in the world fighting to win a world title right now.”
Outlaw is set to return to Cheyenne on Monday for his first bull riding competition since needing 12-plus hours of emergency facial reconstructive surgery, 68 screws, 11 plates and four pieces of surgical mesh after War Cloud shattered over 30 bones in Outlaw’s face in a 1.51-second buckoff.
The last year has a been a remarkable comeback for Outlaw – one that some consider one of the greatest in PBR history.
The PBR co-founder admires everything Outlaw, who also underwent a second facial reconstructive surgery this past November, has accomplished since that fateful night on July 23, 2018, in Cheyenne.
“I dang sure like Chase Outlaw,” Davis said. “I would love to see him win a world title. He has a legitimate shot to win it. After his accident, when he came back, he dug down and got another gear.
“Now he has come along to really do something special.”
Davis also understands what Outlaw will be thinking when he climbs back into the bucking chutes for the first time at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo Arena.
Davis would ride in Reno multiple times following his near-death experience in 1992.
“It wasn’t hard,” Davis said. “It was just part of it. It was just part of the deal. Just because it happened at Reno did not mean it was a bad place. It is nothing that you really think about. You are so focused in on being at the top that you just drop all that negative out. That is not part of the equation.
“You for sure think of it, but it doesn’t keep you from stepping up to the plate and winning.”
Davis was crowned the 1995 PRCA World Champion three years after his wreck in Reno.
Outlaw may also rebound from his own life-changing injury with a gold buckle around his waist too, potentially as early as this November at the 2019 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.
The 27-year-old heads into Last Cowboy Standing at Cheyenne Frontier Days – the third PBR Major on the 2019 calendar – Monday night ranked third in the world standings.
“Chase has to have a world title under his belt, and I think it is going to happen,” Davis said. “I don’t know if it will happen this year, but he is the guy I am cheering for.”
Monday, though, will not be Outlaw’s first time back in Cheyenne.
In fact, Outlaw returned to the Magic City of the Plains last month for an interview for a CBS Sports Network feature that will air during this week’s Last Cowboy Standing broadcast.
During Outlaw’s return to Cheyenne, he was able to say thank you to Dr. William Wyatt in person and thank the rest of the staff that cared for him when he was in the hospital for a few days recovering from his injuries.
Outlaw, one of the grittiest and toughest cowboys you will find out there, admitted that even he was a tad bit emotional walking back into Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.
“I didn’t think it would be anything, but it was tougher than I thought,” Outlaw said. “It is just another deal. I bowed up and done it. Just being in there I was like, ‘Damn.’
“I had seen the nurses and the doctor that were in surgery that night and everything like that. I got to say thanks to all the people that were in surgery that night.”
All that Outlaw has done in almost one year to the day since his head-on-head collision with War Cloud is rise to the occasion in and out of the arena.
Outlaw is 68-for-121 (56.19%) at all levels of competition since breaking almost every bone in his face.
Davis commends Outlaw for not cowering in the face of his injury.
“The way Chase bounced back, two things happen with an injury like that,” Davis said. “It makes you weaker or it makes you stronger. There is no doubt in my mind Chase Outlaw got stronger. It made him dig a little deeper and it made him realize he is here to make it happen.”
Outlaw returned to competition in only 75 days, climbing 54 spots in the world standings to qualify for his seventh consecutive PBR World Finals as the No. 22-ranked bull rider despite only having one month to do so.
Outlaw, who also had missed the first six months of 2018 season following his third reconstructive shoulder surgery since 2015, kept the pedal to the metal, and went 5-for-6 at the World Finals to finish third at the PBR’s marquee event.
The Hamburg, Arkansas, bull rider concluded the 2018 season as the 16th-ranked bull rider in the world.
In 2019, Outlaw has only climbed higher in the face of adversity, channeling the emotions of losing his best friend Mason Lowe to a bull riding accident in January.
Outlaw has evolved into a locker room leader among his peers. In the arena, he has already set career-highs for premier series rides (28) and event wins (2).
He also may leave Cheyenne as the world No. 1 bull rider for the second time since his 2018 Cheyenne wreck. Outlaw trails world leader Jose Vitor Leme by 349.16 points following his victory at the Springdale, Arkansas, Touring Pro Division event on Saturday night.
The Hamburg, Arkansas, native won his home state TPD by going 2-for-2, riding Kimes Jeans Church Bells for 89.5 points and Life as a Gangster for 91 points.
Rounding out the Top 5 in Springdale was Dylan Smith (2-for-2, 166 points, 30 world points), Ryan Dirteater (1-for-2, 88 points, 20 world points), Zane Cook (1-for-2, 87 points, 15 world points) Alex Cardozo (1-for-2, 85 points, 7.5 world points) and Tyler Harr (1-for-2, 85 points, 7.5 world points).
Outlaw has not taken life for granted in the past year, and he believes that his injury in Cheyenne has helped him reach a new level in his career.
Things will come full circle on Monday night, which fans can watch on CBS Sports Network beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET and on RidePass (9:45 p.m. ET).
“Maybe I needed that injury to push me over that ledge to really see how strong you really are and what your full potential is,” Outlaw said. “It tested me. And this is what I want. To be a World Champion.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko