FORT WORTH, Texas ― Some call it grit and toughness.
Others call it luck and fortune.
For Luke Snyder, his PBR record streak of 275 consecutive Built Ford Tough Series events is "a hard question to answer."
He went nine years without missing a single event in a sport that is widely renowned as the most dangerous sport in the world. Sure he might have been fortunate and, perhaps, even lucky, but the streak came with a physical price tag.
During that time he competed with a broken leg, broken hand and broken nose along with numerous wounds ― which required stitches that would have sidelined many professional athletes other than bull riders ― that resulted in a series of concussions.
However, stitches don't count as an injury says Snyder.
"You can get on if all you need are some stitches," Snyder said. "It's when you start breaking stuff that it counts."
That said, yes, he's been fortunate throughout his 13-year career.
He was lucky he didn't sustain any substantial injuries that took him out of competition for a substantial amount of time, much less one event along the way.
"For eight seconds, you can put the pain aside."
The few times he might have missed an event or two, the injury came up during either the summer break from the BFTS or in the offseason in November and December-either situation gave him a chance to recover in time without missing any BFTS events.
"It was something that would have ended if Doc Tandy (Freeman) told me I shouldn't be doing it," Snyder said. "But it was always a situation where he said, 'We can get through it.'"
As difficult as the streak is for him to explain, it's equally strange for the Raymore, Mo., native to think something that had as much to do with luck as it did with his toughness is being honored as one of the 20 greatest moments in PBR history.
Throughout its 20th anniversary season, the PBR will profile the Top 20 Moments in PBR History. "Titanium Tough Sets Consecutive Events Record" is the latest in an ongoing series of moments.
Snyder's consecutive BFTS record streak began when he made his BFTS debut in 2001 and continued until he missed the Iron Cowboy Invitational in 2010 after not being ranked high enough to compete. He previously surpassed J.W. Hart, who earned the "Iron Man" moniker when he set the original record of 197 consecutive events, in 2007 in Uncasville, Conn., by riding in his 198th consecutive BFTS event.
Snyder's nickname came about when a sponsor, who had a line of titanium jewelry, took it upon themselves to use "Titanium Tough" as a marketing tool.
"I kind of got stuck with that nickname," Snyder recalled. "Ty (Murray) was onto 'Man of Steel' and I was kind of liking the ring of that a little better. It was a lot better than 'Titanium Tough.'"
Today Snyder laughs at the name, but not nearly as much as his fellow bull riders used to.
"My pals all hacked on me," he laughed. "'Hey, here comes Titanium Tough.'"
As Murray has said before, the best nicknames ― or the ones most apt to stick ― are those that are least liked. When it came to the likes of Murray, Hart, Jim Sharp, Justin McBride and Ross Coleman ― all legends and all in the Ring of Honor ― Snyder learned early on he had better be tough.
If he wasn't tough enough to bare a silly name, how would he be tough enough to compete at the elite level as a professional bull rider?
These were some of the toughest and grittiest riders known to have ever competed in the PBR. So if Snyder planned on continuing to put his gear bag in a locker next to theirs he had no choice but to be tough in a sport comprised of the toughest athletes in the world.
"Yeah," Snyder laughed again. "If they catch you whining ― ah, yeah, you learned how to be tough.
"They were all way tougher than I ever even thought about being, and they took some licks that would have put me out. It's just so hard when people ask me about that streak. I don't know what to chalk it up to. I was very, very, very fortunate and lucky."
Then again, he added, "For eight seconds, you can put the pain aside."
Yet, for so long Snyder was defined by the streak despite having won the World Finals event (2001) as a rookie. He was also recognized as the 2001 Rookie of the Year.
In 2011, a year after the streak ended, the right-handed rider won the Last Cowboy Standing and it touched off a whole new discussion of just how good he could have been.
"That's all everybody ever wanted to talk about," said Snyder. "I was like, 'I'm here trying to win some bull ridings and win some money and get some points, but it was pretty wild after it was all over to think I went to that many (events)."
Snyder is 11th on the PBR's all-time money list after winning nearly $1.7 million in career earnings in 361 events.
Of the current Top 40 riders in the world standings only one of them ― Mike Lee with 292 career events ― has even been to more than 275 BFTS events. Only 13 of the 50 riders who competed two weeks ago at Last Cowboy Standing have ever had a streak of at least 50 consecutive events and only two others ― Sean Willingham, 187, and Guilherme Marchi, 133 ― have had a streak beyond 100 events.
As a matter of fact, Snyder has missed only one BFTS event in his career and is currently amidst a streak of 86 consecutive events.
His durability is why no rider in the history of the PBR has nodded his head more times at a BFTS event than Snyder. He's recorded a PBR record 909 outs and Lee and Marchi would need until the end of the 2014 season to even remotely approach 900 career outs.
Snyder's 10th on the all-time list of total outs in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round and is one of only 11 riders to record at least 300 qualified rides at BFTS events.
"It's crazy," he said.
The streak came to an unceremonious, if not disappointing, ending in 2010.
Sure it was bound to end. It had to end at some point.
Most people, including Snyder, figured he would eventually "get wrecked out." But along came the first Iron Cowboy Invitational in which the Top 8 riders from the final standings in 2009 automatically qualified for the draw, which was filled out with the next Top 16 riders from the current world standings.
Unfortunately, Snyder wasn't among the 24 riders who qualified for inaugural event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, but with six initial qualifiers on the injured list and one alternate ahead of him in the standings, Snyder had some hope of making the final draw.
Snyder likened it to a score you know is going to be 93 or 94 points and then you get bucked off at 7.8 seconds.
"And there it ended," said Snyder. "Sometimes you'd almost rather get your head drilled into the ground as soon as you nod because it's such a frustrating feeling. You're frustrated to get one-jumped or two-jumped, but, man, you know if you just hung on by your fingertips ― for like literally the time it takes to snap your fingers - it's enough to break your heart."
Though heartbreaking as it was, that missed event, in many ways, spurned his current turnaround.
The past two years are two of only three years in which he recorded 30 or more qualified rides at BFTS events and he's earned a quarter of his entire career earnings over the past 36 months.
Snyder might not knowingly be able to put his record-setting streak into perspective, but it was simply as much a byproduct of his innate love of the game as anything.
"This is all I've ever known ― this sport ― since I was 10," Snyder said. "To me, to picture being home on the weekend and not going and watching on TV was enough to drive me insane. I love the atmosphere. I love going. I could put the pain aside for the time and go out there and try."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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