FORT WORTH, Texas - As a young boy, Justin McBride dreamed of being a World Champion bull rider.
Not once, but twice in his career, he climbed into the bucking chute with the pressure of a million dollars on the line, and both times - in 2005 and again in 2007 - he won the gold buckle to establish himself as one of the greatest bull riders in PBR history.
As his illustrious bull-riding career came to a close, he moved from picking songs in hotel rooms and around campfires to eventually performing live.
Within a few years of his first public performance, he performed on country's most-famous stage, singing a pair of songs on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.
"Seems like if I ever decide I'm going to do something, I kind of like to get after it," McBride said, "and work to be better at it. It seems like when you do that, you get thrown into a bigger pond every time."
This weekend, he'll face yet another challenge.
The 33-year-old, who has been working in the PBR broadcast booth as an analyst since the start of the 2008 Built Ford Tough Series season, will handle the play-by-play duties alongside this week's analyst, Ty Murray.
"I think I was shocked and in disbelief, like, 'Are they messing with me?'" said McBride, when asked about to share his initial reaction. "And they weren't.
"I think that was my initial reaction. Then it immediately went from shocked to fear setting in, but then they kind of got to talking me through it, and I started to feel like, 'Cool. This is a new challenge." I'm kind of looking forward to trying it out."
McBride is filling in for Craig Hummer, who will miss the first four events of the season. Hummer is recovering from injuries sustained when he was hit by an automobile while bicycling in near his home in Southern California. He will return to the broadcast booth for the BFTS event in Sacramento, Calif.
In addition to the final two rounds, which will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, McBride and Murray will call the action during the first 15/15 Bucking Battle in Winston-Salem, N.C., which will be broadcast Sunday afternoon on CBS at 2 p.m. ET.
The 15/15 is the first network broadcast of the 2013 season.
"I didn't realize it was a network show either," McBride said. "Another wave of shock came over me then, when I figured out that it was a network show.
"But, (heck), if you're going to do it, you might as well really jump in and do it."
"Seems like if I ever decide I'm going to do something I kind of like to get after it and work to be better at it. It seems like when you do that, you get thrown into a bigger pond every time."
David Neal, who is in his third season as executive producer of PBR broadcasts, said McBride has a natural curiosity that will serve him well in his transition from color commentating to play-by-play. Neal went on to explain that is what makes for a great communicator and storyteller.
Neal compared the growing confidence he's seen in McBride, when it comes to his broadcast career, as being similar to the confidence he developed as a bull rider.
Despite McBride winning two world titles, Neal noted, "He still has a curiosity about why other riders succeed, why they make the decisions they do, and that sort of curiosity is what makes a great host. It's a person who can pose those kind of questions and then have a conversation, which I think he and Ty will do throughout the (two) shows from Winston-Salem."
Drawing on the attitude of a World Champion, the Nebraska native said he is excited to try his hand in the new, expanded role this week.
Regarding having his first time as a play-by-play broadcaster come during the 15/15 Bucking Battle, he said, "You couldn't get teed up any easier." The battle features the top riders and the rankest bulls, including a matchup between Guilherme Marchi and Asteroid.
Couple those types of matchups with the genuine camaraderie he has with Murray, and everyone involved - McBride and Murray, along with executives from the PBR and CBS Sports Network - expects that his first effort will be a success.
"That comes across on the air too," said Neal, of the rapport between McBride and Murray. "I've believed that the viewers on television, they subliminally sense whether the broadcasters are having a good time. If the broadcasters are enjoying themselves - as I have no doubt that Mac and Ty will from Winston-Salem - the viewers will get that, and they'll join in as well."
"Once we get going, I don't think it'll be too much different than the 1,000 conversations we've had over the years," McBride said. "Doing it with Hummer and seeing how silky smooth he is and how he gets in and out of everything-that's really the part that kind of freaked me out. It's getting in and out of the breaks and the opening and that kind of stuff. Now, they've promised me they're going to help me with a lot of that stuff, so I'm not as worried about it now.
"Knowing how good Hummer is at it, and how easy and effortless he makes it look, I know better than that. I know it's not."
That said, just as he was during his bull riding career, and later when it came to performing and recording music, McBride is "pumped up" for his latest career challenge.
"I'm ready to go try it out," he concluded. "We've had several conversations now, and I'm not nearly as scared. I'm more fired up to try it now. I'm really looking forward to getting into the conversation part of it, especially on the 15/15, and then I have the best TV people, who are going to spoon feed me to get me in and out of the breaks, so that definitely helps."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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