EDMONTON – Yes, Cole Melancon has never competed on the PBR’s prestigious Built Ford Tough Series.
Yes, the 23-year-old had never competed at a PBR event, outside of THE AMERICAN, until the 2017 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals two weeks ago when he was invited as the 2017 collegiate bull riding national champion.
However, when you ride SweetPro’s Bruiser for 90-plus rides on two different occasions on the PRCA circuit that certainly says something.
So does Melancon’s decision to immediately accept an invite to ride for Team USA despite the fact that he has a herniated disc in his lower back and is scheduled to compete at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo next month in Las Vegas.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Melancon came through when it mattered most during Round 1 of the inaugural PBR Global Cup, presented by Encor by EPCOR, Friday night at Rogers Place by riding Hand Burner for 84.25 points.
“I know there is probably a lot of people out there doubting and knowing I am definitely new to this,” Melancon said. “To get one rode, especially something hard to ride like that, is a confidence booster and a big step forward for me.”
Confidence wasn’t an issue for Melancon when he stepped into South Point Arena for the Velocity Tour Finals, but the Hill’s College national champion came up short of qualifying for the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals after going 1-for-3.
In Edmonton, Team USA coach Justin McBride said fans would be left talking about Melancon in a positive note after the Beaumont, Texas, cowboy accepted McBride’s last minute coaching invite to fill one of three open roster spots because of injuries.
McBride and 2009 PBR Ring of Honor inductee and TSN commentator J.W. Hart noticed right away on the back of the bucking chutes that Melancon meant all business when he nodded for the gate.
“When he slid up there and nodded, it wasn’t, ‘Oh boy, I hope I make the whistle,’” McBride said. “He slid up there and knew what he was going to do when that gate opens. It is funny. That bull. I saw a bunch of video on him and he was always around to the right. Today, he scattered out across there away from his hand.”
The changeup by Hand Burner didn’t faze Melancon, who admits one thing he needs to work on is his wild free arm that gets him out of position when bulls go away from his right riding hand.
Melancon takes on Bourbon Oak Saturday night inside Rogers Place during the final night of competition at the Global Cup.
The Texan could have turned down McBride’s offer to ride for Team USA too on Tuesday afternoon. Melancon was scheduled to go to the doctor’s for a follow-up appointment and to receive treatment on his lower back.
He has been with a herniated disc since April, but instead decided that representing his country was something he couldn’t pass up instead of resting.
“I have a herniated disc in my lower back,” Melancon said. “It is pinching my sciatic nerve. The doctor said it isn’t too bad and can maybe be fixed without surgery by going to a chiropractor and physical therapy. Surgery would put me out 2-3 months. After December, we will see. I rather just get an injection.”
The disc hasn’t hindered him all the time in the arena, especially considering he rode Bruiser for 90 points in August at the Caldwell, Idaho, rodeo.
“Yeah, it doesn’t bother me when I ride,” Melancon said. “Just gives me hell during the day.”
Melancon is currently eighth in the PRCA standings and trails rodeo No. 1 bull rider Sage Kimzey by $133,532.99 in the standings.
While it has been a dream come true for Melancon to qualify for his first NFR, Melancon said he expects to make a push, at least on a part-time basis, at qualifying for the Built Ford Tough Series and the PBR World Finals in 2018.
Competing at the World Finals is as just as big of a personal goal as is riding at the NFR.
“Everyone is like are you going to go PBR? Are you going to go PBR?” Melancon said. “It’s not that I don’t want to or that I don’t think I can. I know I can. I just wanted to get to (the NFR). That was my main goal. When I started, I wanted to rodeo and then get into the PBR.”
Those goals have been on Melancon’s mind ever since he was a 4-year-old climbing aboard his first steer. He is a first generation bull rider from a team roping family, but he gave up team roping after competing in both disciplines through his first two years of high school.
Melancon graduated with a class of 30 people from Daisetta-Hull High School in Daisetta, Texas, in 2012.
Five years later, and he is bringing thousands of fans in Edmonton to their feet and many more back in the United States rooting for the red, white and blue.
Getting that ride on Friday night has only made Melancon feel more at home in the Team USA locker room, and that could be huge on Saturday night when the second-place Americans try to usurp Canada for the Global Cup trophy and $400,000.
“I am a rookie, but I don’t feel like the rookie,” Melancon said. “This is a big step compared to where I have been. The confidence level is totally different from me today to looking back two years ago.
“I feel I belong here and know I belong here. This is the kind of confidence you have to have to hang with these guys.”
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