PUEBLO, Colo. – Nevada Newman’s heart begins to race as the Super Cub aircraft begins to descend upon the lush, green pastures.
The runway below him zips back and forth as Newman grabs at the controls to balance out the airplane’s left and right wings.
Newman’s focus is just as keyed in as it is on the back of the bucking bull, however this time his adrenaline rush and increased blood pressure has less to do with a 2,000-pound bovine athlete and more so with a 900-pound airplane and brisk wind conditions.
A few minutes later, the wheels of the plane touch the ground and Newman puts on the brakes.
It is a beautiful April day in eastern Montana, and Newman let’s out an exhale.
“I was kind of bored, and I was like, ‘Well I might as well get in the plane and fly a little bit seeing as I am not doing nothing,” Newman recalled earlier this month.
Newman has been in search of an adrenaline rush to fill his ever-growing desires as he continues to recover from right shoulder surgery in February.
One way he has kept himself from rushing back too early has been by taking a few spins in the air in a neighbor’s Super Cub – a two-seat, single-engine monoplane.
“We flew back over the ranch and flew back toward Billings and all around here,” Newman said. It was pretty good.”
The Melstone, Montana, native earned his pilot license in 2014 when he spent one year attending Montana State University as a member of the Bobcats rodeo team.
“Truthfully, when I am taking off and landing, it is the same kind of adrenaline rush I get when I am riding bulls,” Newman said. “Shit can get scary fast. You can be coming down and catch a gust of wind and start going sideways. You yell, ‘Holy shit!’ and you are trying to keep control of it.”
Luckily, Newman has never “wrecked” a plane, but he admits he has had some close calls in the past.
“Oh, yeah, I have had some times I have bounced off the runaway and gone sideways,” Newman said. “I had some landings that scared the shit out of me.”
One area Newman has been unable to avoid wrecks or injuries is the bull riding arena.
Newman had injured his right shoulder during the second event of the season in Chicago and then had it stepped on the following week in Oklahoma City.
He would attempt two more bulls in Sacramento, California, before Dr. Tandy Freeman recommended surgery.
Freeman eventually repaired Newman's torn labrum and rotator cuff, and he inserted seven anchors into Newman’s free arm in February.
“My shoulder feels better than it did when I got on tour,” Newman said. “Tandy said when he did the surgery there was years of tear in there. It was finally time. Everything finally just came loose.”
The 24-year-old spent six weeks in a sling and has spent the last four months doing ranch work to help keep himself active.
Newman has spent the last few weeks doing all the raking while his dad, T.J., bales the hay.
“It dang sure has been making me want to ride bulls more,” Newman said. “I miss that hotel room life.”
Newman began 2017 with high aspirations after qualifying for the Built Ford Tough World Finals for the first time last year and concluding the year ranked 34th in the world.
This year was Newman’s second shoulder surgery in the past three years. He had to repair his left shoulder in Dec. 2014.
Newman is currently 49th in the world standings and is planning on making a return to competition this weekend at the Big Sky, Montana, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event.
The second-year pro’s home state event is only 270 miles from Melstone and has been named PBR event of the year four straight years.
“I am ready to come back, for sure,” Newman said. “It will be special. It is going to help being in Big Sky. I will be more comfortable.”
Big Sky is one of the marquee events on the summer schedule. The event is a huge hit to say the least and sold out in only 23 hours when tickets went on sale earlier this year. During the two nights of bull riding, over 6,000 people attend the outdoor event.
It's a community-driven event, with every rider receiving $500 dollars to appear at the bull riding thanks to the efforts of 120 sponsors.
Newman is 90 points out of the Top 35 despite having not competed since January. Still, he has five Built Ford Tough Series injury exemptions at his disposal for the second half of the season before being subject to the BFTS cutline.
Nevada has spent plenty of hours on his bucking barrel in preparation for his return. He also trimmed down his portion sizes and has lost eight pounds.
There is still a difference between riding shape and athletic shape, and Newman said that a session in the practice pen last week went well.
Newman is confident he will return better than before he injured his right shoulder after having gone through the first shoulder surgery recovery process.
“I ain’t worried,” he said. “I also had an elbow surgery on this arm before too, so I have had a couple surgeries. It is nice to know you can recover from a surgery. Mentally, I know I am not going to not be able to ride bulls again. I know I am going to comeback. I remember when I came back from my first surgery I was skeptical. I was wondering, ‘Would I be ok?’ There were a lot of mental issues. But now with my seasoning, I feel like I am going to be able to come back strong.
“I am not worried at all.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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