PUEBLO, Colo. – Ezekiel Mitchell was hitting the town with his Mercedes long before he was a professional bull rider and even before he had his driver’s license.
Mitchell was 13 years old when he headed down Route 79 and pulled on up to the Chicken Express in Rockdale, Texas, and placed his order for some chicken tenders.
It was a go-to snack for the teenager with bull riding aspirations.
His Mercedes – a sorrel quarter horse – was more of a watermelon gal when it came to snacking, though, and would politely pass on any chicken fingers.
Less than 10 years later and Mitchell is now on a new path towards maybe one day buying an actual Mercedes.
Well, maybe not a Mercedes.
The 21-year-old is more of a truck guy.
“I want a truck to haul my horse through the drive thru,” Mitchell said with a laugh. “We will have a horse in the trailer this time.”
Mitchell is the No. 2 bull rider in the world in the extremely early 2019 world standings following his Velocity Tour victory in Ontario, California, last month.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet I guess,” Mitchell said. “I was happy to get it pretty early in the year, but it doesn’t really matter to me. I want to be winning consistently all year.”
Ontario was Mitchell’s first victory, and it had propelled him atop the standings for the first time in his career until 2018 PBR Australia champion Aaron Kleier took over the top ranking with his victory this past weekend in Adelaide.
“That was probably the coolest feeling,” Mitchell said. “Just seeing No. 1 by your name. That is what we all strive for. To be in that No. 1 position for a little bit or a long time, which I don’t think that will be the only time I am in that spot this year.
“That is something that makes your dreams a reality, to see your name in that No. 1 spot. That lets you know you belong. That makes me want it even more. I don’t want to be in any other position. I don’t want to be battling for a Velocity Tour win. I don’t want to be battling for a Touring Pro win. I want to be No. 1 in the world.”
Mitchell followed up his victory with a fifth-place finish at the Velocity Tour event in Corpus Christi on Dec. 1. His 2-for-4 start to the season has garnered him 240 world points.
Those points are crucial as Mitchell tries to gain as many as possible to earn a Top 35 draw spot on the 2019 Unleash the Beast, which begins on Jan. 4 with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, presented by Ariat.
Mitchell also is guaranteed a UTB event in 2019 because of his Ontario victory and may receive the RVT invite to ride in Madison Square Garden.
The Top 30 riders from last year’s final world standings are guaranteed draw spots for the first eight events, and riders ranked 31-35 are given five events.
Any alternates for the UTB tour through the first five events are based on 2018 and 2019 world points.
Mitchell is next set to compete on Saturday night at the Midway Auto Dealerships PBR Challenge Touring Pro Division event in Kearney, Nebraska.
Kearney is the final PBR event of the 2018 calendar year.
Also competing alongside Mitchell in Nebraska is eight-time PBR World Finals qualifier Fabiano Vieira, 2011 Rookie of the Year Rubens Barbosa, two-time PBR world Finals qualifier Brennon Eldred and three-time World Finals qualifier Mason Lowe.
Mitchell came up just short of qualifying for the 2018 Velocity Tour Finals and concluded 2018 64th in the world standings. The Rockdale, Texas, native went 25-for-61 at all levels of competition with two wins, nine Top-5 finishes and 13 Top-10s.
The rookie went 3-for-3 at the Velocity Tour regular-season finale in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a third-place finish.
“To compete with those (top Unleash The Beast) guys and actually go 3-for-3 and get a third-place finish was good,” Mitchell said. “I knew last year I didn’t get a full year in the PBR and it didn’t really hurt my feelings I didn’t make it (to Velocity or World Finals). It was still a goal.
“It just pretty much motivated me after that.”
Mitchell made his premier series debut in Billings, Montana, in April.
2019 will be Mitchell’s first full season in the PBR after competing for Hills College as a bareback and bull rider the past two years.
Mitchell has an associate’s degree in welding and is working toward an agriculture business degree too, but his dream since he was going to rodeos with his father, Danny, who is a horse dentist, was to one day be a champion bull rider.
“It is something I have always wanted to do,” Ezekiel said. “I have wanted to be a cowboy from the time I popped out I guess.”
He attempted his first steer when he was 15 years old and has “been hooked ever since.”
A few months later, Mitchell wound up attempting a junior bull and quickly began searching for any practice pens to get on bulls throughout the region.
“I kind of became a crash dummy around the house,” Mitchell said. “I would ride a bunch of them, and I would fall off a bunch of them. I would get on anything. It really didn’t matter. Big, small, little or big and I didn’t care. I just got on them to get on.”
Mitchell then learned through trial and error, as well as by watching the Bull Rider Coach YouTube series produced by Global Cup USA Wolves coach Wiley Petersen and Dustin Elliott.
“Nobody really taught me,” Mitchell said. “I just watched YouTube and built my own bucking barrel in the backyard. I had already learned some stuff from going to rodeos and snooping around and watching. I pretty much taught myself everything I needed to know and then went to some bull riding schools.”
In 2016, Mitchell also attended the PBR Academy held at PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s ranch in Bowie, Texas.
“Cody Lambert and Justin McBride taught me about the mindset,” Mitchell added. “How to be a World Champion. I got a whole bunch of well-needed confidence from them.”
Mitchell, whose cousin Ouncie is also a PBR bull rider and is competing in Kearney, said he looked up to bull riders such as four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney and 2009 Ring of Honor inductee J.W. Hart.
“They are just raw cowboys,” Mitchell said. “I consider myself an athlete, but I don’t work out a whole lot. I get on a lot of bulls and I like to do cowboy stuff like riding bareback horses.”
With his college career now in the rearview mirror, Mitchell hopes 2019 will result in his first full season on the Unleash The Beast.
“This is where all the money is at, and this is where the best bulls are,” Mitchell said. “I would like to be a dragon slayer one day and I would like to be a World Champion.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2019 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.