23 In a Row

In a world where careers are measured eight seconds at a time, Sharp covered 184 seconds in a row at the National Finals Rodeo. 

Jim Sharp was so good at riding bulls, he was almost too good. Using a deadly combination of his natural talent and strong work ethic, the Texan conquered the PRCA's rankest bulls and made it look easy in the process.

His efforts resulted in the 1988 and 1990 world titles, National Finals Rodeo average crowns those same years and six NFR qualifications from 1987-92. He is perhaps best known for becoming the first bull rider to cover all 10 bulls at the NFR, a feat he accomplished in 1988 en route to his first world title.

Sharp holds an even more impressive record, though. From 1987-89, he rode a record 23 bulls in a row at the NFR, a feat that may never be duplicated. Simply put, he was that good.

"He always rode much better than I did, I know that," ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Tuff Hedeman said of his former traveling partner. "He rode them so easy and made it look so effortless. He would make the rankest ones look easy and consequently not get marked as high as he should have."

Because of his immense talent and hefty resume, Sharp will join Hedeman in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame on July 15. It is an accolade that humbled the 40-year-old.

"It's a great honor, and I'm glad to be put in there," Sharp said of his impending induction. "I reached some of my goals, and I'm pretty happy with my career. The Hall of Fame kind of tops it off. It's a great honor to be put in the Hall of Fame because you don't have anything to do with it, except what you did in the past. I had goals to win world championships, and I had everything to do with those by getting out there and working at it. It's a great honor when other people recognize what you did."

Sharp, who was nicknamed Razor for his precision, was gifted with an abundance of natural ability, but had to work hard in order to reach the pinnacle of the sport. He started early on and dedicated his life to becoming the best.

"I started riding when I was 5 years old," Sharp said. "When I first started out, I couldn't ride very well, so I worked hard at it. I kind of had my ups and downs. When I moved up and got on rank bulls, I couldn't ride as well, so I practiced and got to where I could ride them too."

He rode them to a number of championships as an amateur as well. Sharp was the American Junior Rodeo Association bull riding champion in 1981 and from 1983-85, won the Texas high school all-around title in 1984 and won the NIRA bull riding title from 1986-87.

After joining the PRCA, Sharp won the overall and bull riding Resistol Rookie of the Year titles in 1986. His 1986 earnings were a record for rookies at the time, and he was also the Texas Circuit bull riding champion that year. In 1991, he won his second Texas Circuit bull riding championship.

Sharp rode his first nine bulls at the 1989 NFR to set the consecutive ride record at 23 and win his second straight NFR average title, but when 1986 PRCA Bull of the Year Mr. T bucked him off in Round 10, it cost him the world title. Instead, Hedeman won his second of three world titles that year.

Hedeman is more than happy that his peer will be joining him in the Hall.

"I figured that if they had a Hall and he wasn't in it, it wasn't legitimate," Hedeman said. "In my mind, he's hands-down the best bull rider I've ever seen. If you look at all of the best guys on their best days, he was the greatest.

"The great thing about him is that you could walk into the room after he'd ridden and you couldn't tell if he'd just ridden the bucking bull of the year or if he'd been bucked off. He was just the same every day and had the best attitude."

Bullfighter Rob Smets, who helped take care of Sharp and numerous other bull riders in the arena for many years, will enter the Hall of Fame on the same day. He feels honored to be inducted alongside the talented bull rider.

"The coolest thing is going in (the Hall of Fame) with Jim Sharp, who I think is the greatest bull rider I've ever seen," Smets said. "When you take the top guys and put them all in their prime, Jim is as good as I've ever seen. There are three or four other guys right there, but I wouldn't bet against Jim in his prime. For me, to get to go in with Jim is as cool as it can be."

Sharp will be joined at the induction ceremony in Colorado Springs by his parents, James and Billie, brother Jason, sister Laurie, as well as a host of friends.