COLE CAMP, Mo. (Nov. 25, 2009) — You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.
When he debuted on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2004, Matt Bohon made one heck of an impression. In fact, the Cole Camp, Mo., native had all the makings of a future World Champion.
In 2005 and again in 2006, the youngster established himself as a perennial Top 15 bull rider, finishing 12th and then 13th in the world standings before breaking into the Top 10 in 2007, when he finished the year ranked seventh.
Since then, the 26-year-old has been mired in a two-year long slump that has some questioning whether or not Bohon really is as good as he was once thought to be.
In 2010, Bohon isn't looking to make a second first impression. Instead he's hoping to prove to everyone he is that rider from seasons past.
"I know where I should be," said Bohon, in an interview that can be heard by logging onto www.pbr.tv and selecting the Podcast tab on the left hand column. "I should be a Top 3 bull rider, in my mind. I've got the ability and I've got the willpower to do it."
There are plenty of reasons why Bohon, whose career riding average has slipped to 35.14 percent, has struggled in recent years.
Injuries have certainly led to some of the inconsistencies — he missed the better part of six months this past year after having his hip operated on. Those injuries, in turn, resulted in diminshed confidence, especially after returning too soon from his most recent injury in San Antonio.
That's why last weekend in Atlanta, he said he's starting over and rebuilding his career from the foundation.
"I consider this year a rebuilding year," he said, "not because I've got a bunch of new things I'm working on, but because I've got a new body."
After the final BFTS event of 2009 he stayed home to let his body recuperate. After nearly a month without riding, he traveled to the central coast of California to work with Brett Leffew, the son of Gary Leffew.
The younger Leffew was the first to put Bohon on the back of bull when he was only 13 year old, so he decided to "go out there and just work on some small minor stuff that was causing me issues.
"I already had a feeling of what I needed to fix. Whether a bull was going into my hand or away from my hand I knew the moves I needed to do, but it's always good to have someone there who knows what you do, how you do it and what works for you. To say, 'You know what? Let's try this.' It was little tweaks here, little tweaks there."
Many of those fundamental adjustments can be traced back to the couple of seasons in which Bohon rode with an injured hip. During that timeframe — 2008 and the early part of 2009 — he developed "some habits" that were a result of protecting his hip.
When he returned to the BFTS in the late summer, he was addressing those issues on his own when he was hurt yet again in San Antonio.
This time he broke his jaw, sustained other facial fractures and broke his right shoulder blade in the short round when he bucked off Spit Fire. His jaw required surgery, but he missed less than two months before returning in Reno, Nev.
"I didn't have the mental capacity to come back, get on a bull and feel what I needed to do and then do it," he said.
At the time, everything was happening too fast, whereas "when things are going in your favor, when you're riding good, things are slow."
He added that now his body feels as good as it did back in 2007 — the year he covered a career best 43.33 percent of his bulls.
In Atlanta, Bohon bucked off all three of his bulls — four if you count his Round One re-ride option — but for him the Challenger Tour Finals was more about climbing back into the bucking chute and feeling confident than it was anything else.
Because he failed to qualify for the Finals in Las Vegas, which was a career first, he'll start the season down on the lower-level and have to work his way back to the BFTS.
As Bohon sees it, this is an opportunity for him to get on bulls almost daily and rework his fundamentals, so that "when I do get back on tour I'll have all the confidence in the world."