Matt Austin's 2005 accomplishments are not only amazing, but unprecedented.
On his way to his first world title, he has changed bull riding in the PRCA, rewriting the history books and dominating the field.
He won the PRCA world championship after earning $320,766. He won the Wrangler NFR average title.
He broke Ty Murray's 12-year-old record for earnings in a single season. (Murray rode in three events, Austin in one.)
He won the year-end and average titles on the Xtreme Bulls Tour. His total earnings for that tour came to $119,584. He shattered Terry Don West's PRCA record for single-season earnings with $228,386. He won the Championship Bull Riding tour and average titles. His total earnings for that tour came to $85,359. He won the College National Finals Rodeo title. He won the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo title. He won the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days Rodeo. He won the Days of '47 Rodeo title in Salt Lake City. He won Xtreme Bulls Tour stops in Birmingham, Nashville and Oklahoma City. (By the way, he did all that with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which he has no plans to repair.)
The NFR might have been his least-dominating performance of the entire season. Every bull he rode, he placed on, but he didn't win a round. Still, he won the average title with 586.5 points on seven and wound up taking $92,380 out of the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
"The year I had this year was a dream come true," Austin said. "The good Lord above has blessed me to ride bulls and He's kept me safe and strong and I give Him all the credit. Without Him I wouldn't be where I am today and I wouldn't the person I am today."
One of the most burning questions rodeo fans have for Austin is with such an outstanding season, what's next? A move to the Professional Bull Rider's tour is a natural assumption.
"I've got nothing against the PBR," he said. "But this is where I'm at. I love rodeo and I love the atmosphere. Rodeo's just a humbling sport and I like traveling, seeing how many rodeos I can make a week and the late night driving. Meeting up with buddies you haven't seen in a while. I love this sport, it's just western heritage. This is where I'm going to stay and where I'm going to be the rest of my life."
It's not as if there's no more to accomplish in the PRCA. One of Austin's mentors (who Austin coincidentally took $10,000 from by riding his bounty bull three years ago) Donnie Gay has a record eight world titles.
"There's always another level to climb to. All my life I've grown up watching rodeo and watching guys like Donnie Gay," he said. "He's got eight world titles that may never be broken, but my goal is to win one each year. I want to win the world several times over.
"I'm going to work harder and come back and do it again. I'm not going to let up. I'm going to get on more practice bulls. All my life I dreamed of being a world's champion bull rider, not just being the best in the arena, but outside the arena."
Plus, Austin's more than just a bull rider. He can rope and ride broncs as well. The chance of bringing the all-around title back to the roughstock end of the arena is intriguing to him and many of those around him, but it's clear the desire for an all-around title doesn't burn in his belly like bull riding does.
"My dad's been trying to talk me into getting on saddle bronc horses," Austin said. "I rode them pretty good in high school in college. I quit because I wanted that bull riding title. Me and my dad were supposed to start roping this year, but he got busy. I'd definitely like to try to rope-just to see if I could do it."
Regardless, we're probably likely to see the most magic from Austin on the back of a bull. Even as Austin was on the brink of a world title and on the cusp of perhaps the most dominating season in bull riding, he and his father were dissecting his failed ride aboard Flying U's Reindeer-the rankest bull in rodeo.
See? Even with a laundry list of accomplishments, there are plenty of challenges left for Austin.