By Tyler D. Whetstone
The first time 22 year old freshman Justin Carr got on the back of a bull he had a helmet, nerves, and some prayers. He waited patiently until his name was called.
Minutes later the gate was opened.
Jager Bomb was a certified Professional Bull Riding bull, and Carr held on for dear life.
3.7 seconds later he was on the ground. After getting hit in the chest and kicked in the leg by the 1500 pound beast Carr found out he did well.
By the end of the night, Carr placed fifth out of 20 riders, pretty good for his first rodeo.
Fast forward three years, and Carr is sitting contently in general education classes in Mackey building far from the dirt and sweat of the PBR.
Growing up, Carr spent much of his childhood in Northport, Florida which he claims is a “real small country town” known for its golf course.
Like many kids growing up within 15 minutes of the beach, Carr fell in love with surfing. After surfing it was motocross that caught Carr’s attention.
After several years and trips to the emergency room, Carr gave up the bike for the bull. At age 13 Carr fell in love with bull riding due in large part to his uncle who was a bull rider at the time.
Carr had spent part of his childhood around bulls and watching his uncle perform in bull riding events, but was held back. His mother wanted her son to walk with his graduating class.
“She told me if I was dumb enough to jump on a bull after I graduated to go for it. So I did,” said Carr.
After a few DVD instructional videos, advice from his uncle, and a few months’ worth of paychecks from Dairy Queen, Carr went full out and decided he was going to ride bulls. Period.
He spent $1500 on gear and was off. From there, it was 60 miles once every other weekend to Tampa to Remington Rough Stock, a place where bull riders frequently practice their skills.
“I pretty much knew bull riding was what I wanted to do and I just wanted to make something out of it and see where it would go,” said Carr.
Before long, Carr ran into PBR rider Steve Minyard who saw potential in Carr and offered him two sponsorships with Turner Turf and Ubetcha Apparel.
Afterwards Carr began regularly competing in the Southern States Bull Riding or the SSBR.
In similar ways to sports such as NASCAR or baseball, bull riding has different tours and divisions that you compete in as you work your way to the top. In bull riding, it’s the PBR.
Carr has had very good success in events speckled throughout the different leagues and tours and events. He shows off his 5’ by 4’ belt buckle from a rodeo in Amarillo, and says he’s lost count of top five finishes and wins in the events he’s competed in.
At 21, Carr began making the lists of PBR events. He has his PBR card to prove it.
“They say it’s the toughest sport on dirt,” said Carr. “You get the thrill and adrenaline. I just like the attention.”
In his third event, last year in Arcadia, Florida, Carr finished fourth, his best ever PBR finish.
The next day Carr competed in a SSBR event that would alter his rising career.
Carr was paired to ride Prince, the highest ranked bull at the event
“I will never forget, this grey colored bull who had massive horns…he was kicking in his shoot, and I knew this was going to be a nasty bull. He came out of the shoot kicking hard,” said Carr.
7.4 seconds later Carr got slammed into the gate and tore his rotator cuff and sprained his shoulder. Because of those seven seconds, Carr would be forced to sit out 10 months.
“I [developed] this mental fear of getting hurt worse than that. It was definitely a big panic state for me,” said Carr.
Fast forward to last December. Carr was healed and performed in his first PBR event since his injury. In his first time back on a bull, Carr competed but did not place well.
It was after this event and spending time with his friends and family near the Christmas holiday that Carr began seriously considering his school and professional bull riding options.
A pastor at Justin’s church felt that God was telling him to pitch Trevecca to Justin and his family.
“At first I was kind of skeptical about it. I was like, ‘You know I’m making good money in bull riding, I’m enjoying what I’m doing,’ but I decided to pray about it to see how I [would] feel about it,” said Carr.
“I really felt like God wanted me to be here.”
In Nashville now, Carr has placed bull riding on hold for a physical therapy degree from Trevecca.
He still is sponsored and owns his PBR card, both of which he figures will expire while he is getting his degree.
For now, school is his new adventure. No bulls, no steers, and no rope. Instead there’s just trust.
“I know God’s always looking out for me and has great plans for my life.”
Whether that be on the dirt, in the classroom, or with a physical therapy degree, it goes to reason that Justin will have no problem grabbing it by the horns.