PUEBLO, Colo. – Cord McCoy has done things in his life that most people can only dream of.
As a bull rider, he qualified for the PBR World Finals six times. He then parlayed that into a successful career as a stock contractor, finally reaching the top of the mountain when his bull Ridin Solo won the 2022 YETI World Champion Bull title in May.
McCoy has also had an enviable career on reality TV. He and his brother Jet competed on seasons 16, 18 and 24 of the Amazing Race, traveling to every corner of the globe.
In addition to everything they won on the Amazing Race – no spoilers here – McCoy’s experience on the show would pay dividends when he accepted the role as head coach of the Oklahoma Freedom of the new PBR Team Series.
“(I haven’t done) coaching like this. I’ve been around and done several different schools, but this is different,” McCoy said. “Because we’re not just coaching kids. We’re coaching the best bull riders in the world. And I think that’s where it was going to be different. I had to find somebody that had coached the best athletes in the world and pick their brain on how to manage it, how to approach those guys. Even draft ideas, what you’re looking for to make a team that has the same mindset that can build upon to fight together.”
Most people don’t have a coach of that caliber in their contact list, but McCoy does.
He reached out to Steve Smith, a former third-base and infield coach in Major League Baseball, who he had met during his first season of the Amazing Race. Smith was the third-base coach for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 2008.
Smith competed on the Amazing Race with his daughter, Allie, and the four have maintained a close friendship. When he joined the Cleveland Guardians’ organization, Smith invited McCoy to spring training, letting him suit up and sit on the bench.
“He ended up coming to my wedding, and me and Sarah went out to Allie’s wedding in California, too,” McCoy said. “It was funny because Drew Brees was there, and people kept coming up to the cowboy and getting autographs. It was so funny. We were like, ‘The most famous guy in the world’s over there!’”
So as soon as McCoy was thinking about joining the ranks of professional coaches, he knew just who to call.
“When I knew I was talking about taking this coaching job, I called him and had a several-hour conversation on what to do and how to do it and how to approach different things, and I got a lot of good ideas from him, and even what to expect,” McCoy said.
“They’re professional athletes, and they’ve spent their whole life creating their craft, I guess you could say. They have their own styles, and just treat them all as individuals, and working through it all. I think the biggest thing is just knowing they are the best in the world. It’s not an accident.”
Going into the inaugural PBR Team Series Draft, presented by ZipRecruiter, in May, McCoy was prepared and knew exactly what he was looking for.
“Winners. Really,” McCoy said. “I think you know that you study the list of bulls, and this is who you’re really up against, is these five bulls. So just like playing basketball – if you start five point guards, you’re not going to be able to cover every location. So kind of keeping that in mind. Different bulls, different styles, different directions. We definitely had that mindset in there. But of course, the Round 1 (pick), we wanted a leader. Somebody great for even the younger guys that we knew we were going to get later to follow and be a great example for. That’s kind of the idea of the draft.”
Indeed, the Freedom has put together a formidable roster, drafting 2021 PBR Rookie of the Year Eli Vastbinder, Derek Kolbaba, Chase Outlaw, Briggs Madsen and Caden Bunch in the initial draft and snagging two-time PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood in the supplemental draft. They followed that up with free-agent signings of Shawn Bennett Jr., Deklan Garland, Trevor Kastner, Kyle McDaniel, Casey Roberts and Dawson Branton.
“Man, it’s cool to see the youth that we have on our team,” McCoy said. “And on all that, we’ve got a couple gold buckles, and I think we’ve got the toughest man in the world on our team. We’ve got some of the best unknown bull riders on our team as well.”
The toughest man in the world, of course, is Chase Outlaw, who’s known for his fiery locker room presence and never-say-die attitude. However, since finishing third in the 2019 world title race, Outlaw has competed in only seven premier series events as he’s struggled with many injuries.
“If you back Outlaw up against a wall, he’s going to be one that you could put in the game in a big winning situation, no matter what his injury is or age,” McCoy said. “He’s been in that situation several times, and I think he’s good for the team, especially when we look at all our youth. Even if Outlaw doesn’t ride at every event, to be there and to help drive these young guys on, I think he brings a lot of value to the team.”
Outlaw has yet to debut for the Freedom, who, in two PBR Team Series Preseason Events, went 2-for-2 in gameplay. No. 1 draft pick Eli Vastbinder went 2-for-5 across the two events, while up-and-comer Briggs Madsen went 2-for-4.
“We took (Madsen) with our fourth-round pick, and he had never been to the PBR World Finals,” McCoy said. “He had never been to any big Finals, big situations, but we were surprised he lasted that long. When you talk about the unknown guys, him and Caden Bunch, who was a national high school champion a couple years ago, just another up-and-comer, and he has the youth and the drive and the talent. We’ve got a couple of those guys that have done really good.”
Pair that youth and drive with the grit of Vastbinder, who notched four 90-point rides at the 2021 PBR World Finals with broken ribs, the World Championship caliber of Jess Lockwood, and the experience of Derek Kolbaba, McCoy thinks he has the winning formula. The season-opener in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 25-26 quickly approaches, while the Freedom look forward to hosting Freedom Fest on Sept. 16-18.
“I think the brotherhood. I think that’s the strength. I think we’re all riding as one,” McCoy said. “it’s neat to watch the guys all wear the same jerseys. I don’t know if they’re finishing each other’s sentences yet, but they’re all getting to know each other pretty well.
“It’s tough because everything is first time. First time to coach, first time to train, and not that it matters what any other coach or trainers are doing, but I think everybody sure wants to think that they’re doing the best and doing what should be done. Some of those answers might come out later, but it’s going to be exciting riding.”
Article Courtesy of PBR
Photo By: Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media