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11.30.2016
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Bull rider Sage Kimzey from Strong City, Oklahoma, became the first Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) contestant to win world titles each of his first two years as a member of the elite group of rodeo athletes known as the PRCA. As he approaches his third National Finals Rodeo he will attempt to rewrite the record books in several categories.

Kimzey will be attempting to take his place in history, going ahead of Tuf Cooper and Ty Murray, as the youngest cowboy to earn one million dollars within PRCA competition and he probably has his eye on breaking the highest marked ride record (96) set by Cody Hancock in 2001.

In reality, his total career earnings are in excess of one million… closer to two and he has to draw well to have a shot at the highest marked ride statistic. 

I have written about Sage since February of 2014 when he won his first CBR tour event, the Tuff Hedeman El Paso Championship Bull Riding. I held the jumbo check and waited for an interview as he made his way around the circumference of the arena, leaping up the five foot wall to take selfies and sign autographs with his new fans.  

It is thirty-three months later and the eve of the 2016 National Finals Rodeo and it is time to profile the number one ranked bull rider in both the PRCA and CBR, twenty-two year old Sage Steele Kimzey. As a three time World Champion he has answered all the questions normally asked regarding earnings and his outspoken goal of breaking Donny Gay’s 8 time World Champion Bull Riding record.

“Many people have said they were going to break my record, but Sage is the only one that said it when he was 9 years old,” laughed Gay this summer before the CBR World Finals.  

Attempting to reveal something new, I dove in and decided to look at Sage thru the eyes of some of his friends, fiercest competitors, and through the lens of the cameras that spend so much time chronicling his career, and with the people who seem to know him best.

Comparing Kimzey to Terry Don West, Jeff Medders of Geronimo Productions who produces and hosts both the NFR and CBR television productions, describes Kimzey as poetry in motion with his own brand of artistry.

“When I started putting together the television shows I began to realize how much he does in that 8 seconds, he makes his changes, he counters what the bull is doing with every move. You don’t see it until you watch him in slow motion, he is as good as I have ever seen.”

Medders who has been producing, reporting and broadcasting rodeo since 1990 including the official PRCA’s NFR coverage, was most impressed with the Champ this summer during the CBR World Finals at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

“He is so comfortable and confident in his own skin that on the morning of the first perf, where he was to get on two bulls, he flew as a passenger with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and even that didn’t affect his riding,” said Medders while tending to last minute details of the NFR’s broadcast which gets underway in less than 48 hours.

“He doesn’t change much at all whether it’s a day rodeo or bull riding, the NFR or the CBR World Finals, it’s his subtle moves thru the course of eight seconds that I noticed thru the camera lens, he never over moves, he never over commits, its pure artistry to watch,” continued Medders. 

Moving a little closer inside Kimzey’s 580 area code, I asked a bull rider and NFR qualifier, who probably has spent as much time on the road with him as his own family, a few questions about Sage.  

“Besides bull riding, the other thing Sage is really good at is playing video games,” answered Brennon Eldred of Sulpher. I then asked Eldred for one word that described his friend and competitor and he replied, “Very driven.”

Finally we reach about as close to home as you can get to learn more about Kimzey. I talked to Kimzey’s older sibling. Dusta Lee Kimzey is one of three children, all holding their own place within the sport of rodeo. Dusta Lee, a recent graduate of Pharmacy School, is a barrel racer and trick rider, something she used to do with Sage. At 22 years of age Dusta believes Sage is exactly where he has always wanted to be and did not hesitate to answer anything I threw her way.

 

Is bull riding Sage’s life or his job?

“He’s a cowboy first and the PRCA lifestyle is exactly who and where he is supposed to be. He wanted to rewrite the record books, create new legacies and he is,” said Dusta from the road.

What surprises you about your little bother Sage? He is mentally the toughest competitor I have ever met.

Favorite moment with Sage?

“My fondest memory was when we were both competing on college rodeo teams and won the same rodeo, Fort Hayes, I will never ever forget that, it was special,” said the elder sibling.      

Dusta continued to describe her brother as a boy who set his goals before he even got his card.

“From the beginning he wanted to break the permit record, he then wanted to break the rookie records, so it does not surprise me, this has been his goal since he was a little boy.”

Do the defeats haunt or inspire Sage? He has a short memory when it comes to sports, he gets on his next one with a clear head, and he does not dwell on the past… always looks to the next one.

Describe him as a child? Class clown, full, vibrant personality - didn’t hit the books really hard, always into sports, just wanted to have a good time. As he aged, he got hooked on bull riding.

What is the one word you would use to describe Sage? DRIVEN above all else.

What is something people don’t know about Sage? He was laid back as a child, he was more worried about making friends than the path.

How does he handle the defeats? There was one moment in his college rodeo career he bucked off of several in a row, a kind of slump. He called home, talked to Dad for a long time, Dad, still to this day, can clear his head and get him back on track. He came back with a vengeance and has been phenomenal ever since that incident.

Is he hard to buy for at Christmas – I mean he can buy what he wants? Impossible – think he might like what I got this year, I hope.

Do you help each other make life decisions? Definitely, we always have and always will, we are just two years apart in age.

The glare of the constant spotlight? How does he handle it? It is not cool when sometimes people say some of things they say, but then he just lets it roll off of him. He has a saying - People that matter don’t mind and the people that mind don’t matter. He will tell all of us, its fine, don’t worry about it.

What is one personality trait the fans or media does not get right or know? “I think because his competitive persona comes across cold, but Sage is one of the softest hearted kind people that I know. The world doesn’t get to see that, they only see his competitive side, what I call his ‘bear’ side.”

What gets him fired up besides riding? Issues in the rodeo industry as a whole, he wants the sport of rodeo to continue and thrive and wants it to be the best it can be and fair.

What is the one opinion he has that would surprise most people? He is very involved in other events, he recently was involved in a steer wrestling issue, he wants all of rodeo to be the best it can be and cares about the other events at the rodeo. To him, every event matters.

Most fun moment you have had with your brother? His first PRCA World Championship title win, it was pure joy, watching a little boys dream come true.

How much influence did your parents have on your careers? Refuse to accept less than our best, which was the Kimzey way. Less than your best was unacceptable. Supporting us in all that we did and pushing, sometimes an aggravating parent thing, but we all appreciate it now.

Does he love to win or hate to lose? He loves to win.

 

2016 Highlights

CBR World Champion

PRCA: • Won the San Antonio (Texas) Stock Show & Rodeo • Won the Pendleton (Ore.) Round-Up• Won the Sikeston (Mo.) Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo• Won the Ogden (Utah) Pioneer Days• Won the Molalla (Ore.) Buckeroo Rodeo• Won the Kansas (Phillipsburg) Biggest Rodeo• Won the Pueblo Colorado Wrangler Champions Challenge• Won at the Wrangler Champion Challenge presented by Justin Boots (Spanish Fork, Utah)• Won the Cody (Wyo.) Stampede Champions Challenge presented by Justin Boots• Won the 40th Annual Isanti (Minn.) Firefighters Rodeo• Won Iowa's (Sidney) Championship Rodeo• Co-champion at the Horse Heaven Round-up Wranglers Champions Challenge presented by Justin Boots (Kennewick, Wash.)• Co-champion at the Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo (Abilene, Kan.)

Career Highlights

2015: Placed in seven rounds at the Wrangler NFR to finish second in the WNFR average race and win his second consecutive world championship.

2014: Won an event-record-tying four rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to secure the average title and become the second rookie bull rider to win a gold buckle, following Bill Kornell (1963). His total WNFR earnings of $175,466 was the highest of any competitor in Las Vegas, giving him the RAM Truck Top Gun Award and allowing him to finish with a rookie record total (any event or combined) of $318,631.


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