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Professional Bull Riders, including NY native and champion, coming to Albany

Daylon Swearingen riding a bull at the Tucson Unleash The Beast PBR.
Andy Watson/ Bull Stock Media
Daylon Swearingen riding a bull at the Tucson Unleash The Beast PBR.

The top bull riders in the world will be in Albany for two nights this week as part of the PBR Albany Invitational at MVP Arena starting December 29th. Among those competing is 2022 PBR World Champion Daylon Swearingen, a native of Livingston County, New York.

WAMC's Jim Levulis caught up with up Swearingen on the road to talk about how he rose to top of the competition, despite not coming from a bull riding hotbed.

Swearingen: Yeah, no, not really. It's kind of my something whole family has always done. My grandpa, he was a bareback rider and then he passed it on to his kids. And my uncle's a world champion bareback rider. I think it's just been a family legacy that is something we've always done and kind of just the way I was brought up, either it chose me or I chose it.

Levulis: So when you started on the PBR circuit in 2019, I believe that was the year, or even before when you told people you're from New York, did you get a skeptical look or raised eyebrows? Anything like that in response?

Swearingen: Oh, yeah, for sure. I think, you know, people think New York is New York City, that's all they think about. But, you know, it's a lot more than that, as everybody knows. But yeah, like, and for a little while there, you know, it kind of bothered me, and then I got to like making jokes like, ‘Yeah, I’m couple blocks from Madison Square Garden. You know, I live right down there. And, you know, it's hard to keep the bowl, but we keep the bulls down there. And it's all good.’

Levulis: Running right down Fifth Avenue, right? 

Swearingen: Yes, sir.

Levulis: Well, in 2022, though, you were crowned the PBR World Champion, the first rider from New York state to achieve that. What does that mark of recognition mean for you?

Swearingen: I just, you know, it's been a dream, you know, like, finally come true. You know, it's something I've worked at ever since I was little kid. I watched like Justin McBride win World Championships, and even the guys that I was competing with. It was just kind of, glad it worked out how it did, and look forward to moving forward this year.

Levulis: You and 39 other top bull riders in the world will be taking part in the PBR Albany Invitational on December 29th and 30th. Are family and friends going to be able to make it to Albany?

Swearingen: Yeah, I believe so. Yeah, I think my grandpa's for sure coming and I know there's some people come in that you know might have a Christmas present waiting in their stockings.

Daylon Swearingen during the first round of the Tucson Unleash The Beast PBR.
Andy Watson / Bull Stock Media
Daylon Swearingen during the first round of the Tucson Unleash The Beast PBR.

Levulis: It's that time of year. For someone who has never been to a bull riding competition before, what makes someone good at bull riding?

Swearingen: I think it's just having like a small center of balance. You see a lot of smaller guys be bull riders I think there is taller guys that are great riders too. But you know, just being you know, flexible and, really fit and on the lighter side. And you know, just as a no quit and ready to go to war every time.

Levulis: Speaking of that in watching video of you from last year, you took a pretty nasty hit to the head when a bull's hoof came down and cracked your helmet. Now, for lack of a better term, what's going through your head at that point? You've just completed a ride, and you're on the ground there and you get hit.

Swearingen: Yeah, at that point, I wasn't really thinking about anything. I was just kind of laying there taking me a little nap, but I think it's just having a strong mentality. At the end of the day, it's life or death every time you get on one of them bulls and you know, just be thankful for the opportunities that you get to do what you love and thankful that God let me walk away from that. But I really wasn't thinking too much besides I’m going to catch up on some sleep at that time.

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org