HONEYVILLE - By Ellen Cook, Headliner Media Specialist, May 30, 2022
Mailmen adhere to a motto about never giving up despite “sleet, snow, rain or dark of night.” There is one bull rider who follows that same creed and is now being recognized on the national stage because of it.
Briggs Madsen of Honeyville was recently “drafted” into the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) new team format and will be a member of Team Oklahoma Freedom, coached by former bull rider Cord McCoy and assistant coach Kody Lostroh. He will be joined in the arena by four other well-known names in the rodeo circuit, Eli Vastbinder, Derek Kolbaba, Chase Outlaw and Caden Bunch. Madsen comes into the mix as a virtual unknown, a rookie, as far as the PBR is concerned.
But a rookie, he is not.
Madsen has been riding some form of rough stock since the age of four. He has been on nearly every rodeo stage in the country, from Alaska to Florida. He has been at the top of his game and hit a few low spots, as well. But just like the mail, he has always gotten through.
Madsen’s “dark of night” came when at 15, he was literally paralyzed after a saddle bronc went over on him in the chute at a rodeo in Vernal, breaking multiple vertebrae in his back. He was told he would likely never walk again, and certainly never ride. It took almost two years of hard work and even harder determination before he was able to head back into the arena. He had to relearn how to walk then run, but he would eventually get his bull riding “groove” back.
But the groove came grounding to a halt in 2018. Just out of high school, the arena champion chose to put his bull rope away and become Elder Madsen, a fulltime missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He left home and the bucking chutes behind for two years, focused instead on serving the people of South Carolina.
He said since his return in 2020, he wasn't pushing like he had previously. “It has taken me about two years to get back into the swing of things and I really haven’t been going too hard,” he said. “I have just been working and saving money. I’ve been looking for some land, trying to get my finances in order so I could jump on the opportunity if I ever found some land I wanted to buy.”
Madsen said it was equally hard to get back into the proper riding form. “It seemed like every time I’d start riding good again, I would get hurt or something, and had to sit out for a while. It was really frustrating. This winter I was just about ready to hang it up and call it quits.”
At the end of last year, he decided the PBR might help both his riding and his finances. “The PBR has a lot of money added and they are always on the weekend so I figured I would start entering some of those and just see how it worked out,” he explained. “Then I could work all week and go to the bull ridings on the weekends.”
But it was not an easy route.
“When I first started entering the Velocity (mid-level PBR riders) events, they weren’t letting me in anything for quite a while,” he said. “Then they had the Tuacahn PBR in St. George. They finally let me in that one because it was just a Touring Pro (beginning level PBR riders). That was the first PBR event I had ever been to, and I ended up winning.”
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Madsen brought home a $8,000 check and a $10,000 Rolex watch. But more importantly, it got him recognized as a bull rider with talent. With only three events left in the season, however, there was not much time to extend any winning streak.
“But that kind of got me onto the PBR scene, at least,” he said.
Then Madsen, along with younger brother Kade (17 and a rodeo champion in his own right), was invited to the Stetson Wright Invitation in Minersville (May 14, 2022). Madsen had competed against Wright at the high school level.
“I didn’t realize how much publicity they had at that deal this year. Going into it, I really had no expectations. All I knew was there was $30,000 in the pot and that was what I was after.”
Madsen took home a big share of that pot with his winning 92-point ride in the championship round.
“After winning that deal, it was all over the Cowboy Channel and social media. Really, that is kind of what did it,” he said. In fact, after the Invitational aired, five of the eight coaches in the PBR team format called him about being on their team.
Madsen said he went in the fourth round of the draft, number 27 out of 40, and was the first “no name pick” to get the call. “I think at least three coaches were looking at me, and Oklahoma Freedom that picked me just happened to have the first pick in that round. Nobody knew who I was, and I was the first guy to get picked that wasn’t in the top 40 of the PBR standings.”
Coach McCoy knows exactly why he went with the “unknown” cowboy from Honeyville.
“There were 267 cowboys who signed up for the draft,” he said during a phone interview. “We did our best to scout them all out and talk to them. We continued to come back to Briggs. We talked about his experience, his injuries and his mission. This kid has an exciting bio to start with and we think he will be a great team player for Oklahoma Freedom. He has a positive attitude, and he is humble. We think he will fit into the mold for what we are about, and he will be proud to hold our banner. I am just excited to add him to the roster.”
Madsen is just as excited to expand his talent with Oklahoma Freedom. “I think they tried to pick some riders who were effective from a riding standpoint already and they are going to help us work on our mental game to get more consistent and develop as riders. That is why I signed up for the draft. Nobody really knows me, so I was thinking if somebody picks me on their team and thinks I’ll benefit them, that’s great. Getting to be around those coaches will help me become a better bull rider.”
He said, looking back at what it has taken to make it to this level in his career has made him more than grateful. “It has been very humbling and really cool. Everyone where we live, the construction guys I work with every day, it seems like everybody watches the Cowboy Channel. Everybody knows how hard I’ve worked, how long I’ve kept at it to finally reach this point. It has been cool to look back and see how the Lord has had His hand in my life and put the right people around me and the right experiences and opportunities to help me reach my goal.”
He is now looking forward to the upcoming season, getting in shape and working with his coaches and the other talented cowboys on his team. He has interacted with most of them at different rodeos over the years and is eager to see how much he can learn and improve, both physically and mentally, as they train and compete together.
A couple of pre-season events will be held in June and the first of ten team competitions will take place on July 25-26, during the legendary Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the new format, five bulls will be drawn for each of the eight teams and then it is up to the coaches to decide which of those bulls fit each of their riders. The Team Finals will be held in Las Vegas in November.
“I think it will be really competitive because everyone will be getting on bulls their coaches feel fit them well,” Madsen said.
It may not be the traditional form of rodeo, but Madsen is eager to embrace the challenge. And like a good, determined mailman, this cowboy is ready to deliver.