Ezekiel Mitchell didn’t have the skills, background, connections or money to learn how to ride a bull. So he did what millennials do: Watched YouTube videos.
“I didn’t come from a rodeo family,” the 21-year-old Texan tells The Post. “My dad took me to them and I was always interested, but I didn’t have anyone to show me how. We didn’t have money to send me to rodeo school.”
So at age 14, he went online and studied tutorials by former Professional Bull Riders (PBR) star Dustin Elliott. The New York Post reports that Mitchell hung a makeshift bucking barrel from a tree to use for practice. A neighbor later helped him weld a metal bull together using a car suspension. At age 16, he finally rode the real deal and was immediately hooked. So much so that he decided to quit football.
“My parents said I was just going to throw it all away,” says Mitchell, who’s one of 11 children. “I said, ‘I am pretty sure this is what I want to do.’ ”
And his hard work and dedication paid off. After winning his first career PBR event in November, Mitchell participated in the Professional Bull Riding season opener at Madison Square Garden on Friday night as the No. 2 rider in the world. Not only is he the only Black rider among a group of 35, he’s also the only man of color at the sport’s elite level.
“I get a lot of messages from different people saying it’s cool to see someone who doesn’t look like the norm doing something they want to do and actually succeeding,” says Mitchell. “It would be cool just to be somebody that people can look up to, or aspire to be like.”
His parents, however, were hoping he’d pursue a more grounded career.
“There was a lot of controversy between me and my mother,” Mitchell told The Associated Press on Friday, hours before his first career ride at the Garden. “My parents wanted me to be a vet or continue to play football and run track. I was pretty good at a lot of things. My mother wasn’t really behind the idea. She limited what I could do. She didn’t ever tell me ‘No,’ but she thought I might grow out of it after a little while.”
When he’s not perfecting his craft, Mitchell is working toward an associate’s degree in agriculture business from Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas. He currently holds an associate’s degree in welding.
When Mitchell recently met Elliott, his online tutor, at a college riding event, he didn’t hesitate to tell him: “You pretty much taught me how to ride bulls,” and Elliot replied: “You taught yourself.’ ”
Mitchell says “Riding takes something that is out of your control, and you have to try to control it. An animal has a mind of its own. It’s all reaction.”