It’s not every day that you get to meet a legend of rodeo, so I was honored to have the opportunity to sit down with World Champion Bull Rider, Charlie Sampson to gain a little insight on his life leading up til’ now and what his goals are moving forward. I truly hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed creating it.
We all know that the famous bull rider, Charlie Sampson, has accumulated many titles including PRCA Champion Bull Rider, PRCA Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer, Ring of Honor Pro Bull Rider, and Cowboys of Color Museum Inductee. But how did he become such a talented bull rider and how did he get there? Charlie Sampson was born on July 2, 1957. He was raised in Los Angeles, California in a small town also known as “Watts,” a mere 2.12 square-mile neighborhood. As a young boy, Sampson fell in love with horses.
It all started when Charlie Sampson turned 12 years old. He became involved with horses in Cub Scouts, and by 13 years old, he owned his first steer (calf). Sampson remembers the day that he discovered a horse stable in downtown Los Angeles. He would visit the stables, sneaking through the neighborhood with cowboy clothes in his bag so that the disapproving gang members would not see what he was doing.
“I’ve always been intrigued with animals, but once I got a job at the riding stables, then that’s when I started realizing this is where I wanted to be and this is what I wanted to do.” – Charlie Sampson
The wranglers and cowboys at the stable taught Sampson how to rope and ride. It was at this moment that Sampson and the Cowboys knew that he had natural talent and real potential to become a cowboy. Consequently, the Cowboys at the stable took Sampson under their wing and showed him the ropes.
At age 14, Charlie Sampson rode his first bull, very well. Thus, that same group of cowboys and wranglers took Charlie Sampson to Oklahoma for a two-week trip. During this time, Sampson entered bull riding events in rodeos, hoping that his wins would provide enough gas money to get everyone back home to Los Angeles. After winning enough money to return home, Charlie Sampson was undoubtedly hooked and committed to becoming a world champion bull rider. When I asked Charlie about how he knew he wanted to be a bull rider and this was his response,
“What really helped me was going down the road with older, more experienced bull riders, I would help them pull their bull ropes and watch them ride and get bucked off. I learned from that, then I just decided that I was going to do it. The first year I rode with just my natural ability. Then after that, I went to a bull riding clinic and learned the fundamentals, what it really takes to ride bulls. Then once I learned the fundamentals, I applied myself to that and things really started taking off.” – Charlie Sampson
By age 15, Sampson began high school rodeo and in his senior year of high school, the college rodeo scouts offered him a scholarship to Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona. Which gave Charlie the opportunity to really thrive in an environment where he could grow and apply his skills. I asked him what it was like getting a scholarship to Central Arizona College and here are his thoughts,
“The college really opened up my eyes because there were so many great, young cowboys and cowgirls there that really inspired me. Once I was around them and on the rodeo team, I knew that I was supposed to be a rodeo cowboy.” – Charlie Sampson
Charlie traveled all over the southwest competing in college rodeos alongside his rodeo team. After only two years of participating in college rodeos, Sampson turned pro. He became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and won his first PRCA professional rodeo that same year in Lovington, New Mexico. At this point in our conversation, I wanted to highlight the amount of skill and training it takes to be a professional bull rider. A lot of times, it’s just as much about your mental game as it is your physical game. When I asked Charlie about what his thoughts were on staying sharp to ride, here was his response,
“I had the belief that I could do it. I had the courage and the drive to do it. For me, I attribute a lot of my success to three things,
1. The fear of the bull
2. The love of the bull and riding
3. Once I got the fundamental technique, what it took to ride the bulls, then I started taking off.
I was a student of the game. I watched every bull rider, on every bull that bucked and once I saw the bull rider attempt to ride, I envisioned myself doing it. My enthusiasm, my vision, and my fundamental knowledge that I learned helped me create a style that I call, “Never give up.” “- Charlie Sampson
Charlie’s Rodeo Career
Charlie Sampson’s rodeo career lasted almost 20 years with 11 trips to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He ended up taking the bull riding championship title in 1982 at the NFR, making him the first-ever black cowboy to win a PRCA title and only one of six black cowboys in the association in 1983. I asked him if he could go back in time, what he would tell his 25-year-old self and his answer was simple,
“Get more rest.” – Charlie Sampson
I chuckled at his response as he went on to explain that young people are wild and need more rest. I couldn’t agree with him more! One of the last questions that I asked Charlie in this interview was what it was like transitioning out of bull riding and into another sport, which if you haven’t heard, Charlie has taken up team roping.
“Well, I am just transitioning in life, period. After 20 years of riding bulls, I’ve been transitioning to trying to find my niche in life at 63. Fortunately for me, I still love the sport, I’ve always loves horses and I’ve always loved team roping. Now that has become my new passion, but my #1 passion is trying to educate people that you can be whatever you want to be if you put out all the effort. My transition to team roping is predicated on years and years of being associated with this industry that I love.”
I wrapped up the interview by mentioning the fact that he (Charlie) has accomplished so much in his career and his lifetime, but I wanted to know if there was anything he still has yet to achieve and what that might look like. His response, much like the others, made me chuckle and I think it’s a philosophy we should all be trying to live by.
“I’m trying to make it to 64. I’m trying to make it to tomorrow. I’m still available to help out and educate the non-public about the sport of rodeo and to let the world know that you can do anything you want if you really want it.”
I want to personally thank Charlie Sampson for his time on this article. It’s not every day you get to interview a legend. You can learn more about Charlie Sampson and his career by visiting charliesampson.com.
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