American Hat Presents Sage Kimzey

by Siri Stevens

7x World Champion Bull Rider, Sage Kimzey, was forced into taking time off last year when a recurring left shoulder issue finally took its toll. On June 10, with more than $115,000 amassed for the season and sitting in the No. 3 position, Sage got bucked off Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Severe Weather and that ended his year. Dr. Tandy performed surgery on July 11, which included a bone graft. “I didn’t get to move it for two and a half months to let that bone graft heal in,” said the new father. He and his wife, Alexis, had a five-month-old son, Steele, and Sage was able to lay on the couch and hold him one armed. “It was a lot – the days were long that’s for sure.”
He was talking with the PBR about commentating early after his surgery and by mid-August, Sage was in Nashville. He started a complex rehab with a physical therapist and spent the next five months regaining his strength, commentating bull riding, settling into being a dad, and building his life with Alexis. “We are a team and my goals with my riding are ever evolving, especially with becoming a dad. It changed my perspective on what’s really important. I’m a huge planner and always have been – there’s a lot to be said for that, but there’s a divine plan that we are part of and we have to roll with the punches. It’s good to have a North star but nobody ever talks about the fact that life’s not fair. It comes down to figuring out how to live a life worth living.” He and Alexis are each other’s teammates. “At the end of the day, whatever she sets her mind and heart to do, I’m 100% supportive, and likewise.”
Alexis and Steele were there when Sage made his debut ride back at Ft. Worth, during the Xtreme Bulls, taking the win in his first trip out. Sage is not done competing – he is still chasing the 8th title that Donnie Gay has. But for him, the bigger picture is helping the younger guys be more professional. “If I can help the next generation have a little less learning curve than I had, my energy and focus will go to that. If there is a blueprint to be shared, I want to do that. I’m a huge advocate of learning.”
One of the things he has learned in the importance of good partnerships. “I have been very fortunate over the course of my career – I have stood with companies that stand for the same ideals and moral compasses that I do. I think it’s part of that bigger plan that I can’t fathom. American Hat is a great example. My partnership with them has allowed me to get to know that company – the cowboy way of life is not just a tagline for them.” Sage recalled his own childhood, dreaming about riding bulls at the NFR. “Being a world champion wasn’t enough, there was still something missing – I wasn’t completely fulfilled and I didn’t know why. The older I got, the goals changed from being a world champion, to being a great world champion.”
Sage feels a real obligation to be a steward of the sport he loves. “We need to take the time to teach that to the next generation so the next generation of rodeo athletes will have it better than we do now. That’s a driving force for me as a competitor and a person.” He has seen the prize money “go crazy” from his rookie year to now. “In the better part of a decade, it has doubled and some.” He believes the next step in the rodeo industry is to make it a viable career option. “If we can get it there – do you want your kids to do it? If it’s a resounding ‘yes,’ then we’ve got it covered. It’s not the easiest way to make a living, and you truly do have to love it.”
Sage believes there is a big void in rodeo from the image of the American West to the image of the American cowboy. “The American cowboy is idolized – I want to make it tangible for someone that doesn’t have the background of ranching and rodeo. I’m passionate about this – there’s too many guys that fall through the cracks and if I can help do that it’s a duty and an honor. With modern technology, we can shorten that gap and minimize the risk while raising the education. Give that kid an avenue of trust to where they can go try it out.”
Sage battled his way back from injury and each time he finished a workout, he would ask himself a simple question. ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’ And his answer was: “There’s a twelve year old Sage Kimzey watching my story, and someday my son will, and my story is not done. Keep progressing every day. This surgery and recovery has taught me that as long as I’m moving forward, there will be a breakthrough. I’m not sure there is a finish line, but I’m going to keep working. I don’t have a choice. I believe I was put on this earth to do this, that’s for sure.”

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