From a very early age, Daylon Swearingen knew exactly what he planned to do with his life: ride bulls.
Now, the 22-year-old is one of the 40 professional bull riders competing in the 15th annual “Monster Energy Buck Off,” at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 7-8, and Swearingen couldn’t be more excited.
“I’ve always been intrigued by bull riding,” he said in a recent interview. “I grew up in a western world, and always took a liking to it.”
Where other 12-year-olds living in the rural hamlet of Piffard, NY found joy in playing with videogames and scarfing themselves on candy, the young Swearingen experienced no greater thrill than when he was mounted on the backs of the sheep and calves that roamed the pastures near his childhood home.
However, what started as a “liking” to the sport quickly turned into a full-fledged love affair, as Swearingen advanced from sheep to bulls by the time he entered high school and continued on throughout his college career at Panola College in Carthage, Texas.
While there may be some initial confusion as to how this native New Yorker came to fall in love with the sport of bull riding— an activity with more prominence in the South— it becomes quite clear upon meeting his parents, Sam and Carrie Swearingen.
Mounting a four-legged animal for competition is no foreign concept to the Swearingens, as they themselves are fully immersed in the lifestyle and traditions of riding. Mrs. Swearingen is an experienced equestrian racer and trick rider, while Mr. Swearingen is the creator of the prominent Rawhide Rodeo Company, which has been accredited with the production of thousands of professional rodeo events for over 30 years.
With the support from his parents and his unwavering devotion to the sport, Swearingen became the dark horse of bull riding, quickly distinguishing himself from his competitors. The young bull rider continued to win titles and awards with each passing year until, in 2018, he was recruited by the Professional Bull Riders (PBR), an international bull riding organization that trains their members to compete in the “richest bull riding event on the planet,” according to their website.
By the end of 2018 Swearingen was ranked No. 70 in the world, and sustained his success until he climbed to No. 13 in 2019, and No. 9 in 2020.
Coming out of the 2020 riding season, Swearingen underwent surgery on his hip and shoulder— both due to an unfortunate incident while bull riding— keeping him out of competitions until June 2021.
Following a brief period of rest and relaxation to recover, Swearingen was back in the saddle, where he reclaimed his status as one of the top riders in the world.
This weekend Swearingen will be competing in “the toughest sport on dirt,” as the PBR refers to it, at the “ultimate showdown of man vs. beast,” in the arena that has come to be known as “the most famous coliseum in the world.”
“It’s really cool to be competing in MSG, especially because it’s such an iconic venue to go to,” Swearingen said. “And it’s like with me, being from New York, it’s pretty cool, like it’s my home state.”
Although PBR promises a weekend filled with “edge-of-your seat, bone-crushing action,” they are dedicated to guaranteeing the health, protection, respect, and welfare of each bucking bull that competes in their arena.
For the next two nights, each rider will mount a 2,000-pound bucking bull to compete for the crown, be named the event champion and earn points towards their world standings.
“Nothing is hindering me,” Swearingen swiftly responded, when asked if he thought his recent surgeries would affect his performance this weekend.
“It’s gonna be a great event and I hope everybody comes out!”