Professional bull rider Daylon Swearingen may be only twenty, but he’s already amassed an impressive resume. The 2019 PBR Canada champ, ranked #13 in the world last season, was raised in a rodeo family and has been taking home major trophies since he was sixteen. His parents, Sam and Carrie, run the Rawhide Rodeo Company; Sam was a bareback rider, while Carrie was a barrel racer and trick rider. Daylon’s younger brother, Colton, is a champion steer wrestler and calf roper competing for the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Savage Storm, and their uncles Mike Swearingen and Ken Phillips are rodeo vets as well.
The 5'6", 150-pound Daylon, who goes by the nickname Day, will be in New York City January 3–5 for the annual Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden, where PBR will Unleash the Beast to a rabid fan base here in the Big Apple. Daylon, who lives in Piffard, New York, spends his busy time shuttling between PBR and college tournaments; he is studying for an associate’s degree in land and ranch management at Panola College in Texas, where he met his girlfriend, fellow rodeo teammate McKynzie Bush, a barrel racer and breakaway roper. Twi-ny continues its tradition of profiling PBR participants — past years have featured interviews with Sean Willingham, Flint Rasmussen, Tanner and Jesse Byrne, and Cooper Davis — with an inside look at Day, who talks about family, studying, setting high goals, and domestic violence awareness; as young children, he and Colton witnessed terrible violence before his mother left their birth father and married Sam Swearingen, who brought the boys up.
twi-ny: You come from a rodeo family. Growing up, was there ever anything else you wanted to do?
daylon swearingen: Not really. I just wanted to ride bulls and be around rodeo, produce rodeos and stuff like that. I think it was just we always had chaps on and had a belt buckle and cowboy boots. I remember always being around it.
twi-ny: You’ve been winning competitions since you were sixteen. When did you realize that you were good enough to make a career out of it?
ds: Probably when I was sixteen and I started entering the bull riding at the rodeos. Just going to my dad’s rodeos I made a pretty good amount of money, and that made me believe I could make a living doing it.
twi-ny: You’re currently ranked #2 in the world and recently won the PBR Canadian Championship and the National Collegiate Rodeo Association Bull Riding Championship. Is it scary having so much success so quickly?
ds: I wouldn’t say it’s scary. I set my standards high, and if you have high goals you should be able to achieve high goals.
twi-ny: You’re only twenty years old, but you’ve already ridden more than two hundred bulls and just this summer logged thirty thousand miles going back and forth between college rodeo and professional tournaments. How’s your body holding up?
ds: My body is holding up good. I took some time after the NFR [National Finals Rodeo, which concluded December 14] just to feel good.
twi-ny: Do you have a different mind-set whether you’re competing in college rodeo or PBR, facing some of your heroes?
ds: I just have to ride the bull for eight seconds. It doesn’t matter the caliber, you just have to make the eight seconds. You have to ride like you want to be where you want to get to. My mind-set is the same every time I get on a bull.
twi-ny: Your girlfriend, McKynzie Bush, is also on the Panola College team. Since you’re on the road so much, how difficult is it to maintain the relationship?
ds: It’s a little difficult, especially over the summer. I went to see her, and she came to see me. I don’t like long-distance relationships, but we made it work.
twi-ny: You’re on course for graduating next May with an associate degree in land and ranch management. When do you find the time to study?
ds: I can study when I am sitting in the car, not doing a whole bunch, sometimes in hotel rooms, when I get real bored and have that idle time and should be doing something.
twi-ny: What are your ultimate plans with the degree?
ds: Just to have it in case something happens, I can fall back on that associate’s degree and what I have learned both in school and out.
Jeff Collins – my coach at school who is the 2000 World Champion bareback rider – has helped me out a lot. Going to school gave me the opportunity to live in Texas a little bit. I enjoy Texas, and also the stuff I have learned about electricity, hydraulics, all these systems, grazing cattle, and all of that. I have seen it on the ranch side, but I have never seen it as someone who studies it and gets all the facts behind everything.
twi-ny: You have said that Cochise is the fiercest bull you’ve ridden, yet you’ve had your best score on him, a 92 in Tulsa in August. What’s the secret to lasting eight seconds on this particular beast?
ds: I just kept moving, get around there. I was just riding loose. I didn’t think about it a whole bunch, and it just kind of happened.
twi-ny: Do you have any other favorite bulls?
ds: I have tons of favorite bulls. I breed some cows myself at home in New York. I have Bruiser calves, a couple Pearl Harbor calves. [Ed Note: Bruiser is a three-time PBR World Champion bull, while the late Pearl Harbor was a beloved world champion contender.] I enjoy a lot of bulls.
twi-ny: On your vest, you wear a symbol that supports domestic violence awareness, inspired by a terrible family situation. What do you think is most misunderstood about domestic violence in America?
ds: I think it is overlooked as a problem because so many people have a family together, or they are in a comfort zone and feel like they can’t get out. With the family part, so many people don’t want their kids growing up without a dad, so they give second and third chances. But in reality it affects those kids. They don’t think the kids see, but the kids see way more than they let on. Just getting out and not feeling stuck, kids can change if they want to. You can’t change another person, but you can change what you’re doing and your actions.
twi-ny: You’ve lived in North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Piffard, New York. Next week, you’ll be competing at Madison Square Garden. Does that hold any special meaning for you since you’re now a New Yorker, or is it just another bull riding event?
ds: I feel like it is kind of special. Madison Square Garden is the first place we took bucking bulls to – this major event. It is kind of cool PBR’s season starts in New York, and it’s definitely one I have always wanted to get on tour by. So now that I am there, it is very exciting.
twi-ny: When you’re in New York City, what else do you plan on doing?
ds: Try not to get hit by a taxi.
Seriously, ride some bulls.