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Ride of a lifetime: Decatur teen selected as top pick in PBR DraftFree Access

Decatur teenager John Crimber rides Butterfly Kisses of Flying S/New West Pro Rodeo for 82.50 points during the Round 2 of the PBR Challenger Series event in October 2023 in Ruidoso, New Mexico. Crimber was selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Florida Freedom in the 2024 PBR Teams Expansion New Rider Draft May 29. BULL STOCK MEDIA

From an early age, Decatur teenager John Crimber fell in love with bull riding thanks to his father, Paulo. 

“I’ve always dreamed of being a bull rider ever since I was a little baby,” Crimber said. “I always watched my dad as I was growing up. He’s always been my hero, and I’ve always wanted to be like him — he really helped to pave the way for me. We were around bull riding every day, and I always had my gear on every day, even when I was a little bitty cowboy. It’s been in my blood for a long time.”

Now, Crimber, 18, will have a chance to compete for world championships with his father at the sport’s top level.

Following a second-place finish at the 2024 Professional Bull Riding (PBR) World Finals, Crimber was selected as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 PBR Teams Expansion New Rider Draft May 29 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Since they started having the draft two years ago, it’s been my dream to go No. 1,” Crimber said. “When you see the other guys who have been picked first — Jose Vitor Leme and Sage Kimzey— they’re now legends in the sport. For me being selected No. 1 and just being 18 years old, it means a lot, and I think it means I’m doing something right. I can’t wait to get started, and I know there’s still a lot more to come. ”

With Paulo serving as the team’s head coach, Crimber believes he will be a natural fit on Florida Freedom’s roster.

Decatur’s John Crimber (second from left) poses with PBR CEO/Commissioner Sean Gleason, Florida Freedom head coach Paulo Crimber and team owner Heath Freeman after being selected first overall in the 2024 PBR Teams Expansion New Rider Draft May 29 in Nashville, Tennessee. BULL STOCK MEDIA

“A lot of people have asked me, and I tell them the same thing — it’s going to be the same as it always been between us,” Crimber said about his relationship with his father. “He’s been there my whole life coaching me and supporting me, so I feel it’s going to be the same feeling as it is every weekend. I’m really excited that we’re on the same team together… Unfortunately, my dad broke his neck when he was 28 years old — he had a shot to win a world title, but didn’t get to do it because he was hurt. For us to win a world title together, that would mean a lot to both of us.”  

After going 0-for-2 through the opening rounds of Eliminations, held May 9-12 inside Fort Worth’s Cowtown Coliseum, Crimber tied for the Round 3 win with 89.25 points on Brown Bomber, and scoring 89.75 on Ugly This. The score put Crimber in a three-way tie for the Round 4 win and allowed him to conclude PBR World Finals – Eliminations in second place, pocketing $127,833.33 in earnings across four days of competition.  

The following week, Crimber logged the highest-scoring ride of his career with 95 points atop Ricky Vaughn at AT&T Stadium in Arlington May 18-19. For his efforts, Crimber also took home the Lane Frost/Brent Thurman Award for best ride.

Falling short in his quest to become the youngest gold buckle winner in history, Crimber finished second in the PBR Unleash the Beast standings with 1,591.83 points — 238.5 behind World Champion Cassio Dias (1,830.33) — and collected $595,165.33 in prize money.   

Crimber held a 43 percent riding percentage (29-for-66) in PBR’s elite Unleash the Beast competition. He won one premier series event and added five runner-up finishes during the regular season.

“I thought my rookie season went really good,” Crimber said. “Of course, I wanted to win, but battling for a world title my first year has been something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I can’t be more thankful. In the beginning, it was really rough — I was dealing with some injuries to my hand and actually had to take a little break. But I got back into it and started having fun again, and everything just started clicking.” 

In front of a sold out crowd at the U.S. Border Patrol PBR in Jacksonville, Florida, Crimber went a perfect 3-for-3 to win his first PBR Unleash the Beast event in February.

Crimber started the event by tying for the Round 1 win by covering Flatliner for 87 points. He overtook the pole position in the first round of the championship with a 87.7-point ride on Border Crisis. Needing more than 86.25 points to  clinch the win, the Decatur native reached eight seconds on Doze You Down, scoring 91 points — his third-highest score across all levels of competition.

As the start of his team career quickly approaches, Crimber has his eyes set on making an impact in his first campaign.

“I expect nothing less than a championship at the end of this season,” he said. “It’s going to be a learning experience. I might be a rookie, but I feel like I’m a veteran because I’ve been around this sport for so long. I really want to be the guy that rides the most bulls out of every team and every person, and I want to be the MVP of the season. My goal is to stay on every single bull they load up under me.”  

Crimber’s first season with Florida Freedom will begin at the 2024 season-launch event July 12-14 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The team welcomes the league for its home stand — PBR Freedom Days August 2-4  — when the team debuts in its new home, Amerant Bank Arena in Sunrise, Florida.

The 2024 PBR World Team Championships will be held October 18-20 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

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