FACETIME- Cud stud: Daly courts danger in bull riding

Johnny Daly

"Well, a rodeo ain't no ordinary life/ But a cowboy ain't no ordinary man," croons Tracy Byrd. But what may seem a far cry from city sophistication is just an "ordinary" life for one Charlottesville cowboy. 

Johnny Daly knows first-hand the thrills and perils of straddling an angry 2,000-pound bull.

"I always wanted to try it, so I went down to North Carolina to the Sankey Rodeo clinic when I was 36," Daly says. There he rode five bulls over a three-day period. "After that, you either can't wait to do it again, or you're just happy that you lived through it," he laughs.

Now 38, Daly arranges his schedule around participating in bull-riding competitions as far away as Massachusetts and Oklahoma.

"I'm one of the old guys out here," says Daly, who gives himself a couple more years to hone his skill in the e and reach his goal of winning titles in the Professional Bull Riders league.

"His passion for it is unbelievable," says friend Eddie Smith, a member of UVA's baseball coaching staff. "It's what he lives for. He wants to get to the point where it's his only job."

Daly, who currently works as a recruiter for a temp agency in Northern Virginia, says the art of bull riding requires both physical balance and the ability to detach mentally from the reality of riding a writhing and kicking male Bos taurus.

"You just have to go through it enough times to where your subconscious is okay with it," he says. "It takes a while to get there– a couple of years and some beatings."

Daly's seen his share of beatings. His biggest came in March 2007 at the Hampton Coliseum, where his jaw was smashed. 

"I think he stomped on me a few times after that," Daly says. "It wasn't that painful, but the bad thing was not being able to eat for seven weeks. I lost 25 pounds, and eating out of a straw got old fast."

Despite the carnage, Daly, who grew up in a horse-breeding household in Southern California, and later Charlottesville, believes his passion is deep-seated.

"After I broke my jaw, my family was kind of hoping I wouldn't do it anymore," he says, "but you can't give up because you get hurt."

As Tracy Byrd sings, it is more than an ordinary life. But then again, Daly's dedication is more than just a passing whim.

"When it's in your heart, you just have to do it," he says . "If you stop, it'll just kill you."