Joshua (Josh) Roberts is a special kind of teen-ager. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs.

Totally unpretentious, the 15-year-old Pulaski County native, now a sophomore-to-be at Russell County High School, is a prototype of a debate team member. He looks more like an academic than an athlete.

A classical example of the old saying, “you can’t tell a book by its cover,” Roberts’ soft-spoken, unassuming demeanor is undercoated with toughness and steely resolve.

Roberts rides bulls in rodeos, one of the world’s most dangerous sports. With three championships already under his belt, Roberts is not an “also ran” rider.

There is no saddle in rodeo bull riding. It’s bareback. To make matters worse, a bull doesn’t take kindly to a rider and a 2,000-pound animal can be unsociable.

“All I have is a bull rope in my hand. The bull comes out bucking,” Roberts reflects.

Currently the state champion bull rider in the Kentucky High School Rodeo Association, he will compete July 24-30 in Springfield, Ill., at the 58th Annual National High School Finals Rodeo.

Since none of his buddies in high school is into bull riding, how did Roberts get started in such a dangerous sport?

“I thought it was cool. I wanted to try it and I did. I rode an old cow in a practice. It was my first time and I blacked out. I don’t remember much of anything about it,” Roberts grinned.

“But I liked it,” he added quickly. “So I kept on riding. I love it. It’s a thrill ... the sounds; being with my buddies.” He has been riding bulls for the past three years, meaning he straddled his first male cow at the tender age of 12.

Roberts said he likes to hunt and fish but rodeo is his passion.

“Rodeo is the only thing that’s really important to me,” he emphasized. “I practice. I practice and stay in shape.”

He is into rodeoing for the long haul.

“I want to make it big in rodeoing,” said Roberts. “Other kids get tied in with drugs and stuff like that. I’m tied to the rodeo.”

Roberts’ mother, Anita Chumbley, candidly admits that she would prefer her son stay away from bull riding, but she shows pride in his accomplishments.

“I’m not for it,” she confessed. However, she and her husband, Paul Chumbley, support their son. “He is a really good boy,” said his mother.

Roberts doesn’t like to talk about injuries.

“There’s a saying in our sport that “it’s not if you get hurt, but how bad,” he said. “I’ve been hurt a few times, but nothing really bad.”

Like many athletes, Roberts considers injuries a part of the game. They play with pain.

“If you’re going to play a man’s sport, you’ve got to be a man,” he declared.

A new rodeo season begins in August and Roberts expects to be on the road.

“You have to travel and it takes money for gasoline and hotels,” Roberts noted. He doesn’t have a sponsor yet “but a lot of people help me out. I also work at Dairy Queen to make some extra money.”

To win the bull-riding championship in the Kentucky High School Rodeo Association competition, Roberts competed in about 16 different rodeos during the past year. A minimum of 14 events is required to qualify for the championship.

As a winner, Roberts received a Gist belt buckle, a set of hand-tooled spur straps, a pair of Wrangler jeans and $750 to help pay his way to the national competition.

Roberts also is bull riding champion of the Dizney Mountain Rodeo, a Gray, Ky.-based outfit, in both 2004 and 2005.

“You’ve got to stay on the bull for eight seconds,” said Roberts. “Points are based 50 percent on the bull and 50 percent on the rider. It’s how you look while riding the bull,” he explained. “You never know what kind of bull you’ll get. (The animals) are crossbreeds, all kinds.”

Roberts’ mother is a native of Pulaski County. She and her husband, Paul, moved to Russell County about two years ago to be near his job as a truck driver and welder. Roberts went through the eighth-grade in the Pulaski County School System and began high school as a freshman at Russell County High School.

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