In most instances, one would assume that the most challenging aspect of riding bulls would be riding the bull itself and avoiding the likely chances of being injured. Although this fact is very true, world champion bull rider, Charlie Sampson, had many additional obstacles to overcome throughout his career. As many know, Sampson was and is one of the few African American bull riders in a predominantly Caucasian sport. Consequently, Sampson experienced some very similar challenges in his career to that of what Jackie Robinson endured in baseball. The great thing about Charlie Sampson is that when the hundreds of people confronted him with comments or remarks about the sport being a prejudice, Caucasian-dominated sport, Sampson responded the same every time. His words were as simple as this, “The bull has no idea what color I am.”
There is no doubt that Sampson had his fair share of bull-riding injuries that took a major toll on his body, though. Sampson suffered from almost anything you could imagine. He broke his wrists, arms, collar bone. He snapped his leg in three places requiring two steel plates and seventeen bolts to help hold his bones together. He lost all of his teeth and his right ear after a bull stepped on his head. And in 1984, Sampson drew one of the meanest bulls in the world when he performed in front of President Ronald Reagan. That bull ended up crushing Sampson’s entire face, causing him to need titanium steel plates in both his forehead and his cheekbones. “I have broken every bone in my body except my nose,” says Charlie Sampson.
Just a few years into Sampson’s career, there were two main competitors that he had to beat to win the championship title. One of the contenders was an eight-time bull riding world champion from Texas, and the other was a young bull riding champion from New York City. In addition to the competition, physical injuries, and other trials, Sampson also had huge personal struggles to overcome such as having to deal with the accident that happened when he ran over his two-year-old son over 25 years ago. The accident put his son on life support and has been a continual challenge to this day. With all of this and much more, Charlie Sampson rose above the storms, remained strong, and did not let anything stop him from his pursuit for the championship title and becoming the all-around champion he his today.