J.W. Hart is one of the Professional Bull Riders tour’s best to ever do it, earning the nickname “Iron Man” for his tenacious style and for competing in 197 consecutive premier series events.
He’s also on TikTok.
The most viral video of the 47-year-old is actually on his wife LeAnn’s account. It features Hart stumbling as the rope he uses to lead a bull snaps.
“When it happens to (J.W.), he says he’s ‘not sure what’s so funny,’” LeAnn writes in the caption, “But if it happened to us, we would never live it down.”
Hart said he got into TikTok through his 13-year-old son. And now he regularly posts TikToks to his 10 thousand-plus followers.
It’s all part of the changing world of bull riding, which Hart is experiencing firsthand as coach of the newly formed Kansas City Outlaws. The team is one of eight in the PBR’s new team series, which will pit bull riders against each other in a 5-on-5 format to see who can collect the most points.
The Outlaws train in Decatur, Texas — their new facility was shown recently on Hart’s TikTok account. Hart said the training that goes into the sport has changed dramatically, too: The team has a film room, a strength and fitness coach, people to prepare meals and more.
“It’s a joke that all we did as bull riders back then was just go to the ranch, went to bull rides and then went to the bar afterwards and party,” Hart said. “It’s kind of cliche, but it’s kind of true.”
Now, the team’s aforementioned strength and fitness coach sets workout regimens. There’s a film room where they watch and learn from past rides. Meals are provided for the riders and a nutritionist prepares diet plans. Nutrition and physical fitness are emphasized at every turn.
Before the PBR’s draft, Hart approached rider Marcus Mast and asked if he would be opposed to dropping from 175-180 pounds to 150-155. So Mast started running 4 miles every day, he told the PBR, and completely changed his diet to lose 23 pounds.
The Outlaws signed Mast as a free agent after the draft, but Hart said he didn’t recognize him when he showed up for training camp.
Hart knows firsthand how much physical fitness and nutrition matter. The longtime bull-riding pro came out of retirement in 2015, but his return lasted all of one ride.
“I was way overweight, and I had to train to get in shape for that one ride,” Hart said. “I learned a lot. I hired a personal trainer, put in the work and the hours to get my body back in shape to be able to ride. It really opened up my mind to how much better I could have been had done that when I was 25, 20, 18 instead of waiting until I was 40.”
“So now, when I’m asking these guys to do what I want them to do, I have proof that it worked because it worked for me when I was 40 years old. So it’ll work for them and they’re 20.”
Legendary bull rider Luke Snyder also came back to bull riding after retiring in 2013 and going to work for Bass Pro Shops. When Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris created the Thunder and approached the former bull rider to serve as a coach and also manage the team’s front office, Snyder called it a “dream scenario.”
“There was a lot of just cowboy grit: If you get something banged up, well, have a beer and put some ice on it,” Snyder said. “Now, it’s completely different. It’s more like being a professional athlete.”
Snyder broke Hart’s record for consecutive events, setting a new mark at 275 with some of “cowboy grit.” Originally from Raymore, Snyder knows bull riding has a following in Missouri. In front of a sold-out crowd in the then-Sprint Center in February 2013, Snyder took home a big victory in Kansas City on one of his last rides.
The PBR is scheduled to make an appearance at T-Mobile Center on Aug. 5-7. The team series will also take place at the Thunder Ridge Nature amphitheater in the Ozarks.
“It’s just a testament to (the fans that we) have two teams here in Missouri,” Snyder said. “We’re kind of like the Royals and the Cardinals to have have two teams and almost make a national rivalry between the two.”