Swearingen makes 8 seconds count
A life can change in 8 seconds. Ask Daylon Swearingen, Professional Bull Rider and a member of the Panola College Rodeo Team. Ranked #12 in the nation by the PBR, Daylon knows the value of hanging on for 8 seconds. But as a little boy, he lived through an event that changed his family forever. And that nightmare probably didn’t last even 8 seconds.
Look closely at Daylon’s gear. He wears a cross on his vest, and a ribbon logo with a hand-tooled leather cross over it on his chaps. That purple ribbon logo is the symbol for Domestic Violence Awareness. Daylon and his little brother Colton witnessed their mother Carrie experience a devastating injury in a domestic abuse crisis that changed their lives.
“I wear the symbol for Domestic Violence Awareness because of what happened to my mom,” Daylon says, “She now does testimonies to help other people. I travel so much, but I have a church program on my phone and when I’m in Carthage, I go with the team to the Still Waters Cowboy Church.”
Once she recovered from her injuries, Daylon’s mom bundled her boys into the truck, left North Carolina and moved to Piffard, New York. Change is hard. Starting over is hard, but sometimes it’s the only choice. Daylon’s mom and her boys needed a fresh start. Rodeo in New York? Piffard is far from New York City, and the town has become a mecca for rodeo in the Northeast.
Carrie settled in, found a man who loved rodeo as much as she did, remarried, and her new husband adopted the boys. “Sam Swearingen is our dad. He adopted us and he is our dad. He was a bronc rider and now he and my mom own our rodeo company called Rawhide Pro Rodeo. Colton and I know we are adopted, and Sam Swearingen is our dad,” he says.
Rodeo is in Daylon’s blood. His mom is a nurse and also a barrel racer and trick rider. She and Sam produce rodeos around the country using a portable arena or they contract with other rodeo venues. They also raise bulls and bucking horses. In the Northeast, the rodeos start in June and run through the end of September.
Rodeo is a family affair for the Swearingens. Daylon’s brother Colton is a calf roper and steer wrestler. He’s currently going to school and competing on a rodeo team at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.
While Daylon can handle any rodeo event, he is first and foremost a bull rider. “I’ve always enjoyed being around bulls. When I was a kid, I started out riding on sheep and calves,” he said. He kept on riding and practicing and achieved success in high school rodeo.
“I won the high school national finals in bareback rodeo as a senior,” he said. “That was my first big success, but I’ve always been more passionate about bull riding. I was the youngest competitor to the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee, Florida. This year I’m making it to the NFR and PBR finals, and I’m the youngest to make it to both in the same year.”
Daylon is on the road so much traveling around the country to compete in rodeo events that he is grateful for the opportunity to take most of his Panola College classes online. “Panola really works with you to help you get your degree. This semester all my classes are online, and in the spring, I’ll have one face-to-face class. I’m on track to graduate in May 2020.”
How did a rodeo star from Piffard, New York, find his way to Panola College in East Texas? “I met Coach Jeff Collins at the high school finals,” Daylon said. “I liked his mentality, how he looks at life in general. Coach Collins won the world PRC bareback riding competition in 2000 – he’s done something I want to do. My mom and brother and I came down for a campus visit. When I realized Panola College offers a degree in land and ranch management, I knew this was where I needed to be.”
Daylon arrived back on the Panola College campus at 3 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, and was ready for his interview for this article at 10 a.m. He competes with his team in the Mt. Pleasant Community College Rodeo on Friday, Oct. 18, then he flies out to Nampa, Idaho, for a PBR bull riding event on Saturday, the last PBR event before the World Finals, scheduled for ATT Stadium in Las Vegas in November.
Rodeo is big not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Brazil, Mexico and Australia, so the World Finals draws a huge crowd of international fans.
Rodeo competition is based on a point system. For college students like Daylon who are on scholarship, it’s hard to balance the commitment to the college and making it to the pro events that offer winnings. Daylon said the PBR updated its rules to allow college rodeo team members to miss an event in the “Unleash the Beast” series. “There are only 10 rodeos in college, and I have to make every one count. Last year we won the National College Finals with a great team. I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Now in his second year at Panola College, Daylon says he has learned so much. “Last year, I put a lot of time in my school work. This year, it’s been more of a struggle. But I remember that my mom always preached to stay away from drugs and alcohol. It can lead you astray. I’ve seen that in traveling all over. I try to eat pretty healthy, especially when I’m on the road. If I have a 7 p.m. show that night, I eat at 12 noon, and don’t eat again until afterwards. I like to feel light.”
At 5’6” and 150 pounds, Daylon focuses his fitness routine more on flexibility and balance than weight-lifting. “My routine is similar to Crossfit. I do lots of reps but not with heavy weight. I work on my balance by standing on a yoga ball.”
Standing on a yoga ball…
Panola College has been good to Daylon in other ways. About a year ago he met another rodeo team member named McKenzie Bush, a barrel racer and breakaway roper from Center. “I met her at a meeting here at Panola, and we’ve been together for 11 months.”
Daylon prepares physically and mentally before each rodeo competition. “My mindset is ‘I’m going to go there and win. I’m going to try to do the best I can on whatever animal I draw’.”
And it’s the luck of the draw. Daylon says his hardest bull was Cochise, owned by Gene Owens. “You can’t really size them up by looking at them. I’ve been on the same bull three times, and he’s bucked me off every time. They are smart. Some are mean, but they are all wound up and they are trying to buck you off,” he said.
When Daylon completes his associate degree in land and ranch management, he plans to shift his focus to full time rodeo competition and building toward the future. “I would like to raise bucking bulls and own my own ranch one day,” he said.
Daylon has made significant money on the pro circuit but he covers his own equipment and travel expenses. Right now his sponsors include Wrangler, Total Feeds, and Rather P Chaps. For now, Daylon is focused on earning his associate degree, competing with the Panola College Rodeo Team in collegiate rodeos, and making it to as many pro events as he can.
“I’ve been blessed meeting everyone here at Panola College, and I’ve met so many great friends on the road. I’m already on the pro circuit so I’m doing now what I plan to continue doing next year. My goal is to stay on the bull for 8 seconds, every time,” he said.
Daylon has a vision, a dream, and a network of family, friends, the pro rodeo circuit, and his Panola College team to support him as he holds on for those 8 seconds, whether it’s a bull ride or surviving a life-changing event. He holds on…