Independence High School student to make exhibition bull ride at Franklin Rodeo

Franklin, Tenn. (May 15, 2023) – The daredevil in Russell Ford comes out sometimes. He can’t help it; he’s been doing crazy stuff since he was a kid.

And for the Independence High School senior, he’s about to ride a bull at the Franklin Rodeo.

Ford, a high school wrestling stand-out and Columbia resident got the bull riding bug when he was a kid, attending the Franklin Rodeo with his parents, Tim and Robin Ford. They always sat close to the chutes, and Ford took note. “I’ve always wanted to be a bull rider.”

When he was ten, he saw another kid at the rodeo ask a bull rider for his back number. He asked his mom: ‘can I get one?’ She nodded, and he headed over to ask. “I was able to get a few back numbers from the bull riders after they rode,” he said.

But high school wrestling beckoned, and the 19-year-old had a great career, as the first Independence High School wrestler to win all four years of regional high school competition. He competed at state all four years, placing third as a sophomore, second as a junior, and fifth this year.

It was through a buddy, Hagen Hall, that he learned more about riding bulls about a year and a half ago. Hall, a bull rider from Spring Hill, told Ford about a bull riding close to the house, and Ford told his dad. “I’m getting on a bull this Saturday. Come and watch. My dad said, ‘Yeah,’ not believing I was actually doing it.” But Tim went with his son, signed the release, and “that was it,” Russell said.

“On that first ride, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I nodded my head, the bull came out and turned hard left, and I went hard right,” he laughed. The buck-off didn’t dissuade him.

“I loved it. My mom asked me, ‘You got on a bull and you’re done, right?’ And I said, no, we’re going to rodeo tomorrow night.”

His wrestling coaches weren’t crazy about it; he was not allowed to ride bulls during wrestling season. But his junior year, the day he won second at state, he was at a bull riding that night, riding bulls, and in the practice pen the next day.

Wrestling and riding bulls are similar, Ford said, mostly because of the mental games. “It’s a little bit different because in wrestling, it’s not you versus a bull but you versus another guy. Honestly if I had to say, bull riding is tougher because it’s you versus an animal. But both are really tough sports.”

Both sports are humbling, too. “You cannot be cocky in either sport.”

He’s ridden at local events and jackpots but doesn’t compete in any associations, like the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association.

He graduates on May 25, five days after his exhibition ride at the Franklin Rodeo. He’ll attend Truett McConnell University in Cleveland, Georgia, on a wrestling scholarship, to pursue a business degree.

Ford is all in: he bought a practice bucking bull, keeping at his uncle’s place near Columbia, along with the horse he owns. He spends evenings and weekends there, building a fence and making it into a practice pen area.

He completed his high school wrestling career at the Williamson County Ag Expo Center; now he’ll be back, in a different discipline, wrestling with a bull.

The Franklin Rodeo will be held May 18-20, with performances at 7 pm nightly. Tickets for the rodeo are $25 for adults and $12 for children ages 12 and under. Children sitting on laps are free. All seats are reserved.

Tickets can be purchased online at

Columbia resident and soon-to-be Independence High School graduate Russell Ford is both a wrestler and a bull rider. He will make an exhibition bull ride at the Franklin Rodeo on May 20. Photo by Robin Ford.

Russell Ford, Columbia, rides a bull at a bull riding. The high school wrestler and senior will make an exhibition ride at the Franklin Rodeo on May 20. Photo by Awe Chute Photography.