THATCHER -- It's easy to understand why bull rider Tag Elliott could pull off a comeback of momentous proportions to win $63,912 this year on the professional rodeo circuit, qualifying him for the first time for th 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The 24-year-old's ability to bounce back is all in his attitude.
"Attitude helps in everything in life," he said. "You can't force everything. You kind of let things happen. When the opportunity arises, you kind of go for it."
The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo begins Thursday and Elliott will have 10 opportunities to compete for up to $16,766 in first-place prize money to be handed out during each performance at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
But the 15th-place bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association said he didn't get his positive perspective from the 2007 bull-riding accident that nearly took his life on top of nearly ending his career as a professional bull rider.
He said his attitude came from the way he was raised with deep-rooted values in Box Elder County.
"There was no negative attitude," he said. "We didn't know what that meant," he said.
Elliott was injured at the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City two days before his 19th birthday. He was hooked by a bull's horn in a collision that broke all the bones on the right side of his face, wiped out half of his teeth and severed an artery.
His mother, Mitzi Elliott, described the injury as being exactly like "being shot point blank with a gun."
And she said she didn't expect for him to be able to recover so well.
"I don't know anybody that's been able to make a comeback like he has," she said. "The only way I know he did it was by the grace of God and his doctors and he's so tough."
The resulting two years after his injury had very little in the way of bull riding and a lot of surgeries, about 20 in all, to reconstruct his face and restore what was lost.
"It's one of those things you can either just let it take over your life and ruin you and be a negative thing or you can run with it," Elliott said. "You can let it break you or you can use it like a driving force."
And he recognizes that being forced to take those two years off taught him a lot about patience and thinking like a champion.
He said his new way of thinking likely may have been the key to qualifying for his first time to compete in the WNFR.
"It taught me patience. That's for sure," he said. "I think it taught me that more than anything."
The way patience came into play for his rodeo career this year is he was able to allow himself to take a few days and rest so he could come back fresh in the heart of the rodeo season when it was "crunch time" just before Labor Day to earn a spot in the WNFR.
"I would have kept going," Elliott said of his burned-out situation and his bull-headed drive from before the accident.
But this year, he was more level-headed.
"I could feel myself getting kind of tired," he said. "I was supposed to go to a rodeo in Colorado. I came home for a couple of days for a break."
And after that break, Elliot said things started to happen for him, cinching the final qualifying spot for his first time in his career.
His year included six top finishes at some of the nation's biggest bull-riding events.
A highlight earlier in the season was one of the best scores of his career, a 91-point ride at the Spanish Fork Fiesta days in late July.
In October, Elliot won the bull riding at the Ram Wilderness Circuit Finals Rodeo in Heber City.
He was the only bull-riding competitor to receive two qualified rides.
While Elliott said skill is what wins rodeo championships, he also believes luck had something to do with his current standings.
"You just get lucky every once in a while," he said. "Sometimes, things fall into place and everything works out in a guy's favor."
Elliot is hoping things fall into place for him at the WNFR.
"I've heard it's pretty crazy and exciting the first time," he said of his first WNFR appearance. "I'm just going to go and try to have fun and stay relaxed."
But following that 10-day event, it will be back to the physical challenge of more surgeries.
Immediately after his first 10 rides in the nation's top rodeo, Elliott will be back for more reconstruction.