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Champion bull rider Sage Kimzey honors military at NFR

Sage Kimzey brandished a silver dog tag from beneath his black, long-sleeved shirt at Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday evening and admired it for a moment before explaining its significance.

It was inscribed with a name: Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin. And a date: Nov. 27, 2018, when he was killed at age 25 during active duty in Afghanistan.

“All the stuff I was reading about him, everybody was talking about his work ethic and stuff,” said Kimzey, 24, and in line to claim his fifth consecutive bull riding world championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “Anything I can do to bring awareness to that, I’m going to.”

Kimzey honored Elchin by wearing the tag during his ride Wednesday and is also pledging $10 for every point he scores during the NFR to the American Valor Foundation — a nonprofit founded on behalf of the late Navy Seal Chris Kyle, whose life was depicted in the movie “American Sniper.”

The organization supports veterans and first responders, and the Strong City, Oklahoma, native has collected 254 points so far.

It means money well spent for the charismatic Kimzey.

And there are still three more rounds to go.

“I love the military stuff. Anything I can do with that, I’m all about,” he said. “I just want to be a part of something bigger than myself.”

Kimzey turned pro in 2013, debuted at the NFR in 2014 and claimed his first world bull riding title at the age of 20.

He spent the ensuing three years winning three more world titles, becoming one of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s most popular performers and its youngest millionaire at age 22 in 2016.

“I still have to pinch myself about it because as a little kid, it’s all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “It’s pretty special, honestly, to have a bunch of little kids come up to you at whatever rodeo you go to saying they want to ride like you or they want to be like you … It wasn’t that long ago that I was that little kid.”

During his rise, Kimzey met Kyle’s brother, Jeff, a longtime rodeo fan who oversees the American Valor Foundation. They were introduced by a mutual friend. As an ardent patriot and military supporter, Kimzey was inspired this year to use his platform as one of the top draws in rodeo to raise money for a good cause, and Kyle’s organization came to mind.

“For one, they’re rodeo fans,” Kimzey said. “But for two, they’re just a great family and they’re doing great things.”

Kimzey won 20 PRCA events this season. had earned $358,852.57 prior to Wednesday’s NFR festivities and is more than $125,000 ahead of second-place cowboy Parker Breding.

He humbly acknowledged that he may very well win his fifth consecutive world championship.

But that was secondary. Especially on Wednesday.

“I feel like there’s a lot more that can be done as far as military (in sports), whether it be tributes, or awareness. Whatever you want to call it,” Kimzey said. “I just really want to raise awareness for our military.

“Those guys are heroes, and they should be treated as such.”

More NFR: Follow at reviewjournal.com/nfr and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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