Luhm: Bull rider Tag Elliott writing remarkable story
Mitzi Elliott is going to Las Vegas in December, where she plans to watch her hero perform.
No, not David Copperfield.
Elliott's hero happens to be her son.
Tag Elliott, a professional bull rider from Thatcher, Utah, has overcome impossible odds and qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center, located just a few blocks from the famed Las Vegas Strip.
Perhaps you've heard about Elliott's story of courage, resiliency and determination.
If not, you should.
Five years ago, Elliott was critically injured during the Days of '47 Rodeo in Salt Lake City. A few jumps out of the chute, an angry bull named Werewolf threw its head back just as Elliott lurched forward. A violent head-to-horn collision was the result, leaving Elliott with a shattered face.
Those who raced to his side thought Elliott was going to die before he could be transported from EnergySolutions Arena to LDS Hospital.
The ambulance driver later said he never has seen such horrific injuries. One of the first responders vomited after the ambulance left the arena.
Elliott immediately underwent 10 hours of life-saving surgery. Every bone on the right side of his face was broken, including the jaw and eye socket. Most of his teeth had been knocked out. An artery was severed.
But Elliott, who turned 19 just days before the gruesome accident, survived.
He was sidelined for 20 months and to this day continues to undergo medical procedures related to his injuries.
Crediting his family for their steadfast support, Elliott refused to quit, although his amazing return has been understandably a slow one.
He resumed a light competitive schedule in 2009 before working his way into the top 30 in the world standings in 2010 and 2011.
This year, however, Elliott re-established himself as one of the world's best bull riders.
He won Xtreme Bull events in Austin, Texas, and Pocatello, Idaho, as well as rodeos in Spanish Fork; Loveland, Colo.; and Elk City, Okla.
After the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' recent audit of the season, Elliott finished with official earnings of $63,912. That was good enough for 15th place in the world and a berth in the National Finals.
In July, when his NFR chances still were unclear, I asked Elliott about the possibility of qualifying for rodeo's Super Bowl for the first time in his career.
Was he aware of the incredible story he was writing?
"It'd be cool," he said, glancing at the sky on a stormy evening in Vernal. "It's everybody's goal what everybody has in mind. It's not going to be the biggest heartbreak in the world if we don't make it. But it's definitely something you work toward."
Move over, David Copperfield.
After a magical comeback, Tag Elliott is coming to town.