JR Vezain wins Keeping the Faith/True Grit award
The winner of the 13th annual “Keeping the Faith/True Grit Award” honor was given a bronze of Shane riding the bull River Dance at the PRCA rodeo in Reno, Nevada where he set the arena record with a 95-point score.
The bronze is sponsored by the sculptor, Jim Maher, Jesse Drury of Road Runner, Inc. and the UCRA (Use’ta Could Rodeo Association).
The artist Jim Maher and Jesse Drury (Shane’s brother) are proud to honor bareback rider J.R. Vezain as the winner of the 2019 Shane Drury Keeping the Faith/True Grit Award. JR is doing rehabilitation in Utah and is unable to be here tonight. Nevada Newman, JR’s brother in-law will be accepting the bronze for JR.
J.R. grew up in Cowley, Wyoming, where he became a state wrestling and rodeo champion. Last September, he was getting on a bareback horse at the rodeo in Pasadena, Texas when disaster struck. The horse flipped over J.R. was underneath of the horse, felt his back break and couldn’t feel his legs.
“There was a split second before everybody got to me, the arena was loud. The horse got up, stomped on my guts and I couldn’t breathe. It was loud. But I was in this trance, my own little world, and it was silent. I heard a voice, and he says you can either accept that your back’s broke and your legs don’t work, your career’s over and your life is ending, or you can give everything to me, believe that I’m that Great Healer, Start praying in my name and you’ll get your legs back and that’s what I did” says JR.
In seconds, the accident was over. His reaction to it is an attitude that will sustain him for a lifetime.
JR, 26, is recovering from his injuries. He had surgery in Houston and started his journey to wellness there before transferring to a rehabilitation facility in Salt Lake City.
He fractured two vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord, which caused paralysis to his lower extremities. JR, a five-time qualifier for the National Finals Rodeo who had never been hospitalized or had surgery of any kind, underwent a five-hour operation during which two rods and eight screws were used to fuse together his spine.
The entire month of October, JR was in Houston at a rehab facility. Now he’s in Salt Lake City.
“I’m rehabbing five days a week, and it’s been good,” he says. “I haven’t regained a whole lot of feeling, yet, but I am gaining some motor movements back. I’ve got all my lower abs, my hip flexors are coming back, my low back is back and I’m starting to get some glute (gluteal) and thigh activation. I can slightly move my legs a little bit. Slowly but surely I’m getting better and better every day.”
Family has always meant so much to the young cowboy. His wife, Shelby, Provides him immeasurable help.
“She’s the only reason I get through each day, to be honest,” he says. “She’s a trooper, man, and we’re expecting our first child next May. She gets me out of bed and gets me rolling every day, gets me in and out of the car, takes my wheelchair apart, take me from place to place. She’s my main support system. It’s a huge blessing to have her here every single day, that’s for sure.”
JR says he has so much to be thankful for every day.
“Tons to be thankful for,” he says. “One day, and I can’t wait until the day comes, I want to give back to somebody else in need. That’s for sure.”
He casts no blame for his plight. Because, you see, that’s not how this young rodeo hero looks at life.
“I don’t believe that God intends for bad things to happen to people,” he says. “I believe it’s the devil that comes to kill and destroy. The Lord promises a prosperous life and he makes good out of all situations for those that believe in His will. I believe something that will be greater than the horrific wreck itself will come out of this whole situation. So I’m keeping my eyes on the Prize.”
Shane Drury graduated from Central High School, just across the street from where we sit tonight. Shane’s legacy started in the rodeo arena as a bull rider. Perhaps that prepared him for his battle with cancer- the fight that would eventually take him from this earth. His determination in the arena served him well as he beat the disease once and returned to competition with Gortex patches filling his chest wall where ribs had been removed. Round one of Ewing’s Sarcoma started in May of 2002, which included chemo treatments and surgery that removed the tumor, as well as parts of his ribs and a piece of his lung. After that, Shane returned to rodeo, first as a competitor, and after a second diagnosis as a judge. His Faith, attitude and perseverance were inspirational to many.
Shane had many highlights in his bull riding career, including a trip to Las Vegas to compete at the Wrangler National Finals in 2000. . Two years later, Shane was experiencing back pain that was discovered to be coming from a tumor. He approached cancer just as he faced every bull he ever got on – with the determination that he would come out on top. He did that to the end with a smile on his face. Cancer never got the best of Shane Drury; He saved that for all the people that knew him.
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many accomplishments in the arena in 2020.