It's time to get excited about Dancing with the Stars again, because the full cast for the upcoming season was released on Wednesday. There's a Bachelor, some Olympians, a handful of actors, and one name that might not ring a bell unless you're up-to-date on the bull riding industry. So who is Bonner Bolton? He's a heavy-hitter in the bull rider community, as you might have put together. His name shows up on the DWTS Season 24 cast list, paired with professional dancer Sharna Burgess, who last year danced opposite James Hinchcliffe before being sidelined by a knee injury. Dancing with the Stars likes to include one lesser-known athlete or sportsman, and this will be Burgess' second year mentoring that contestant. Hinchcliffe was an IndyCar driver, and Bolton is a former bull rider, who began riding at age 10, but has now moved into modeling.
Maybe his career would have gotten there eventually on its own, but the main catalyst propelling Bolton into the modeling world was an injury he sustained in a near-fatal accident in January 2016. It happened the peak of his career, just three months after he'd placed seventh in the world at the 2015 Professional Bull Riding Finals in Las Vegas during his rookie year. At a bull riding event in Chicago, Bolton was bucked off the back of a bull named Cowboy Up, causing him to spiral through the air and land on his head, ripping his bicep, dislocating his left shoulder in three places, shattering his collarbone, and, most devastatingly, cracking his C2 vertebra.
For 24 hours, he was paralyzed from the neck down before a miraculous return of feeling to his entire body. (GQ notes that 95 percent of patients with Bolton's injuries never walk again, so the word "miraculous" isn't hyperbolic here.) Doctors inserted a metal frame around the affected vertebra, performed spinal-fusion surgery, and told the second-generation bull rider that, even though he'd begun walking before he was even discharged from the hospital, they could never clear him to ride ever again.
It might have devastated a lesser man, but Bolton has not only found new ways to be active, as demonstrated by the DWTS announcement, but also transformed his career. The 29-year-old was signed to a global modeling contract with IMG in May 2016, and since then, The New York Post reports he's posed for Saks Fifth Avenue's fall campaign and a Br4ss underwear campaign and been seen rubbing elbows with Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hadid at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show after-party. (He's probably used to hobnobbing with celebrities after working as Scott Eastwood's stunt double on The Longest Ride.)
Basically, this is a man of tenacity and many talents we're talking about here. Even as he trains to hopefully get back on a bull this year — yup, you heard that right — he's also looking forward to shining up his dancing shoes and proving that traditional obstacles don't stand in his way.
"In different ways, the odds are stacked against anyone dealing with an accident, injury, or illness. Physically, I feel good. I'm very thankful for what I've overcome, and I hope to inspire and motivate others who have challenges. Bull riding and dancing both require balance, strength, posture, form, and muscle-reflex memory. In the PBR [professional bull riding], you counter those bulls in rhythm, move for move. The bull leads, and you follow. Sharna and I have already developed great chemistry, and I’m relying on her to teach and lead me."
It sounds like Bonner Bolton will be a great addition to the cast, and I can't wait to see how he does in the Season 24 premiere on Mar. 20.