My favorite American athlete of all time is a bucking bull named Red Rock.

Out of 309 attempts to ride him in rodeo competitions, no one ever stayed on him the mandatory eight seconds. He is a champion’s champion.

Today’s athletes could learn a lot from Red Rock.

See, Red Rock just played the game. No politics. No social justice symbolism. It would have never occurred to Red Rock to take a knee during the National Anthem, though he may have taken a knee or hoof, as it were, on the occasional cowboy – and, even then, it was probably an accident.

Unlike a lot of bulls, Red Rock was not a hater. He was not anti-cowboy. Bulls like Long John, also a great competitor, would throw a rider then spend a few minutes trying to murder him before returning to the stall. I’ve seen Long John ignore the open stall door to scoop up a fallen cowboy with his horns and fling him eight feet into the air. Not Red Rock, though. Red Rock would toss the rider then it was back to the stall. Let bygones be bygones.

Red Rock was the humble sort. He let his bucking do the talking. And what a competitor he was. Every time that shoot door opened you were guaranteed to see a bull put every ounce of his 1,750 pounds into launching anyone fool enough to be on his back at the time into the stratosphere. And launch them he did. The average Olympic diver accumulated less air time than bull riders who took on Red Rock.

There was no showing off afterwards, either. No victory lap. No silly dances in the end zone. Once the cowboy was off his back, he headed straight for the stall.

He was a good American, too, Red Rock. He lived by the principles that makes America strong. All cowboys were created equal. Anyone, regardless of ethnicity, country of origin, religious views or political affiliation was welcome to hop on his back, strap in and take his chances.

He did not guarantee equality of outcome, though. Not by a long shot. No one got a pass. No one got a break – unless you counted bones. The outcome was up to the cowboy and Red Rock. Some cowboys faired better than others. Some lasted a few seconds. Some barely made it a tick of the clock. Who or what that cowboy was made no difference. They were all the same to Red Rock.

As famous as he was, celebrity never went to Red Rock’s head. Word was, away from the cameras and the lights, he lived a quiet, pastural life. He was actually a gentle sole at heart who wanted nothing more than to chew a little cud and make more Red Rocks. And he did make more Red Rocks. He produced a Hall-of-Famer named Oscar and he is the grandfather of Wolfman, another record-breaking bull.

Full disclosure: One cowboy did manage to ride Red Rock the eight seconds. It was not a rodeo competition event. It was sort of a side show exhibition. They gave the cowboy, Lane Frost, a bunch of tries, too. That let Frost familiarize himself with all of Red Rock’s moves. To me, that was not exactly fair to Red Rock, either.

Still, Lane Frost stayed on him the required eight seconds.

Sad footnote: Lane Frost was killed by a bull a short while after riding Red Rock. After Frost’s death, Red Rock’s owner decided no one else would ever ride Red Rock again. He retired his bull. Red Rock and Lane Frost were inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame together in 1990.

Red Rock died of a stroke four years later. He was 18 years old, which ain’t bad for a bovine.

I salute Red Rock – a great bull, a great athlete and a great American.