Adriano Moraes and his Brazilian buddies make a buck the hard way

In August, while he recuperated in Brazil, Adriano went to the rodeo in Barretos, which draws cowboys from America, Canada and Australia, and there he met Paulo Crimber, an 18-year-old kid, short and skinny, with a propensity to ride any bull you could place him on.

Crimber finished second, good enough for a spot at the PBR championship in Columbus, Ohio, three months later. But he didn't know if he wanted to go. He had never visited the United States, much less ridden there.

"You have to go," Adriano told him. The money, he said, was three times what Crimber could make in Brazil. Adriano offered to put him up with friends in Fort Worth.

The one to inherit Adriano's throne could be Paulo Crimber, far right, though don't tell that to, from bottom left to right, Allan Moraes, Andre Moraes and Guilherme Marchi.
Mark Graham
The one to inherit Adriano's throne could be Paulo Crimber, far right, though don't tell that to, from bottom left to right, Allan Moraes, Andre Moraes and Guilherme Marchi.
Adriano Moraes stays on Bullet Proof in the third round of the Express PBR Classic in Oklahoma City.
Andy Watson/PBR
Adriano Moraes stays on Bullet Proof in the third round of the Express PBR Classic in Oklahoma City.

And with that, the Brazilian migration started.

Though Crimber didn't place in Columbus, by 2000 he was competing in earnest in the United States. So, too, was Ednei Caminhas. And Rogerio Ferreira. They were the first of the Brazilian transplants to do well in the elite circuit, the first to learn from Adriano, who was more than willing to teach. By 2000 Ferreira had won a PBR elite tour event and more than $140,000 in prize money. Crimber, the youngest of the bunch by five years, won $40,000 at a November event in Madison Square Garden. Caminhas, then 25 and a native of Sao Paulo, won the most. He finished the year with $202,573 in prize money.

In 2001 Adriano found a home in Keller and moved his wife and two boys there. He was sick of flying. He then beckoned his brother, Andre Moraes, to the United States to compete in the PBR.

And so began the Brazilians' days of dominance. Adriano won the 2001 PBR world championship, the first man to claim the title twice. Crimber won what is, in essence, the PBR's Triple-A minor league championship in 2001. The following year, Caminhas won the PBR world title, and Andre Moraes finished 2002 ranked seventh in the PBR.

Though they dominated, the newcomers were still dependent. Caminhas needed Adriano only for translations, but Crimber was homesick. Andre Moraes couldn't find an apartment or a car on his own. Neither could youngest brother Allan, who came to America a couple of years later.

And Adriano's responsibilities didn't end there. He was an active member for a religious lay community in Brazil. In 2002 a woman from Brazil came forward saying her 12-year-old son was his. The relationship was from before he met Flavia, but the allegation was true. A son he didn't know, living half a continent away. Oh, and by the way, Flavia was expecting again--their third.

When the 2003 season got under way, "I was stressed out," Adriano says. "I was lost."

And so began Adriano Moraes' worst professional year.

"We just couldn't figure it out," PBR announcer Feist says. "Was he over the hill? What was happening?"

Flavia offers a simple answer: "It's hard to be responsible for 10 Brazilians."

But Adriano says that wasn't it, either. "My life was out of order," he says.

His Catholicism had always been his first priority. But as Adriano struggled in 2003--he placed in only six of the 28 Tour stops--he focused more of his attention on his bull riding, less on his faith. The more he struggled in the ring, the more emphasis he placed on improving there, and the more upset he got when he didn't.

"I was depressed," he says. He thought about retirement. He concedes that he wasn't the best father or husband that year. "My priorities were wrong."

But, truth be told, it wasn't an easy year physically. He tore his ACL in 2003 and opted against surgery. Might that have affected his...

"Nope, nope, nope," he says. His problems were "mental."

It took the new year, and the resolutions attending it, for Adriano to shake himself free. No longer would faith go overlooked as bull riding clamored for attention; nor would the needs of his wife, nor those of his children--here or in Brazil.

"Faith, wife, family, bull riding--in that order," Adriano says.

Funny, once bull riding was the least of his priorities, Adriano excelled at it. He won the second event of the year at Worcester, Massachusetts, with a final-round score of 91. Won again in Atlanta six weeks later. Won in St. Louis two weeks after that. By season's end, Adriano had ridden 67 percent of his bulls, a Tour best. He'd also taken on another Brazilian, Guilherme Marchi, who settled--where else?--near Adriano. Begun a term on the PBR's board of directors. And he stood a good chance of claiming his third PBR world championship.

But in the second round of the finals, he felt the muscles of his left bicep pop five seconds into his ride on Coyote Ugly, a world-renowned bull. He held on till the horn sounded but walked away wondering if he would ride again--he could feel the muscles curl up toward his shoulder.

Dr. Freeman told him his left bicep had detached from the bone. OK, Adriano said. Could he ride?

Well, he would need surgery, the doctor said. But if he wanted to compete, he couldn't do any more damage to his bicep than was already done. It would be a matter of managing the pain, Freeman said.

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