Giddy up! Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars is underway.
This time around, the cast features a Bachelor, a couple of Olympians and the show’s very first baseball player — but one breakout star you might not have expected is Bonner Bolton, who accidentally stirred up a mini-scandal after lighting up small screens thanks to his sizzling chemistry with pro Sharna Burgess.
Here’s everything you need to know about the professional bull rider.
1. He’s a real cowboy, through and through.
Bolton, 29, was raised on a ranch in West Texas. His father, Toya Bolton, was a rodeo cowboy for 20 years — professionally for almost 15 years of that.
“I had a real rural background, and my dad showed me how to fix the fence, put up a new one, shoot my first rifle, hunt deer,” Bolton told Fatherly.com last year. “He always took the time to show me how to do the job, rather than just expect me to know how to do it. It was important to him that I could do it so I’d be helpful, and he was so patient. His patience was really tested, too, because my brother and I were so ornery. We were rambunctious heathens out there, growing up out in the wild.”
“We would get up at 5:30 in the morning, go out and feed the horses because he instilled in us to take care of them first,” he continued. “We needed to make sure they had eaten before we fed ourselves. He taught us good, wholesome values a lot of people don’t know. Having that respect for nature is so important.”
“In my eyes, [my father] has always been the truest version of a cowboy in the sense of being honest, working hard, always keeping your word, treating women and animals with respect, trying to do the right thing, always,” he added. “It’s a big pair of boots to fill — even though he’s a smaller man than me.”
2. He’s a successful bull rider — and has survived a near-fatal fall.
Unsurprisingly, Bolton took after his father professionally.
“Watching his old videos, I fell in love with the sport. I wanted to do it so bad from 3 or 4 years old,” he told Fatherly.com. “When I was 10, my body got big enough to try it, and he started me in the right way. He showed me workouts and training methods and pushed me to work hard after school — to dedicate time to training my body and mind to this sport.”
Clearly, it worked — Bolton went on to become successful at the sport, winning his first world title at 20, two years after going pro. Then, three months after coming in fourth at the 2015 Professional Bull Riding World Finals, he suffered a near-fatal accident after being bucked off the back of a bull and landing on his head during the January 2016 season opener in Chicago.
Thankful for my brothers don't know what I would do without them going I for surgery tmrw 🙏🏼 #blessedforever @dwd87 with @repostapp. @teampbr ・・・ Best thing about this sport is the brotherhood that is built! Took a tough one but still able to walk and back on the road to recovery. One tough cat with the best attitude @bonner_blue @tannerbyrne
“I had this feeling that weekend that something big was going to happen,” Bolton previously told Page Six of the day the accident happened. “I thought maybe it would be my first big win.”
“As soon as I hit the ground I knew what happened. [The fall] didn’t knock me out — I was totally conscious,” he continued. “It was one of the scariest moments of my life. Guys do die in the arena, and it all started flooding in. I [thought] I was about to be one of those guys.”
Bolton suffered a broken C-2 vertebrae. Upon hospitalization, he was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down — but gradually regained feeling from his head to his toes within hours. He later underwent spinal fusion surgery and had doctors insert a metal frame around his vertebra.
“When I left the arena Sunday, I was paralyzed from the neck down,” Bolton later wrote on Instagram. “I am proud to say that my God performed a miracle and I am able to move my whole entire body now. The [doctors] say I will be able to ride again as soon as this year. I am truly blessed forever.”
Praising God for the angels in my life and his hand that is guided me to this moment in my life and seen me through when I thought my last moments here on on earth were Sunday at PBR Chicago…. With a broken neck C2 fracture in my vertebrae I was blessed to have the best doctors working on me this week and the best team of nurses anyone could ask for it is been nothing but a life changer for the best for me and I know only good things will come from this I love you all and thank you all for those who are praying for me 🙏🏼 when I left the arena Sunday I was paralyzed from the neck down the same injury as Christopher Reeves who played superman that ended up in a wheelchair. I am proud to say that my God performed a miracle and I am able to move my whole entire body now and the doctor say I will be able to ride again as soon as this year I am truly blessed forever..:, #blessedforever 🙌🏼
Soon enough, Bolton was taking his first steps post-surgery.
“I just want to say thank you to God for my life, for giving it back to me,” he recently reflected on Instagram, sharing a video of the moment. “I take that for granted still a lot. Without all of my beautiful friends and my family I don’t know where I’d be or how bad off I would be right now. I love you all and thank you so much for the powerful role you have all played in my life.”
My first steps 1 year ago from being paralyzed from a C-2 fracture broken neck. I just want to say thank you to God for my life, for giving it back to me. I take that for granted still a lot. Without all of my beautiful friends and my family I don't know where I'd be or how bad off I would be right now I love you all and thank you so much for the powerful role you have all played in my life. You all know who you are and I love you very much ❤️🙏🏻 #broken #shattered #bruised #refusetolose #faith #heart #try #will #grace #god #love #friends #family #priorities #dance #rejoice #alive #keeprockin #blessed
4. And he was Scott Eastwood‘s stunt double in The Longest Ride.
5. Also, did we mention he looks really good in a cowboy hat?
Feast your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. And yes, he’s single!
Dancing with the Stars season 24 airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.