Thanks to ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ Bonner Bolton is back in the competitive saddle

Bonner Bolton, a former bull-rider from West Texas, will dance with and Sharna Burgess.
Bonner Bolton, a former bull-rider from West Texas, will dance with and Sharna Burgess. ABC

Bonner Bolton’s next step on his comeback path will be a ballroom dance move.

The professional bull rider from West Texas, who has made a remarkable recovery after a bad fall from a bull, is one of the celebrities participating this season on “Dancing With the Stars.”

When dismounting the animal during a PBR event in Chicago in January 2016, Bolton landed on his head, splintering his C2 vertebra. He was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down and given a 1 percent chance to walk again.

But after spinal fusion surgery, the determined 29-year-old was back on his feet again in days and walking stairs with assistance.

Bolton’s days on the PBR circuit are over, though. His doctor won’t clear him to ride again. His next career move was to become a fashion model.

Then “Dancing With the Stars” came calling.

“I wanted to be on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ because it’s the first competition opportunity I’ve had in over a year now,” says Bolton, who lives in the Dallas area. “When they gave me the opportunity and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’, I jumped right on.

“I said, ‘Heck, yeah. I’m ready.’ 

Once a competitor, always a competitor.

The two-hour season premiere begins at 7 p.m. Monday on ABC. The Season 24 opener is the milestone 400th episode of “Dancing With the Stars.”

The eclectic collection of 12 celebrity dancers ranges from world-class athletes to “Where Are They Now?”-type showbiz personalities. Each has a compelling personal reason to compete, but Bolton’s story is likely to make him a sentimental fan favorite.

Sharna Burgess, Bolton’s dance partner, has certainly been impressed.

“He is highly competitive, incredibly determined,” she says. “He is going to have some dance moves.”

“I’m pretty flexible, especially for a guy who broke his neck a year ago,” Bolton says.

His experience on the dance floor pretty much begins and ends with honky-tonking.

“I can do a little ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie,’ ” he boasts.

Bolton isn’t the only sports figure in the field. Other athletes are baseball player David Ross, a two-time World Series champion (2013 with the Red Sox, 2016 with the Cubs); Simone Biles, an Olympic gymnast (winning gold in 2016); Nancy Kerrigan, an Olympic figure skater (winning silver in 1994); and NFL pro Rashad Jennings.

The field also includes a variety of stars from the worlds of acting, music and reality TV: Charo (singer and Las Vegas entertainer), Erika Jayne (pop star and member of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”), Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live”), Normani Kordei (of the pop music group Fifth Harmony), Heather Morris (“Glee”), Mr. T (“The A-Team”) and Nick Viall (“The Bachelor”).

For many of the competitors, getting chosen for “Dancing With the Stars” is a dream come true.

“I have been a huge fan of the show since the first season,” Kerrigan says. “I’ve been watching it every year. We’d watch it together as a family with the kids and we just love it. It just looks like so much fun, but also a lot of work.

“Now that I’m not on my couch anymore, I’m actually a little nervous.”

All that Bolton will admit to being nervous about are the flashy costumes he’ll have to wear.

When Burgess jokes about getting him out there out in a hot pink Spandex onesie, he squirms.

“I don’t want to be dubbed as the Rhinestone Cowboy out there,” he says. “I’ve kind of gotten an overview of what we’re wearing. I’m a little iffy on some things, but I think it’s going to be all right.”

Dancing With the Stars

  • 7 p.m. Monday
  • WFAA/Channel 8