Bull rider killed on tour didn't realize dream of buying home for parents. Now donations are flooding in.

·6 min read

American bull riders came to pay their respects in Sunset, Texas earlier this week, but there was a problem.

The parents of Amadeu Campos Silva, a 22-year-old Brazilian bull rider killed a week ago when a bull stomped on his chest at a Professional Bull Riders (PBR) event in Fresno, California, do not speak English.

So, outside their mobile home in the small rural town, a retired Brazilian bull rider translated as the parents told a story about Silva. He was 7 and his family was facing eviction from their home in Brazil, the parents explained.

Silva knew of a dairy farm with an old, abandoned house on it. He found the owner. Later that day, the owner came to visit Silva’s parents.

“The man said, ‘(Your son) told me something this morning, and I just want to make sure it’s true. He said you are about to get kicked out of the house here and he’d milk my cows every morning for free if I let you guys live in that house.

“And Amadeu’s mama, she start crying and say, ‘Yes, it is true.’ And that guy had the key for them, and that’s where they've been since.

"But they always have a rough life. They never have much.’’

Amadeu Campos Silva is remembered in a photo illustration created by Andre Silva, a Brazilian photographer who shared a hotel room with Silva.
Amadeu Campos Silva is remembered in a photo illustration created by Andre Silva, a Brazilian photographer who shared a hotel room with Silva.

When Silva came to the United States with his parents in 2019 and began riding on the PBR circuit, Brazilian riders said, he talked about his dream: to buy the house on that dairy farm for his parents.

After the American bull riders heard the story this week from Silva's parents, it quickly began to spread and inspire the community to act.

The PBR riders set to compete Saturday in Corpus Christi, Texas at the tour's latest major-league stop decided to donate the $100,000 purse to Silva's parents. The PBR is donating another $200,000 to his parents and its corporate partners have committed to donate more than $50,000, according to Sean Gleason, chief executive officer of the PBR.

Gleason said he expects the total donations to reach up to $500,000 – far more than Silva's parents will need to buy the house on the dairy ranch.

“No amount of money will bring Amadeu back to his family," Gleason told USA TODAY Sports. “But his PBR family is helping realize his dream.''

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Silva, who weighed about 140 pounds, looked almost as thin as his bull rope. Like his father, he grew up riding bulls in Brazil, where soccer is king but rodeo is popular, too. He was among dozens of Brazilians bull riders who have come to the United States in pursuit of a better life.

“They’re humble and hungry,’’ said Cody Lambert, a co-founder of the PBR.

In 1994, the PBR’s inaugural season, the championship was won by a Brazilian, Adriano Moraes. Brazilians have won 11 of the 27 championships and the reigning champion, Jose Vitor Leme, is Brazilian.

Eleven Brazilian riders have earned more than $1 million apiece on the PBR. Paulo Crimber is among them.

“The PBR gives us the chance to provide that for our families," Crimber said. “It gives us the chance to dream big and be part of something so special.’’

But there is heartache too. Crimber’s career ended in 2008 after he broke his neck.

“I pretty much had to sell everything I won, my ranch, my place, everything, to kind of pay hospital bills and keep going,’’ said Crimber, who is married with three children and became an agent to Brazilian riders. One of those riders was Silva.

Crimber said he has hosted more than 30 Brazilian riders when they first arrive in the U.S. But not Silva, who came with his parents, Flavio and Rosa.

“The reason Flavio and Rosa have to come over here with Amadeu is because Amadeu has (dyslexia) and he cannot read or write," Crimber said. “They have to do pretty much everything for him. He was really smart. He drives around by himself. He has a sense of location, but he couldn’t read the signs or anything like that.

“He was just like a big baby. He’d sleep between the two every night."

In bull riding, tragedy is not uncommon.

Silva is the fourth PBR rider since 2000 to be killed by a bull in competition. He accepted the risks while sending money home to his sister, who is in law school in Brazil, according to Crimber.

But there has not been a lot of money to send. Between the time he arrived and his death, Silva earned about $42,000 in more than 50 events, in part because he was limited by injuries.

At the end of 2020, after qualifying for the World Finals, he had surgery on both of his shoulders. He slipped down the standings and onto the Velocity Tour, one tier below the Unleash The Beast tour reserved for the top 35 riders.

Then came the comeback.

In August, after a nine-month layoff, Silva returned to action. He finished second in his first event back and won $3,536. Two weeks later, he flew to the Fresno Invitational at Save Mart Center Arena. He got bucked off his first-round bull but rode his second-round bull for 84.50 points, earning a spot in the championship round on the second day of the event.

Atop a bull named Classic Man, Silva stayed on for 5.31 seconds, failing to reach the eight seconds required for a score. He lost his seat as he slipped off the bull.

“When he came off, his spur got tangled up and it turned him upside down right under the bull’s back leg,’’ Lambert said.

Silva, who suffered chest injuries, was transported to Community Regional Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead – three days before his 23rd birthday.

Andre Silva, a Brazilian photographer who works for the PBR, said he shared a hotel room with Silva last weekend in Fresno.

“He was a serene boy, very shy and respectful,’’ Silva said by email. “I never once saw him fight with anyone or argue or swear. He was always smiling and sharing his love for the family.

“That’s what I learned the most from Amadeu – the love for his family."

Silva was also a member of the family of Brazilian riders, with more than 30 of them among the top 100 of the current PBR standings. On Mondays, Silva and many of the other Brazilian riders played soccer together.

“He was really humble and he was nice," said Brazilian Silvano Alves, a three-time PBR world champion. “He is working hard every day.

"He’s following his dream."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Amadeu Campos Silva died before helping parents; bull riders helping