Brian Deegan has a kind-of passion for racing that seems downright bizarre after hearing a portion of his credentials for life-threatening experiences.
The Nebraska native started riding nearly three-decades ago, and in that time has nearly bled to death when he crashed and "blew up his kidney" during a filming for the MTV reality show "Viva La Bam"; broke his femur in four spots and both wrists in one incident; and his spleen "exploded" during another incident.
Some pretty serious shit.
During filming for "Viva La Bam" the crash literally ripped his kidney off of the artery, and worse, the ambulance didn't arrive for nearly an hour.
"That day I was obviously like, 'Dude I'm not riding again,'" he says. "In my head I'm thinking how I just want to live ... I was pretty much dead by the time I got to the hospital, I had no blood pressure."
He was out of the hospital a few weeks later and instantly, "All the sudden I just wanted to ride again," he says.
That may seem nuts. But, when you consider Deegan left his hometown of Omaha right out of high school for California to pursue racing, it's not that hard to understand. The dude was meant to race and he knows it.
The 36-year-old has three kids he raises in Temecula, California on a plot of land his manager Bob Walker described as a "motocross paradise." Cognizant of the fact he's not the twenty-something cooking up the next outrageous freestyle trick anymore, Deegan has gradually shifted his focus over time away from the Freestyle Motocross variation of racing he pioneered in the 1990s. Since then he's ventured into motocross, Supercross, truck racing and off-road racing among other things.
"Freestyle was always about the next big stunt, and that was fun for a long time," he says. "But over time that started fading out."
He started talking with his sponsor Rockstar Energy about other paths he could pursue.
"It started getting too crazy," he says.
So, in 2009, he got a race truck through Rockstar and started racing during part of the season.
"My first full season I won the championship in truck racing," he says. "And it just clicked, it was like, 'Alright, this is what I need to do' ... I just got into a race car and started dominating."
He says he still has problems that stem from breaking his femur, and it shows with a noticeable limp in his step.
Last year, he unveiled his "Metal Mullisha" truck and began competing in the Advance Parts Monster Jam — the reason why he was in Detroit this past weekend for a show at Ford Field.
Deegan went pro at age 17 and gained notoriety after winning the Los Angeles Supercross in 1997, where he ghost-rode his bike off the finish line.
He says even after that, though, he was still struggling to get the financial support he needed.
"I was always on that fine line of getting the factory ride, the big support, I was always just on that verge," he says.
"It wasn't even freestyle ... we created it," he said. "We were doing all these crazy stunts on dirt bikes and [then] X Games bills it as a sport. We go to X Games and it blows up."
The "Metal Mullisha" name stems from the clothing line he and some friends founded in the 90s as an homage to the lack of financial support they couldn't garner.
Deegan says, they quickly realized how big of an opportunity it was to be going to go to the X Games for freestyle motocross. It was the tail end of the 90s when the popularity of guys like Tony Hawk and Dave Mirra was at its peak.
He says they decided to dress the part they envisioned (all black, spiked hair, etc.) and said, "We're going to go there, and we're going to steal the show ... Everyone was tripping out about us."
The X Games and freestyle have become a completely different environment now, he says. Once money, sponsors and corporations got involved, the freestyle variation he pioneered is now a full-on endeavor — training, racers practicing tricks, and more.
But Deegan says he's happy with that. He says he feels like he's come full circle, experiencing all sides of racing — the "rebel" side and the "business" side getting paid to race like he set out to do after high school.
After squeezing in 20 minutes to eat before a planned three-hour marathon autograph signing before the gates open at Ford Field he's summoned to make his way down to the field.
Walker receives a text and tells him: "They want to know where you're at for your signing." He's fifteen minutes late.
Deegan laughs, "They're gnarly. Last time I was here I got into it with a guy here [for being late] who was like, 'Get down there right now!'"
"I got so many other things going on," he says. "Most of my other signings are a half-hour long."
Then, practically on cue, an official from Advance Auto Parts finds Deegan to see where he's at.
"We're on our way!" Deegan glibly responds. He laughs again, and notes that's he's grateful for the opportunity to race in the Monster Jam: "I have to do my thing sometimes; but ... here, everyone's cool."
Deegan says he still rides dirt bikes a couple times a week, but his main focus is on racing and being a dad.
"It's just weird, dude, as you grow up life changes," he says. "But to say if I've experienced everything I feel like I have."
Photo credit: Gerald Geronimo via Wikimedia Commons