By: Justin Felisko August 28, 2014@ 06:00:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jerome Davis will very rarely, if ever, open his mouth around any PBR bull riders and offer his two cents without being asked.
A man of tremendous wisdom and the first cowboy to win a bull riding world title east of the Mississippi River understands that these professionals all made it to the world’s biggest Western sports stage for a reason.
Yet, you talk to almost any bull rider from the North Carolina region and they have more than likely talked to, worked with or have been guided by Davis at one point or another.
Riders come to Davis with the utmost respect, and every time, the Archdale, North Carolina, native welcomes them into his life not only as bull riders, but as family.
“I have so much respect for Jerome and the way he helps guys,” nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said. “It is all very behind the scenes and not many people really ever know.”
For a sport without official coaches, Davis remains one of the most humble and honest men changing the lives of riders across the PBR, especially those in his home state of North Carolina, where he is set to host his 16th annual Jerome Davis Invitational – the longest running outdoor Touring Pro Division event – on Friday and Saturday night.
THE BEGINNING JACKPOTS
In 1988, Davis and his father, Carson, began hosting weekly jackpot bull ridings every Sunday afternoon on the family’s Archdale ranch. After three or four years, according to Jerome, they moved the event to every Thursday night from April through October. It became a local attraction for bull riders and fans alike with as many as 60 riders at a time showing up to showcase their skills.
It was a hub for young, aspiring North Carolina and East Coast cowboys – Jerome included— who were looking to gain experience and a few extra bucks on those warm summer nights. Two years later, Jerome was named the North Carolina State Rodeo Champion (1990), and in 1992 he would compete for Odessa Junior College as a freshman, where he won the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s, College National Finals Rodeo Bull Riding Championship.
The local jackpot bull ridings didn’t go away once Jerome turned pro and began competing in the PRCA after his freshman year and he would still climb aboard bulls when he was home.
It was here where current Built Ford Tough Series rider Billy Robinson, then a teenage bull rider from Galax, Virginia, who is seven years younger than Jerome, first met North Carolina’s best bull rider.
The two hit it off and Jerome later traveled with Robinson in 1997 when the 18-year-old competed in his first Touring Pro Division, event in Hampton, Virginia.
“Jerome took me to my first Challenger a long time ago,” Robinson, now a 12-year BFTS veteran, recalled. “That is probably what got me started going to these deals, having an opportunity to go with Jerome. He was actually still competing then. Jerome had the best riding style. He just made it look so easy the way he rode.”
Traveling with Davis – the 1995 PRCA bull riding champion – also provided Robinson the chance to learn and observe what it took to succeed at the highest level.
“I have always looked up to Jerome,” Robinson added. “He has helped me a lot. Anytime I have had a slump I could ask Jerome a question and he could have something to help me.”
That never changed through all of the years since Robinson’s first professional season, even when much would change for Davis after he suffered a career-ending and life-altering injury at the Tuff Hedeman Chmampionship Challenge on March 14, 1998. Knock ‘em Out John and Davis collided heads, knocking the 25-year-old briefly unconscious. Davis was paralyzed from the chest down after being thrown to the ground head first.
However, it didn’t knock him away from the sport he cherished entirely.
NOT GOING ANYWHERE
“A lot of people ask me, ‘For a sport that has been so hard on you, why do you still hang around?’” Robinson says.
After pausing, he then explains, “What people don’t understand is, that bull riding is what I am. That is what I do.”
Davis had always planned to become a stock contractor once he retired, so, naturally, he decided to move into the bucking bull business as best he could following the injury. Six months after his injury, Davis married his fiancé Tiffany, who has been a loyal partner in the stock contracting business and receives major praise from various bull riders for her impact on them as well.
In 1999, Jerome and his dad decided to begin their annual Touring Pro Division event on the ranch.
While he has had a lasting impression in the bucking bull business, Jerome has had an even greater impact for so many bull riders in the PBR, especially those from North Carolina, such as 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney, Shane Proctor, Robinson, Gage Gay, Chad Vanamburg and Josh Faircloth.
“Find any of the guys that has come from over that way and he owes something to Jerome,” Robinson said. “He has helped them in some way or another that helped them with their riding or helped them get the TV deals or in the PBR, period.”
BEING A TEACHER, MENTOR AND LISTENER
When it comes to “coaching” or assisting some of the PBR’s bull riders, Davis has recently been spending a lot of time with Faircloth. The two normally chat weekly and often, Davis and Faircloth will sit and just converse about bull riding and life in general from Davis’ arena.
Faircloth, who was supposed to compete at Davis’ event before getting the call to compete in his third BFTS event of 2014 this weekend, said the list is endless for everything Davis has taught him since he first met the North Carolina bull riding star when he was 12 or 13 years old.
“I look at him as a mentor, a coach (and) like a best friend, too,” Faircloth said. “They don’t come no better than that guy right there. If I could be half the guy that guy is when I am done then I will be quite alright.
“He is not only teaching me about bull riding either, but he teaches me about life in general. Coming from a guy who has had his accident, he knows a lot about life you could say. How to take the good with the bad, and to roll on and keep pushing forward every day and never look back. He is just everything to me, really.”
When it comes to a specific coaching style, Murray called Davis a straight shooter that can pinpoint a riders strengths and help him fine-tune those positives.
Murray pointed out that Davis understands there is “more than one way to skin a cat” and that he does a good job of helping riders work on the mechanical and mental sides of the game.
“He sees what makes a certain person shine or has the potential to make them shine and he knows how to bring that out in them or further develop that,” Murray said.
Davis has also been there for another up-and-coming bull rider. Gay, currently ranked seventh in the world standings, first met Davis in Florida when he won the junior rodeo state championship in steer riding and Davis opened his ranch to the highly talented high school bull rider once he moved to Staley, North Carolina.
“He helped me out ever since I moved to North Carolina,” said Gay, who lives 20 minutes away. “He would buck practice bulls if I ever needed to and he would tell me what I was doing wrong. He’s been helping me out since I have been getting on bigger bulls. I can call him up any day of the week and get on any caliber bull I want. I can get on a short round bull or a practice bull, it doesn’t matter. He helps me out and gives me pointers and everything just like a coach would in another sport.”
Robinson said Davis has so much respect in bull riding that he can get through to the young riders better than some of the current veterans on tour.
“Them young guys really respect Jerome a lot, Robinson said. “They listen to him more than some of these other guys.”
Gay added, “He’s just one of the greatest bull riders to ever come out of North Carolina and everybody wants to talk to him about bull riding and see what they are doing wrong.
“He welcomes everybody just like they are family. He loves helping people out for the love of the sport.
A PIONEER OF BULL RIDING
Just as fellow North Carolina natives Tom Teague and Jeff Robinson have shaped the sport, so too has Davis.
He is more than just a PBR co-founder, but rather a pioneer for professional bull riding.
“I’ll tell you what, Jerome has been to North Carolina what Adriano (Moraes) has been for Brazil in the sport,” Murray said. “Those two guys are the pioneers in my book for bringing bull riding to a world stage for Brazil and North Carolina.”
While Mauney, Robinson, Gay and Faircloth will be competing at the BFTS event in Thackerville, Oklahoma, you can bet on Davis offering up a bit of wisdom to the next North Carolina-area youngster hoping to follow in the footsteps of the men that at one time aspired to follow in Davis’.
“I just loved it enough that I just knew whatever it was going to take I was going to make it happen,” Davis said about winning his world title. “I think that is the mindset (riders need). You have to become a machine and you have to realize when you nod your head there is nothing that can put you on the ground.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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