CLOVIS, N.M. – L.J. Jenkins remembers having to skip out of his classes at Texico High School (Texico, N.M.) sometimes when he was a teenager to go compete at amateur bull riding events in Texas.
There were times he would have to miss an occasional homework assignment or two because of his weekend warrior travel habits. Still, his teachers in the small New Mexico community located just beyond the central border with Texas were always willing to assist as he made his march to an eventual professional career in the PBR.
“My teachers were always really good about letting me leave on Friday and making up my homework,” Jenkins recalled this weekend at his namesake BlueDEF Velocity Tour event. “That is one of the good things about being in a small town. If you were in a big city, they wouldn’t care what you are going to do. I would say that (support) had a lot to do with how far I got at such a young age.”
That kind of support is why for the past four years Jenkins, who just concluded his 10th year on the Built Ford Tough Series, has put his name on the Touring Pro Division event that takes place eight miles away in Clovis.
More importantly, he wanted to give back to the community that was so supportive of him. Jenkins has taken pride in the marquee event that takes place in the eastern New Mexico city with the help of promoter Coli Hunt – the owner of Joe’s Boot Shop in Clovis – and Reece Arnold for the past four years.
“It is tough to make this big of a bull riding work in this town, but this is a great place to do it,” Jenkins said. “This town, community and Joe’s Boot Shop have come together to make this one of the biggest ones of the year.”
Hunt added, “I thought it was a hit. I am glad it is over now. It was a lot of time and effort.”
Arnold has been amazed at how Hunt has been able to grow the event in such a short period of time.
“For this bull riding to come together in short amount of a time, over a three-year period, for it to get this big is phenomenal,” he said.
The L.J. Jenkins Invitational has been an official PBR-sanctioned event for the past three years, and has grown from a $10,000-added event to $50,000 this year.
“A lot of guys have their name on an event, but not many can say they have their name is on a $50,000-added event,” Jenkins said.
Ben Jones won the event this past weekend and took home $20,000. The event featured big-time BFTS riders, such as Fabiano Vieira, Marco Eguchi and Cody Nance, riding at the Curry County Events Center the weekend right after the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Many of the riders that competed were still feeling the effects of the 2014 season, but a chance to build toward 2015 and earn a big paycheck were incentives to continue on the bull riding grind.
For Jenkins, there was no way he was going to miss his namesake event for a second consecutive season. The 27-year-old missed the 2013 event because of a torn left groin he sustained at the 2013 World Finals.
“My knee is pretty banged up and I am black and blue from Finals, but I wouldn’t go two years not riding in own event,” Jenkins said.
The past season wasn’t the best of years for the bull rider who currently resides in Porum, Oklahoma. He ended the season 12th in the world standings after previously finishing inside the Top 10 three consecutive years. His 38.55-percent riding percentage was his lowest since 2010, but he did win the PFI Western.com Invitational in Springfield, Missouri, and competed in every single regular-season event this year.
“The best part was that I stayed healthy,” Jenkins said. “I finished the year with not the best year I have had, but it is still a Top-15 year.”
Jenkins finished 1-for-2 this weekend and rode Briley’s Bull for 82.5 points. Jenkins has competed in 234 BFTS events and nodded his head 665 times.
He surpassed the 300-ride milestone this season – covering Harlem Shake for 86.5 points in Oakland, California – and enters next year with 304 rides.
He is happy to be heading into his 11th season on the BFTS relatively healthy and is focusing on resting for most of the two months leading up to the 2015 BFTS season-opener in Baltimore.
“Bodies don’t heal up as quick as they used to,” he said. “I may not be that old, but I have many miles. There is no telling what can happen. A bruised muscle here can mean an older guy sitting out longer. I don’t want to push myself too hard in this break, but I want to go a little harder than I have in the past just so I can kind of stay riding good.
“The way I have always been, if I sit out a long time it takes me a few events and a few bulls to get back to riding good. Being the first of the year I want to make sure I am on my ‘A’ game.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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