CHICAGO – Throughout the final month of the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series there were plenty of occasions where J.W. Harris would be slumped in his chair in the locker room with a dripping wet bag of ice strapped to his shoulder or lying face down in sports medicine with ice on his sore back.
The four-time PRCA champion would still offer a smile or make a wisecrack to his fellow bull riders, but there was no hiding the fact that the 28-year-old was beat up and bruised following a long 2014 season in the PRCA and the PBR.
The 2014 PBR Rookie of the Year plans to focus on the Built Ford Tough Series in 2015 instead of hitting the rodeo trail as hard as years past after trying the balancing act last year.
Harris believes that by March or April he will have a better idea exactly how much he will plan on trying to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, where he finished sixth in the event average this past season.
“We’ll see if at the end of the winter I am around $15,000 or so. (Then) I will keep going, but if not, we will just do these deals,” the four-time PRCA champion said. “If I don’t have $15,000 won, I will just do these bull rides.”
The opportunity to win a $1 million World Champion bonus is an obvious motivator to pursue the BFTS full time.
“Last fall, I was beat all to hell,” Harris said. “So that was just getting on bulls pretty much every day and then the travel and stuff flat wore me down. Then, too, the money is a lot better here and you can get on better bulls consistently. Plus, it pays a lot more at the end of the year. That is what I am focused on.”
Harris has started the 2015 BFTS 3-for-6 and sits 14th in the world standings with 105 event points. He is coming off an eighth-place finish this weekend at the Chicago Invitational after starting off the event with 85 points on Skid Row Joe.
In the second round, Harris had covered Escaped Convict for 76.25 points, but was awarded a re-ride. He could have kept his score and been in good position to qualify for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, but decided to accept the re-ride option because he knew he likely wouldn’t be able to win without it.
He then responded by riding Mr. Twitter for 86.25 points to enter the championship round sixth in the draw. However, he wound up bucking off Rock River Red in 5.32 seconds.
Harris has competed in multiple bull riding associations with different point systems before and says he hasn’t put too much thought into the new PBR points system. Although, he does believe by going to fewer rodeos in the summer he will be able to attend some BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division events.
“It don’t matter,” he said. “The guy that rides the most is going to win and that is how it should be. I don’t really pay attention to that. It is out of my control. I just show up and get on my bulls and let them figure that out.
“Just the way it is set up I will go to those deals. Every little bit you get on at those Touring Pros count so that is what we will do.”
He then added, “I think the biggest benefit for me is going to be the summer, especially if I don’t rodeo. I will be able to be at home, rest up, stay fresh and not get worn down.”
While Harris is committed to winning a potential world title, he also has his focus currently on a house that he and his wife, Jackie, are having built in Goldwaithe, Texas. The Mills County town with a population of a little less than 2,000 is about an hour and 45 minutes northwest of Austin, Texas.
J.W. credits Jackie for taking charge of the design of the three-bedroom house being built on the 108 acres of property they own. They are also building a horse barn, as well as cattle pens for some of the cows J.W. already owns.
“Everybody says it is a pain the ass, and it is, but it is also kind of fun,” Harris said. “You don’t get to do this every day of your life and a lot of people never get to build their own house. It’s been pretty fun and we are a very blessed family.”
Harris also told his wife she gets one chance to get it right.
“My wife is trying to get the last bit of all that stuff the way she wants it,” he said before laughing. “It has been fun, but I told her this will never happen again. You better build it right the first time because we are never building another one.”
There is one portion of the house in particular that J.W. is looking forward to. The Harris’s are building an outdoor patio/kitchen area where the Harris’s can spend quality time with their kids, Aubrey (4) and Dillon (2).
“Jackie is a damn good cook,” Harris said. “We cook a lot and we hardly eat out any. We always cook which makes good for family time. I also like cooking on the grill some, so we will have ourselves a good outdoor kitchen too.”
Harris also has a couple tricks up his sleeve when it comes to being a grill master.
“I make a badass steak,” he added. “No, you don’t need A1 with mine. It is that good.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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