By: Justin Felisko
July 01, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – L.J. Jenkins knows very well what many of the latest young guns class is going through this year.
Jenkins was 18 years old when he made one of the most memorable rides of his eventual 11-year career.
The high school senior was competing in only his fourth Built Ford Tough Series event when he rode Reindeer Dippin – the father of three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker – for 93 points in Laughlin, Nevada.
The kid from Texico, New Mexico, wasn’t supposed to have a chance aboard Dippin. Not to mention, ride him for his first-career 90-point ride.
Just like that and everyone was starting to talk about this Jenkins kid in 2005.
The chatter didn’t stop there for Jenkins following his ride in Laughlin, but it only got greater when Jenkins became the youngest rider to ever win a BFTS event when he won the 2005 Columbus, Ohio, event at 18 years and 3 months old.
“I remember when I was growing up, I was still young and excited to be there just like those kids,” Jenkins said last month before the Young Guns Challenge at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge in Decatur, Texas. “I rode Reindeer Dippin my first year and I was still a senior in high school.”
A senior in high school?
An 18-year-old winning a BFTS event?
Sounds a little bit familiar.
Ever hear of that kid Jess Lockwood winning this year in Billings, Montana?
“I saw Jess Lockwood ride a bull one time on Facebook that I got on in Tacoma one year,” Jenkins said. “He was a great big, black bull (with) crooked horns and he was a scary one. I had seen him ride him easy and I am like, ‘That kid is going to be something before you know it.’
“That was probably a year or two ago. It was an open event that I had seen it. I was like, ‘That is that bull I got on that I was so scared of and he rode him like nothing.’”
The similarities don’t stop there for Jenkins.
The most likely future Ring of Honor inductee won the 2006 World Finals event average during his second year on tour when he was just 19 years old.
Also sound a little familiar?
Cooper Davis – the winner of the Young Guns Challenge – won the 2015 World Finals event average as a 21-year-old rookie.
Jenkins used three 90-point rides, as well as another three qualified rides, to go 6-for-8 to win his Finals title. He clinched the victory with a 92.75-point ride on Red One.
“Winning the World Finals in 2006 was probably one of my biggest achievements you could say,” Jenkins said when he announced his retirement last season. “I think I went in sitting second or third in the average, and I knew I had to ride him. At the time, Red One was one of the best to have, so I was stoked to have him. To start the weekend, I still remember when I was sitting down there and I looked at the computer and looked at the draw and saw that I had Black Smoke, Sir Patrick and Red Alert and I was mad. I was like, ‘Man, I am not going to do no good at this year’s Finals. To start with a 90 on Black Smoke and I kept it rolling.
“It turned out to be the best Finals I ever had.”
Jenkins, and many others, at the time wouldn’t have thought that would be the best Finals of his career. Yet that ended up being the case.
Jenkins would finish 2012 a career-best third in the world standings, but he was never able to get over the hump for the World Championship or win another World Finals title.
However, Jenkins did qualify for the World Finals every year of his career, and he is also one of only three riders to win the World Finals event average and the National Finals Rodeo bull riding average. Jenkins went 6-for-10 at the 2011 NFR to join Ty Murray and three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes as the only riders to win both titles in their careers.
“I think the inconsistency is what got me,” Jenkins said. “Toward the end of my career, I didn’t care. I kept getting on at the PBR. I think that is what really hurt me a lot. Not going back and having fun. I was looking at it more as a living than it is what I love to do.”
So what other advice would he give this new group of young kids hitting the PBR by storm?
What would he tell Lockwood, Davis, Derek Kolbaba, Kaique Pacheco, Mason Lowe, Tanner Byrne and others that aspire to have long, successful careers?
“You just have to keep a calm mind you can say,” Jenkins said. “Don’t let being in the PBR get to you. Don’t forget where you came from. The PBR, it is a big transition. Yeah, they can come in and ride really good for a certain amount of time, but you have to keep in mind you are doing this every week getting on the rankest bulls in the world. That is why some kids will come up and are really, really good and then slack off. They are not used to getting on those bulls every weekend.”
While it is still very early, so far Jenkins believes this current group of riders under 24 years old appear to be something special.
It isn’t often a group this strong has come up within the same time span.
“You would see one kid come in or out,” Jenkins said. “You never seen a whole group. This is one of the first times in a long time. That is what is so exciting. Nowadays I will turn it on to watch Jess Lockwood and Derek Kolababa. Them young kids are showing some real good consistency so far. They are exciting to watch.
“They are full of energy and want to win. It seems so far that they are taking it in. They are enjoying what they are doing it and they are not letting it get to their head or anything.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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