PUEBLO, Colo. – Christmas came a little bit early for L.J. Jenkins this past week when he learned Tuesday that he would be inducted into Missouri Sports Hall of Fame as a member of enshrinement class of 2016.
The announcement was made official on Wednesday by Jerald Andrews, President and Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, and Jenkins is one of 15 individuals, a football program and a college football team that will be inducted on Jan. 31 in Springfield, Missouri.
“It is pretty cool,” Jenkins said. “I never thought something like that would be close to happening. When they called me, I was pretty shocked.”
The Enshrinement Class of 2016 also features former big league pitcher Jerry Reuss, longtime NFL coach Gregg Williams, Kansas City Chiefs center Tim Grunhard, Olympic gymnastics silver medalist Terin Humphrey, St. Louis Cardinals linebacker Eric Williams, longtime Kansas City Royals scouting director Art Stewart, Evangel University men’s basketball coach Steve Jenkins, former Texas Christian University baseball coach Lance Brown, former University of Missouri and Olympic track and field standout Natasha (Kaiser) Brown, Missouri Southern men’s basketball coach Robert Corn, St. Louis University High School racquetball coach Joe Koestner, Missouri State University sports information director Mark Stillwell, John Burroughs High School football coach Jim Lemen, the John Burroughs High School football program and the Missouri Tigers 1966 Sugar Bowl team.
“It is an honor to be with all of them guys,” Jenkins said. “There are football players to coaches, everything. It is pretty cool.”
Jenkins is the second bull rider to be inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame after Luke Snyder was inducted as a member of the enshrinement class of 2014.
The Porum, Oklahoma, resident’s path to PBR stardom began, coincidentally, in Springfield.
Jenkins was born on July 17, 1987, on his father’s Strafford, Missouri, ranch and grew up in Highlandville and the Springfield area before moving to Texico, New Mexico, in eighth grade.
He began his journey toward a professional career by riding at All Youth Rodeo Association and Missouri Junior Rodeo Circuit events.
Snyder, who is three years older than Jenkins, first met Jenkins at a youth rodeo in Missouri, and eventually it was at Snyder’s house in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, where Jenkins was always running after Snyder and L.J.’s older brother, Dustin.
They were the two idols of L.J.’s youth and helped inspire him to continue chasing the dream of becoming a bull rider.
“I just followed in his footsteps my whole career,” Jenkins said. “I was that younger kid that always looked up to him. To be able to go to the PBR after he did and now obviously be inducted into the Hall of Fame with him it is very cool.”
Jenkins’ PBR career came to an abrupt end in 2015 as a result of a neck fracture (C-1) that he sustained in Nampa, Idaho, attempting to ride Strong Heart.
Despite the career-ending injury, Jenkins qualified for the Built Ford Tough World Finals this year for the 11th consecutive season and concluded the season ranked 33rd in the world standings.
He finished his 11-year Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) career with 320 BFTS qualified rides, 19 90-point rides and seven career wins.
Jenkins won the 2006 World Finals event average, the second most prestigious title in the PBR, by going 6-for-8 in just his second year on tour and being just 19 years old.
Five years later, Jenkins became only the third rider in history to win both the World Finals event average and the National Finals Rodeo average when he went 6-for-10 to win the 2011 NFR bull riding title. The other two riders to accomplish the feat are Adriano Moraes and Ty Murray.
“If you were to ask me 12 years ago if I thought all of this would have happened, I would have said you were crazy,” Jenkins said.
The final two wins of Jenkins’ career happened to be in Missouri, and the last was in the city where he will be honored next month.
Jenkins went 3-for-4 to win the 2014 PFI Western.com Invitational, presented by Bass Pro Shops, at JQH Arena in Springfield at the September 2014 BFTS event in front of his friends and family, including his 91-year-old grandmother, Kathryn.
The 2016 Enshrinement will be held at the University Plaza Hotel and Convention Center, which is within walking distance of JQH Arena.
“Anytime I was in Springfield I always felt like I was the hometown kid,” Jenkins said. “I always rode better there. To be able to end my career getting inducted in the Hall of Fame right there in Springfield kind of puts an exclamation mark on my career. The only other thing that is missing is the (PBR) Ring of Honor. Who is to say I will ever get that acknowledgement? That would put my career on a whole new level to get all of that done.
“As of right now, I am tickled to death to be in the Missouri Hall of Fame.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.