By: Justin Felisko
February 25, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Give any dog a piece of rawhide and they will spend days trying to rip, bend, tear and destroy it.
In Ben Jones’ case, he is a 36-year-old piece of rawhide with 18-plus years of bull riding wear and tear on his body and, he too, has yet to be broken down completely.
“Ben is just an old-school, tough Australian,” said nine-time World Champion Ty Murray. “I always tease him, he reminds me of a pig’s ear. He is an old-school, tough Australian that is the worn out piece of rawhide that is just tough.
“And he loves it.”
Jones first came face-to-face with Murray, his childhood idol, in Laredo, Texas, when Jones made his PBR debut at a 1998 Touring Pro Division event.
Jones, admittedly, didn’t even talk to Murray at that first event, but he does remember his first memory of him.
“Beating him,” Jones said with a laugh. “It was the first Touring Pro I went to and the bull I had in the short go – Sky King – they said he threw off Ty the week before and I rode him for 91 points.”
According to Jones, he finished second to Chris Shivers at the event and spent the majority of the weekend staring in awe at Murray.
Later that year, Jones overcame his fear and became comfortable talking to Murray and a friendship was born. One that has remained even after Murray retired from the sport in 2002.
The two talk frequently when Murray is serving as a CBS Sports Network commentator, and he will normally sit down with Jones in the locker room to get the latest news on some of the bulls competing at the event.
“I have looked up to him my whole career,” Jones said. “I met Ty in 1998 when I first came over here when I was 18,” Jones said. “He has seen the ins and outs of my career. He will tell me straight. He has done more than I can say. Ty and Cody Lambert. People don’t know a lot of the things they have done to help me in a lot of ways where a lot of people haven’t.”
It is why there is added motivation for Jones this weekend at the Choctaw Casino Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki, on Saturday night.
Jones knows he is only ranked No. 34 in the world standings and is right on the bubble of possibly being cut from the BFTS. He holds only a 2.5-point lead on No. 35 Nathan Schaper.
Most of all, Jones does not want to miss out on a chance to defend his Ty Murray Invitational title next month in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Besides the Finals and winning the world title, I think it is the next biggest bull riding you can win,” Jones said.
Jones helped his case in Kansas City last week with a bull ride that all but demonstrated the pure essence of Ben Jones.
It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t a piece of athletic brilliance.
Instead, Jones’ 85.5-point ride on Chocolate Shake, his seventh ride in 21 attempts this season, was all built on heart and effort. Jones got completely extended and had to dig deep for the ever important 8-seconds that earned him 40 crucial points toward the world standings.
“I have never felt more pressure in my life,” Jones said Sunday. “I never been that sick, and last night I didn’t sleep at all. I just wanted in. When you want things that bad it will work out. That was just bearing down and not letting go.”
That kind of effort is what made Murray a fan of the then 18-year-old Jones and why he remains a fan of him today.
“The reason everybody loves Ben is the only thing that has Ben here is his love of the game,” Murray said. “Ben is not a great athlete. He is not incredibly strong. He is not in great shape. He has one thing. He freaking loves it. That shows you how important that is. I always talk about how important that is and Ben is living proof of that.
“You want to take his love for the game and effort and put it on somebody that you see has a lot of talent and athletic ability that isn’t trying very hard.”
Jones added, “For Ty to say something like that, it must mean something. That really means a lot. He has seen every single human being come through this sport.”
Jones’ love of the game, and admiration for Murray, was on full display last year when he went 4-for-4 to win Murray’s marque event, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.
“I had seen Troy Dunn win this, I don’t know how many years ago. (Justin) McBride, Chris Shivers and Mike White,” Jones said in Albuquerque. “We get all of that atmosphere here and when you ride a bull like that you are already pumped up. Then you see that (reaction) and it is just unreal.”
In 2014, Jones was cut from the BFTS following the Ty Murray Invitational.
Murray said Jones’ victory is one of the all-time greatest moments in his event’s history.
“It really was,” Murray said. “It was really exciting for me. I remember thinking, ‘Can Ben win this thing?’ It was really exciting because I am a fan of Ben Jones and because I know how bad Ben wanted to win it.”
Jones doesn’t want that to be his last memory from Ty Murray’s Invitational either. Just talking about the possibility of missing the event and being cut from the BFTS before the 20th anniversary had Jones in near tears last weekend.
“It is Ty’s event,” Jones said before choking up. “I have always been on and off, on and off, on and off. I tried going this year not worrying about things and taking the casual approach and look where we are again.
“It is not where I want to be. I am going to come out fighting, that is for sure.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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