PUEBLO, Colo. – When Ben Jones woke up Sunday morning in his hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his entire right side was on fire.
Jones had injured his right ribs when he landed hard after riding Ripslinger for 85.25 points on Saturday night.
At 36 years old, his body doesn’t heal as fast it once did.
Therefore, Jones began weighing the option of bowing out of the final day of the Ty Murray Invitational. He was sitting 17th in the event standings and was on the outside looking in at qualifying for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.
As he began to try to lift himself out of bed, his wife, Christy, said he had to make a confident decision.
“I was trying to use my head for once and take the week off, but I just couldn’t do it,” Jones said. “I am a cowboy. If you are in town, unless both of your legs are broken, you might as well come.”
The decision paid off as Jones went on to ride both of his bulls (White Lie for 87.5 points and Beaver Creek Beau 90.25 points) on Sunday afternoon to earn his first Built Ford Tough Series victory since Aug. 15, 2010.
“I reckon what don’t kill you only makes you stronger,” Jones added.
Jones – the oldest rider on the BFTS – has long been a fan favorite throughout his 10-year BFTS career, and he also is one of the most popular riders in the locker room.
It is why it came as no surprise that during Jones’ eventual event-winning 90.25-point ride on Beaver Creek Beau that the majority of the riders on the back of the bucking chutes began to whoop and holler.
Mike Lee, the 2004 World Champion, was one of the most excited riders and began jumping and cheering jubilantly as Jones was flying off the back of Beaver Creek Beau right after the 8-second horn sounded.
Once Jones’ victory was official following Guilherme Marchi’s 4.84-second buckoff against Wolverine Construction, Lee, Joao Ricardo Vieira andValdiron de Oliveira stormed the dirt to hoist Jones into the air and carry him to the shark cage.
“He is a little bit like me,” Lee said. “He is old and country. The old man has to win sometimes. I was pretty pumped to see him win.”
Nine-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network commentator Ty Murray normally always sits down with Jones prior to a BFTS event to discuss the bulls competing in the event.
Murray admitted he was one of the guys rooting for Jones on Sunday in the championship round.
“I was cheering for Ben,” Murray said. “I have always been a fan of Ben because Ben is not athletic. He is not talented. He does a lot of things that aren’t by the book or technically correct. The three things he does well are: He tries his ass off. He is not afraid and he loves it. That is the one quality you have to have. If you don’t have a love for it and the guts, you are not going to go very far in this sport.”
WisePies Arena, aka The Pit, erupted when the dancing Australian leaped aboard the shark cage after his ride on Beaver Creek Beau.
“I had seen Troy Dunn win this, I don’t know how many years ago. (Justin) McBride, Chris Shivers and Mike White,” Jones said. “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.”
Murray added, “He has been around forever and he is a tough, raw-boned Australian that is so happy and so proud to be here. It was fun to see a guy like that win. If you went and polled a million PBR fans, 900,000 would put him as one of their favorite riders.”
This weekend was Jones’ first three-ride performance at a BFTS event since 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina, and his 90-point ride was his first since riding Shepherd Hills Stockman for 90 points in Round 1 of the 2013 Ty Murray Invitational.
Jones’ victory comes a year after he was cut from the BFTS following the 2014 Ty Murray Invitational.
He would compete at one other BFTS event in 2014 (Last Cowboy Standing), and he had to spend the entire year working his way back on tour.
Before the start of the 2015 BFTS, Jones, who turned 36 on March 9, said, “A lot of people thought I was finished because I am 35. I still go to bed thinking about (bull riding) and I still wake up thinking about it. It is far from over.”
It was a long a journey back and a strong showing in the BlueDEF Velocity Tour this fall helped him earn a spot in the draw for the season-opener in Baltimore.
Jones eventually used a sixth-place finish in New York and a seventh-place finish in Oklahoma City to earn enough points through the first five events of the season to earn a full-time spot back on the BFTS.
“It is a good feeling,” Jones said in February. “Last year was an up-and-down year. I have really dedicated myself and this year it has really paid off. I am just happy being back and being Ben Jones.”
What a difference one year can make.
He is now the No. 8 bull rider in the world standings courtesy of the 550 points he earned in Albuquerque, and he is 1,050 points behind world leader Matt Triplett.
The Australian bull rider has gone 13-for-33 on the BFTS and is on pace for his best-season since 2011 when he finished 14th in the world and posted 29 qualified rides.
“Everybody says, ‘How many years do you have left in you?’ and it is true,” Jones said. “You don’t know. Today could be your last day.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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