DENVER ― The PBR’s dancing Australian may not have danced on Friday night at the Denver Rodeo All-Star event, but for the first time this season Ben Jones is no longer worried about getting a face full of dirt following a buckoff.
Prior to being cut from the Built Ford Tough Series following the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., Jones said he simply was waiting for something bad to happen to him once he nodded his head.
“It was just injuries after injuries after injuries,” Jones said. “I came back this year and broke my ribs in New York City straight up and just kept trying to go on. I should have pulled up from the get go, but I didn’t know better.”
The season could not have started any worse for the nine-year veteran. After trying to battle through the fractured ribs, he missed the Sacramento Invitational, before going 2-for-3 in Anaheim, Calif., at the LiftMaster Chute Out.
However, since Anaheim, he went only 1-for-8 on the BFTS. His final attempt on the BFTS before being cut came when Raven Flyer bucked him off in Albuquerque onto his neck. At the time, Jones feared he had a fracture in his neck. Luckily, it turned out to be just some ligament damage. He also ended up getting the flu later that week.
“Just one weekend after (another) it was something,” Jones said. “It was the ribs, then the neck, then the flu. It just kept ― your mind starts thinking, ‘What’s going on?’”
The 5-foot-11 rider is currently 46th in the world standings and said that in a way his demotion to the Touring Pro Division has been a blessing in disguise. His ribs and neck finally feel healthy after he took some time to rest.
“It’s one of those things where it is a blessing for me,” he said. “I have been on the Built Ford Tough. That’s where you want to be, but getting cut and coming back here refreshes you. You just go at it again.
“I have been cut before and it’s nothing new to me. If anything, it built a fire in me and makes me want to do things.”
Jones’ wife, Christy, tried to tell him to slow down, but the Goulburn, Australia, native didn’t want to try and take a couple of weeks off to recover out of fear of losing more ground in the world standings to riders ranked below him.
“She said, ‘Ben, it’s coming to a point ― I know how mentally strong you are and you can do anything ― but there comes that point where you have to pull up.’”
Jones just kept telling himself to “keep fighting.”
He admits, “I was big-headed for a few more weeks.”
By the end of the Ty Murray Invitational, Jones was 5-for-21 in nine events for a 23.81 riding percentage.
He knew his wife was right.
“It’s a real hard bullet for me to take,” Jones laughed. “I’m not a real good listener.”
Friday was actually the couple’s three-year anniversary.
Even though he didn’t ride No Angel on Friday night, Jones and his 6.67-second buckoff time will advance to the next round in the Touring Pro Division event.
Joseph McConnel was the only rider to make the 8-second mark, picking up 81 points on Smokin Suspect. Derek Powell (6.48) and Scottie Knapp(3.92) also advanced to the next round, courtesy of their buckoff times.
McConnel, Jones, Powell and Knapp will ride against the top four riders from Saturday’s semifinal round later in the day. Then, the top two riders from the finals will square off in the championship round.
“It’s kind of a wild deal,” McConnel said. “I didn’t even nod at the bull.”
The 19-year-old was asked a question from a guy on the chutes, and when he responded, it was interpreted that he had nodded his head.
“Heck, it worked out,” he said. “I am not complaining about it. Maybe I needed that, because I have seen that happen to guys before and they are looking back and they will go, too. Lane Frost did it a lot on Red Rock. He would be acting like he was talking to guys on the back of the chutes and he would ride him almost every time.”
McConnel and Jones have pulled each other’s bull ropes before at the TPD level, and he understands how tough it is trying to work your way onto the BFTS, or back in Jones’ case.
“I have met Ben a lot of times before and I got to ride against him a bunch of times,” McConnel said. “It’s been fun, but I know what he’s feeling trying to get back on tour. It’s a pain in the butt, to be honest with you.”
McConnel competed at two BFTS events last year ― Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas and the Fort Bragg Wounded Soldier Foundation Invitational in Fayetteville, N.C.
Jones is confident he can work his way back to the BFTS and begin dancing for his fans once again after finishing in fifth place last week at the Fort Smith, Ark., TPD event with 84.5 points and having another opportunity to get on at least one more bull this weekend.
“I rode myself into this slump and I will ride out of it,” Jones concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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