By: Justin Felisko
February 18, 2017
ARLINGTON, Texas – Jess Lockwood has been leaving his mark as a bull rider long before he was No. 1 in the PBR world standings.
You didn’t have to look too far to see the worn out pieces of carpet in front of the television back home in Volborg, Montana, from when Lockwood was a little kid riding his imaginary bull all day long with the PBR blasting in the background.
These days, Lockwood is the one on the television with a whole set of aspiring bull riders and fans fixated on him.
“He was so taken in by bull riding and the PBR at an early age,” Lockwood’s aunt Lisa Lockhart said. “Oh, my God. He would wear out the carpet in front of the TV practicing riding his imaginary bull. He would be chapped up, spurs on and spinning circles. Oh, my gosh. It was just crazy. He would ride and ride and ride his imaginary bull.”
Long before Lockwood was living in Bowie, Texas, and picking the brains of PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert and two-time World Champion Justin McBride, the 19-year-old was already learning from Lockhart.
Lockhart – a 10 time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo barrel racer and two-time champion at THE AMERICAN rodeo – is another Western sports star willing to help mentor Lockwood as he tries to handle the fast stardom that has accompanied his PBR rise.
“We talk every weekend,” Lockwood said. “I talk to her during the week probably every other day. She will tell me good luck and good job after each ride every weekend. We don’t talk about bull riding, but we talk about the publicity. She is like keep doing what you are doing and stay humble. That is how our family is. We don’t really get too high-headed. All of our family is pretty low to the ground because we have been raised so right by our grandparents and parents.”
Lockwood’s mother, Angie, and Lockhart are sisters.
Lockhart and her family live in Oelrichs, South Dakota, and it wasn’t uncommon for each family to spend half of the summer in Montana and the other half in South Dakota.
Lockwood and Lockhart’s kids are more than just cousins.
“Alyssa, Kane and Thane aren’t our cousins,” Lockwood said. “They are our brothers and sisters. Lisa and Grady are our second parents too. We kids were together every single year until we turned 15 and started high school rodeoing.”
Since then, Lockwood has become a bull riding superstar.
The kid from Volborg, a town of 200 people in Eastern Montana, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, was featured in Business Insider and had a photo of him with Shaina Twain published in Star Magazine.
This week, Lockwood and Lambert filmed an interview with CBS This Morning on Lambert’s ranch.
“The rollercoaster really went up,” Lockhart said. “On his way up last year, I worried about it a little. But I think he has become more grounded than say mid-year last year because he has experienced the whole realm of it. One day you are on top and next day you are washing your sucker out of the dirt. I think that is great he has experienced both of it. He has done an amazing job of handling it. It happened to him in such a short order. My husband and I talk about this a lot and worry about it, but I can really see some maturity in him this year.”
Lockwood admits the national stardom is still hard to comprehend.
“I mean, I am pretty young,” Lockwood bashfully replied. “All of this stuff, I know what it is, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I will be able to look back on it when I am older, and it will sure mean a lot, but right now it is kind of whatever. I am taking it as it comes.”
Lockwood does understand it all starts and ends with what he does inside the arena, though.
He heads into Saturday night’s Frontier Communication’s Iron Cowboy, presented by Kawasaki, looking to bounce back after injuring his left thigh attempting to ride 2015 World Champion Bull SweetPro’s Long John in the Kansas City, Missouri, 15/15 Bucking Battle.
“Man, it is really good,” Lockwood said. “It has its flexibility back. It was feeling really awesome on Tuesday. I went to hot yoga on Tuesday night and hot yoga on Wednesday. They said I could work out and lift weights as long as it is not hurting it during. Well it wasn’t hurting it during, but I think I might have overworked it.”
Lockwood underwent cryotherapy on his thigh Friday in Fort Worth at The CryoSpa of Fort Worth and had another scheduled appointment for Saturday afternoon before Iron Cowboy.
He is competing at AT&T Stadium for the first time in his career, which is arguably the biggest event on the PBR calendar outside of the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“Cowboys Stadium,” Lockwood said with a smile. “I have asked Lisa what it is like. She says it is the coolest thing you will ever compete in in the world. Being in the stadium, it has a different kind of energy to it. It makes you perform to the highest peak you have ever performed.”
Lockhart has won over $200,000 in AT&T Stadium and is competing at Sunday’s THE AMERICAN rodeo alongside Lockwood.
She explained the key is to not let AT&T Stadium intimidate you as a competitor.
“I was thinking about it this morning. The stadium gets so much credit, and that is the whole thing,” she said. “Not getting sucked in by all of what is going on around you.”
Lockwood won the first PBR Major of the season in New York to earn the No. 1 world ranking. He leads No. 2 Rubens Barbosa by 385 points.
It was a great rebound performance for the 2016 Rookie of the Year following a dismal showing (0-for-5) at the 2016 World Finals.
Lockwood said Lockhart, as well as his entire family, helped him get through his initial disappointment.
“She gave me great advice,” he said. “She has had a couple of bad Finals before. She was winning the world title before and the last round she tipped a barrel and cost her a world title. The way she handles herself, she has taught us how to handle ourselves, is so unique. She just stays so calm in everything. She never lets anything get to her. She is calm in clutch situations.”
Lockhart said she tries to keep any advice she offers short and sweet.
“You don’t want to overstep your boundaries and say too much, so I try to keep it short and sweet,” she said. “I try not to say too much because I know he has his own mentors. I just try to sneak something in here and there. I don’t try to stay too much. It is just these little quips here and there.
“Not trying to overthink it. That has always been my philosophy. You can’t dwell on what has happened, but you figure out what you did wrong and what you can do better the next time. It is so hard to not stay focused on the negative. I always try to stay positive. Staying positive and grounded are key words for me.”
Of course, when you see a child grow up for 19 years, it is natural to have motherly instincts of worry and concern.
However, Lockhart couldn’t be more impressed by the kid that originally got his start putting holes in a Volborg, Montana, carpet.
“It has been absolutely phenomenal,” she concluded. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2017 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.