By: Justin Felisko
January 13, 2017
CHICAGO – Right before Jess Lockwood went to climb aboard his 2,000-pound bovine beasts of destruction last week in New York, the 19-year-old glanced up into the stands at his mom, Angie, and cousin, Melissa Lockhart.
Angie Lockwood held up both her hands, signaling 10 seconds, and whispered, ‘Breath.’
Jess took his mom’s caring and simple advice to heart each time he nodded his head at the World’s Most Famous Arena, and he is certainly breathing a tad bit easier thanks to his career-best 4-for-4 PBR Major victory at the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden.
“I would look up to my cousin and her every single time before I rode. I would wave to them every single time,” Jess said. “Mom would hold up 10 fingers and just say, ‘breath.’
“I couldn’t be happier. It helps so much having my family here with me. This is so special. This is the greatest thing that ever happened in my career. The points that came with it. The money. My family here. It means a lot.”
On the dirt inside Madison Square Garden, Angie also let out a sigh of relief after watching her oldest son bounce back from a disastrous World Finals (0-for-5) that left Jess admittedly embarrassed and hurt physically.
As she looked at her son posing for photos with fans and sponsors, Angie was beaming with joy.
“Let’s just say he has proven it to himself,” Angie said. “He thinks he has something to prove to the world because of what happened at the Finals. He was thrilled to be at his first PBR Finals in Vegas and he wouldn’t say anything to anybody, but he was a hurt boy. He had a couple of injuries. Everybody rides with injuries and everybody rides with aches and pains, but it was just bad timing to have it happen right then. So he needed such a confidence builder the first night here. That just makes all the difference in all of these riders.”
Jess tied for the Round 1 victory at the season-opener with an 87.75-point ride on Dennis the Menace and never slowed down.
He finished second in Round 2 with 87.25 points on X Factor and then used two 82.25-point rides on Sunday to earn the victory.
After each and every ride, Jess quickly credited his mom and cousin for being by his side this week for a big reason of his success.
“I feel a little bit more comfortable. It is just nice having them here,” Lockwood said. “I wish they could come every weekend.”
Coincidentally, Lockwood’s first career win came in his home state of Montana last year with his family in attendance.
The 2016 Rookie of the Year said winning on one of the PBR’s biggest stages after his tough Finals helps eases the pain some, but he was already moving forward once he stepped foot back inside the arena for the beginning of 2017.
“Like (Cody) Lambert said, you have to forget, but at the same time, you don’t. Because you want to let that motivate you and you never want to do that bad again. You let it piss you off.”
Lockwood earned 860 points and a career-high $117,118.33 and heads into the Chicago Invitational as the No. 1 bull rider in the world courtesy of his season-opening victory.
He will face Big Stuff in Round 1 and Beaver Creek Beau (46-5, BFTS) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle, which airs Saturday at noon ET on CBS national television.
Lockwood understands he needs to finish his rides better than he did on the final day of New York.
He won the event, but he believes he could have ridden much better.
“Finish every single ride whether it be long round or short round,” Lockwood said. “Don’t think about the title in the short round. I let that figure into a couple of events last year, when I was going in leading it. I just was riding and I thought about how I am going to win this deal and not get bucked off.”
Lambert said following New York that he was happy to see Lockwood take another step forward in his young career and bounce back from some adversity in the arena.
“That is a big deal,” Lambert said. “Everybody has to try to get better when they get here. Everybody when they make it here are good. They have to try to get better because it is tougher to win here than anywhere else. The bulls are tougher here than anywhere else. Every single guy. It doesn’t matter who you are. You have to try to get better every year, every week.”
Lockwood had bucked off in five consecutive championship rounds. In 2016, Lockwood set a PBR rookie record with eight round wins, but was only 5-for-15 in championship rounds and 15/15 Bucking Battles.
Defending World Champion Cooper Davis went 1-for-11 last season in championship rounds and 15/15 Bucking Battles prior to the summer break.
The 22-year-old said he sees a similarity between him and Lockwood.
“Jess and I are a lot alike in the aspect of we have good form and sometimes it doesn’t go right so we keep our hand close and we hang on as long as we can,” Davis said. “That kid is rank.”
Lambert noted that New York was the first event in Lockwood’s career (17 BFTS events) that the Volborg, Montana, bull rider covered all of his bulls.
“He has won an event before, but this was some growth for him right here,” Lambert said. “He has room to improve, but he is the real deal.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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