By: Justin Felisko
November 22, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Jess Lockwood didn’t have to look far inside the locker room at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals to know what is possible in the near future if he continues to work hard and not settle for anything less than excellence.
With every day and every buckoff at the World Finals, the snarl on his 19-year-old face continued to grow.
Lockwood didn’t even really want to talk about the potential of winning the 2016 PBR Rookie of the Year title in the closing rounds of the Finals.
“It isn’t a happy title when I bucked off everything here,” a frustrated Lockwood said.
He didn’t want to talk about his pulsating left riding hand either, which required a cast this offseason after he was diagnosed with a damaged CMC joint and torn ligaments before the Finals.
Lockwood nervously laughed when asked if maybe the hand has hurt more than he has let on during the final weeks of the 2016 season.
“I don’t like to say anything,” Lockwood says before pausing to choose his words carefully. “It has been fine, really. (Tandy) has been numbing it up. It has been alright, but it will be a little sore afterward.”
You could say the Finals was the lowest point of Lockwood’s stellar rookie season.
Yet one bad Finals won’t define an entire career, and, deep down, Lockwood understands it will be on him to return in 2017 better than he was this year.
“No one is going to ride your bull for you,” Lockwood said. “Your mom and dad can’t ride your bull for you. It is your job to do, and if you don’t do it there is no else to blame because who the hell is riding the bull? You are. There is no one else to blame. You are the reason you bucked off or you are the reason you rode.
“You have to hold yourself accountable.”
Lockwood, with a big bag of ice wrapped around his hand, didn’t have to look far inside the locker room either at the Finals to see how fast he could rebound.
For the entire week of the Finals he sat next to eventual World Champion Cooper Davis. Every night that he had a red angry face with beads of sweat rolling down his face he could see how far Davis came in just one year.
So too could be said for the man standing across from him in the locker room as well.
2015 PBR Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco was also amidst his second PBR season and was in the 2016 world title conversation.
Davis and Pacheco are living examples of how you can build off a rookie season and, in Davis’ case, win the world title in your second season on tour.
“That is more motivation, for sure,” Lockwood said. “You see them going against J.B. and they hung right there with him most of the year. This was not the Finals I wanted. The last two events leading into the Finals wasn’t how I wanted to come into the Finals. That is just how it goes sometimes. You have to take the losses with the wins.”
Lockwood joined Pacheco, J.B. Mauney and the other previous 18 PBR Rookie of the Year award winners this past season by winning the 2016 rookie crown.
Silvano Alves became the first Rookie of the Year to win the world title a year after being crowned the organization’s top rookie in 2010.
“It means a lot to get Rookie of the Year, for sure,” Lockwood said. “A lot of guys. J.B. won Rookie of the Year and Kaique. Now look at them. They are in the hunt every year. That is what we are looking for.”
Lockwood finished his first season eighth in the world standings after winning a PBR rookie record eight Built Ford Tough Series rounds, to go along with an event win in his home state (Billings, Montana) and 10 Top-10 finishes.
The Volborg, Montana, bull rider was still in high school when he made his BFTS debut in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in April and went on to compete in 16 events. Lockwood was 25-for-57 (43.86 percent) and may have broken Pacheco’s qualified ride rookie record (37) if he had competed the entire year on the BFTS.
Lockwood’s father, Ed, wasn’t too surprised with his son’s quick rise to success.
“I didn’t know he was going to be this good, but I am not surprised because of how hard he has worked. It is all he has ever thought about. He works hard at it. He was always been focused on everything he does whether it was wrestling or bull riding, he worked at everything he did.”
Ed said he first began to have an inclination that his son could turn pro when Jess began riding bulls in sixth or seventh grade.
“He didn’t get on very many before he made some good rides and I thought, ‘That doesn’t happen very often.’”
Jess’ turning point in 2016 was when he made the move to PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s Bowie, Texas, ranch to get further advice and guidance from the PBR co-founder, as well as two-time World Champion Justin McBride.
Within two months, the two legends helped instill Lockwood with the right mentality to help overcome his shortcomings on the Velocity Tour and qualify for the BFTS.
“Being at Lambert’s for sure was a big part of it,” Jess said. “Him and McBride helped with my mindset. The mindset is so big in this sport. Holding yourself accountable. It does make a big difference when you do start holding yourself accountable and not blaming little things. Saying, ‘Oh, that bull wasn’t very good. He was junk.’ When you start making yourself the reason you bucked off, you start riding better because you have no one else to blame it on. You are not looking for excuses.”
Lambert believed health was a factor for Lockwood in Las Vegas.
“He has to be healthy physically,” Lambert said. “He is already letting that losing burn in there.”
Lockwood is spending the offseason resting, recovering and training before turning things up on Jan. 6 when the 2017 BFTS begins in New York with the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden.
He believes 2016 was only the beginning of things to come.
“I think it is just starting,” he concluded. “I just graduated high school. The hill climb is just starting.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.