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Long John Climbing the Ranks

OKLAHOMA CITY – Glazed donuts, cake donuts, chocolate-covered donuts, donut holes, powdered donuts and Boston Kreme donuts are just some of the sweet and savory fried dough treats that H.D. Page is probably more than willing to take off your hands if you are willing to share.

“Yeah, I like all donuts,” Page said with a laugh during the Touring Pro Division Finals when asked what his favorite donut was.

Still, by the end of 2015 his favorite Long John may end up not being just your average sugar-infused, chocolate covered treat. Instead, the longtime stock contractor’s favorite will be 1,900 pounds of high-flying bucking power.

That’s right, 2015 World Champion Bull contender Long John was named after a donut.

“No reason,” Page said. “He was just a big ole calf when I called him that, but he looked like a big ole chocolate Long John. The color he was and all, that’s why I called him that.”

Long John begins his 2015 Built Ford Tough Series season on Sunday afternoon during the championship round of the Express Employment Professionals Invitational in Oklahoma City.

Page’s bull enters the season as an early favorite to make a run at the World Champion Bull title following his standout performance at the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals now that three-time World Champion Bushwacker is off basking in the sunset at Julio Moreno’s ranch in Oakdale, California.

Long John posted the highest-score of the Finals when he rocked J.W. Harris in 3.71 seconds for a score of 47.25 points. It was his 11th buckoff in 14 outs last year, when he averaged 44.23 points per out, and the performance left nine-time World Champion Ty Murray calling Long John, “The real deal.”

Page understands that there are now expectations for his bull this year.

“We have seen what he is capable of, so now that is expected of him,” Page said. “He has to leave their flat-footed and kick over the back of the chutes and leap and turn and do all of those things we know he is capable of. Anything short of that and we are disappointed in him.”

It is one of the reasons why Page liked the fact that Harris faced Long John three times. The four-time PRCA champion does a good job of making Long John give a full effort and not get lazy.

“J.W. is one of those guys that tries them,” Page said. “Some of the great bulls, they have a big jump out of there, and if the guys don’t bear down and try it is actually not good for the bull. They get in a habit of a guy falling off first jump. After a while, they feel like that is what they got to do. Then somebody bears down and tries them and then they are not used to having to try that hard. We call it keeping them honest and that is what J.W. is good at. He will keep one honest because he will make them buck. If they are going to win against him they have to put out the effort.”

Throughout 2014, Long John gave glimpses of his initial strength once the gate ripped open inside the arena. Following the gate, the athlete’s natural talents and gifts take over – leading to riders struggling to adjust to the quick storm of power and high-kick that Long John brings to the BFTS.

Harris (87.5 points), Douglas Duncan (86.25 points) and Guilherme Marchi (86 points) are the only riders to successful make 8 seconds aboard Long John on the BFTS.

“He is like any other athlete,” Page said. “He is gifted in his athletic ability. That gives him an advantage over some of the others. He is long-legged and moves easy. He weighs 1,900 pounds and he moves around like he weighs 1,200 pounds. That in itself gives him an advantage, but it is easier for him to buck than one that is a little more vertically challenged. Just because it is easy for him, doesn’t mean he is going to do it every time.”

Long John gave Tanner Byrne an ugly welcome to the BFTS in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he sent the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, bull rider to the ground in 4.18 seconds for his third 45-point marking of the year at the time.

“He is a big ole, strong scary bugger,” Byrne said. “He is kind of an old school bull more than anything. Has a lot of up and down. I hope to get back on him because he bucked me off in Albuquerque. He really bucked that day and let me have it. He has been one of the next really good ones coming up. He is not fast like some of the bucking bulls, he is big and strong. You have to have all of your ducks in a row to stay on that one. Some bulls will just buck you off, but he will make you pay for making a mistake.”

Around the Page ranch in Ardmore, Oklahoma – which is only 100 miles from Chesapeake Energy Arena – Long John is just a peaceful, funny character, says Brady Sims.

Sims has been living with Page part time and has been learning a lot about the Pages’ bulls. He has taken a special interest in keeping an eye on Long John.

“Whenever you let him out, shoot, you can walk right behind him,” Sims said. “He just goes at his own pace. He will wander back and forth down the alleyway, while he walks by. He is pretty comical really. He will get in there and mess with his hay pretty good, then he will run the fence and throw his head up and try and bluff you. He is kind of funny.”

Long John remains high on PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert’s list of top bulls for the beginning of 2015.

Lambert said during the offseason that Long John will be a bull to watch in 2015, and he told PBR statistician Slade Long this week he was impressed by the bull’s out at the Touring Pro Division Finals in Denveragainst Nathan Schaper.

“I don’t have any question about him,” Lambert said. “He’s going to be really good this year.”

Page concluded that it is too early to tell if Long John will truly be the real deal this year because there has to be something special beyond natural ability.

Regardless, he thinks his bull has a shot at greatness.

“It comes down to something inside,” Page concluded. “You don’t really ever know what triggers that or what makes a champion a champion. You just have to put him in a situation and see how he performs. I sure think he’s got it, but you never know.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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