NEW YORK – There is a sense of unfinished business in Jason Malone’s voice when he talks about his 2014 season.
Yes, Malone is thrilled to have won the 2014 Touring Pro Division championship, as well as being able to compete for the first time at the Built Ford Tough World Finals for one round last October.
The endless hours and long road trips away from home that he and his wife, Amanda, went on throughout the first half of the 2014 season and deep into the dog days of summer all paid off during those special moments that Malone had during a career-high 11 BFTS events.
There was the memorable 90.25-point ride on Fire Rock in Oakland, California, and there was his first opportunity to nod his head inside the Thomas & Mack Center in October.
He is also honored to now be listed among past TPD champions such asAdriano Moraes, Troy Dunn, Chris Shivers, J.B. Mauney, Shane Proctorand Chase Outlaw.
Yet, there is so much more to be done before Malone can sit back and bask in the fruits of his 2014 labor.
“I am glad I won the Touring Pro level, it gave me the opportunity to get into some Built Ford Tough Series events, but I don’t feel like I capitalized on the opportunities like I should have,” Malone said. “Sometimes losing lights a fire under you to go harder than winning does.”
Unfortunately for Malone, the 30-year-old finished just outside of the Top 35 last season (37th) and already has to scratch and claw his way against the Top 35 bull riders in the world as an alternate on the BFTS this month while trying to earn a full-time spot on tour in 2015.
However, it was his performance on the TPD and BlueDEF Velocity Tours – especially four wins in San Antonio; Orlando, Florida; Omaha, Nebraska, and Portland, Oregon – that has at least put himself in a position to be one of the top alternates for the first five BFTS events this year.
“OK, so I won the Touring Pros for 2014, but at the Built Ford Tough series I haven’t competed up to the way I feel I should,” Malone said. “I have no way reached my potential.”
Malone flew out of San Antonio early Friday morning to head to New York for this weekend’s Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden. It will be his second BFTS event of the season after going 0-for-2 in Chicago.
He faces Cosmo in Round 1 and is looking forward to competing at one of the PBR’s marquee events on the BFTS for the first time.
“It is really awesome,” Malone said. “New York City is not a hub for bull riding, but some of the best crowds are in those places because it is not something that they see all the time. I think sometimes in the northeast, it is something they do not see all the time so they really get into it and really enjoy it. That always fires the bull riders up and it is a big sporting venue.”
Once again though, there is not much time to bask in the moment of competing inside Madison Square Garden – one of the most prestigious arenas in the United States.
“It is not something I think too much about,” Malone added. “I just want to focus on the job at hand.”
It is easy to understand why Malone refuses to be complacent or get to comfortable. Prior to riding in six BFTS events in 2013, Malone had competed in just one BFTS in 2011 (San Antonio).
Instead, he has spent the majority of his 12-year career traveling all across the United States to Touring Pro Division and BlueDEF Velocity Tour events.
The journey for aspiring bull riders to make it to the PBR’s marquee Built Ford Tough Series is a long, grueling process that can wear down a rider physically and emotionally.
Many riders in those two tours, including Malone, have had to work jobs outside of bull riding to remain financially afloat to afford the expenses that are necessary to chase the ultimate PBR dream.
It is why Malone has been grateful for the jobs he has worked on ranches, his uncle’s oil field and a rope company throughout the years and the support of his family that have helped him remained committed to bull riding when the odds appeared against him.
“I have had a lot of support from my friends and family and Amanda encouraging me to just live the dream and I have come to the realization that I can compete at that (BFTS) level,” Malone said.
The bull rider from Pleasanton, Texas, knows how hard his road to the BFTS has been, and he is quick to admit his time last year on the BFTS did not go exactly as planned.
Regardless, there was one event in particular where everything clicked.
Malone rode Fire Rock for 90.25 points in the championship round of the Kawasaki Invitational to finish a career-best fourth in the event average last September.
It was his first 90-point ride in his BFTS career and the Oakland event ended a frustrating stretch of 16 consecutive buckoffs on the BFTS.
“Riding bulls, whenever everything is clicking and it is just fun and you make good rides you get a sense of enjoyment about it,” Malone said. “One thing I remember from that weekend, it was almost like relief because I wasn’t getting anything done. It was beating on my confidence, and I like riding bulls – not looking at the standings, not thinking about it, not worrying about it.”
Malone admits it isn’t easy though. You cannot help but worry about where you are in the standings when you are right on the bubble.
He already isn’t sure whether he will be riding in Oklahoma City next weekend or at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour events in Battle Creek, Michigan, and Detroit.
It is a purgatory of sorts and the only way out of it is to ride for 8 seconds when it matters most.
“I don’t think there really is any way of blocking it out,” Malone said. “What I try to do to not have that pressure is not see it as pressure. Pressure won’t get to you if you don’t see it as pressure.”
Therefore, the 2014 Touring Pro Division champion heads into 2015 looking to take advantage of his latest opportunity.
“I have been riding my whole life,” Malone said. “I have had chances in the past and I didn’t capitalize on them and I am thankful for my second and third and fourth chances.
“I am not done. I still enjoy doing this and we will just see where it goes.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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