FRESNO, Calif. ― The times have changed and some of the faces have changed.
However, it’s all about location and, more importantly, the mindset when it comes to the PBR locker room.
It’s been more than 10 years since Justin McBride first put his gear bag in the shower area at a Built Ford Tough Series event. Before retiring in 2008, it’s a tradition he passed along to reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney.
“Wherever I put my stuff down it’s going to be a no-nonsense kind of area,” McBride said. “You’re not going to come in making excuses about the stock that you had or whining about anything. If you buck off you’re going to get made fun of and if you do good there’s probably not going to be a whole lot said about it.”
Long before he was a two-time World Champion, a young and feisty McBride sought out the likes of Ty Murray, Jim Sharp and Michael Gaffney.
“When you did bad, oh man, they were going to let you have it with both barrels,” McBride recalled. “It’s a good thing because it makes you want to do better the next time. You’re embarrassed and they were going to embarrass you even more.”
Luckily, he could ride.
The trio of PBR co-founders toughened the Nebraska native and molded him into a hardnosed bull rider of old, but as they retired McBride sought out a refuge for other like-minded riders. He found it by heading back to the showers and putting his gear bag away from everyone else.
Well, nearly everyone else.
Ross Coleman was there and so too was Luke Snyder and few other tough-minded fellas along the way—namely Mauney, who was brought into the fold during his 2006 rookie year.
“Fortunately I came around when he was still riding,” said Mauney, when it’s pointed out that his persona elicits memories of the old school ways of yesteryear, “and I was able to hang out with him.”
“I can remember him coming on jets with me and Ty when we were all with Copenhagen,” McBride said. “J.B. was a little scrawny rookie and we would just grill him for hours and jack with him. And he could take it. He rode good then and we knew he rode good, but we wanted him to be tough. We’d give him a hard time.
“It’s funny, now he’s an outlaw and when he was a rookie I can remember going to those Copenhagen conventions and we’d be on the jet and he was the most sober, subdued one of the bunch.”
Times have changed.
McBride and Murray are no longer riding bulls.
Nor are they running with a wild bunch. They’re married with families. McBride is the father of two and Murray has a son as well. McBride hasn’t drank in nearly eight months, while Murray’s gone more than five years.
Mauney’s changed too.
He won a world title last October and, according to McBride, “J.B. is kind of an outlaw guy—a little tatted up smoker. He’s just kind of a redneck outlaw and that’s his persona, but I think a lot of it is an outer shell.
“When you get down to it, he’s all business and he’s there for the right reasons,” McBride continued.
Mauney has always respected and admired McBride.
“I watched that guy long enough and he was always one of the guys I looked up to,” Mauney said. “I wanted to be like him when I was younger—the way he rode and his attitude. I’m trying to get that way myself.”
Now, it is the PBR’s young guns looking up to Mauney.
“You see some of those guys and they’re wanting some of that to rub off on them,” added McBride. “They’ll smoke and try to act cool like he does. That’s the easy part. It’s that riding part that they can’t quite get.”
Nowadays the shower area of the locker room is Mauney’s.
Not his alone, but it carries the no-nonsense way he learned from McBride.
Typically there are three gear bags back there—his, Stormy Wing’s andL.J. Jenkins’.
Chase Outlaw, Douglas Duncan and, of late, Gage Gay might put their bags out with the rest of the riders, but they spend a great deal of time back in the unused showers talking with Mauney.
The change of scenery was never more apparent than earlier this month at AT&T Stadium when McBride showed up for THE AMERICAN.
“J.B. Mauney now occupies the space in the locker room where I used to put my stuff, so when I took my stuff back there he was already in there—the shower,” McBride said.
“I know he was having fun and I was having fun with him. He got to tell all the old stories to these kids that were standing there of when he used to ride with me. It was fun to see him in the role that he’s in now.”
J.B. Mauney wins THE AMERICAN in Arlington, Texas, with a 90.5-point ride on Cowtown Slinger.
“It was pretty cool,” said Mauney, 27. “It had been quite a few years. There was a lot of joking going on. I was giving him a lot of (heck).”
19-year-old Gage Gay says being among the veterans gives him an added sense of confidence.
“It feels good hanging out with J.B., Stormy and all the top guys on tour because all those top guys hang out back there in the showers,” said Gay. “We have our own little group back there. They all have old bull riding stories and I like hearing them, so I like hanging around them listening to old stories and stuff. That’s pretty cool.”
Last week, in Albuquerque, N.M., there was a big absence in the locker room area.
Guys were setup in a hallway off the concourse area and, more importantly, Mauney wasn’t there to set the tone.
The bull pen for the Ty Murray Invitational was as rank as any they’ll face on the BFTS this year, but without the reigning champion in the building, McBride and Murray both felt a few riders let some of the bulls get by them.
They rode only five in the opening round and covered just 25 percent on the weekend.
Things ought to be different this week, in Fresno, Calif.
Aside from the 15/15 Bucking Battle, where Jenkins is matched up withBushwacker, the bulls won’t be nearly as rank and Mauney returns to competition.
Wing is out this week with a shoulder injury, but he admitted there’s a void when Mauney’s not there.
“It takes a toll,” said Wing. “I miss him.”
Mauney also missed the St Louis, Mo., event in mid-February. Wing recalled sitting in the shower area by himself one of the nights, while Jenkins was up on the concourse signing autographs.
“I kept peeking around the corner,” Wing said. “I got kind of lonely back there, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Wing later added, “When you’re a little kid you set out to get somewhere and be somewhere and I looked up to the guys and now you get to do what they did and see what they did and be around them. … You learn (stuff) everyday whether you think you do or not.”
Like McBride, with Mauney, there are no excuses allowed.
That’s why earlier this season, frustrated with overwhelming bad attitudes, the Mooresville, N.C., native arrived four hours early for the final day of an event so that he could quietly and unassumingly move his gear to the shower area of a locker room being used by the Brazilian riders.
Last fall, he was 10th in the world standings coming off the summer break when he rode Bushwacker for 95.25 points to win the Tulsa, Okla., event. It was only the first of five wins in nine weeks as Mauney put himself in position to finally win a gold buckle on the last day of the World Finals.
He’s sixth in the world right now – just 13 points out of the Top 5 – and looking to make a move with six events between now and this year’s summer break.
If he plans to make it two titles in a row, he’ll have his work cut out for him again this year.
“Right now, to me, he’s in a league of his own,” said McBride, “and everybody else knows it, that’s competing against him.”
“He’s got the eye of the tiger,” said Wing, when asked to describe Mauney’s locker room presence. “There (isn’t anybody) else like J.B. Mauney. That’s for (darn) sure.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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