PUEBLO, Colo. – A younger J.B. Mauney would likely not have taken the past month off to rehab his torn left ACL that caused him to miss five Built Ford Tough Series events until this past weekend’s event in Des Moines, Iowa.
It is almost hard to believe that the 28-year-old had never gone to physical therapy during his 10-year professional career until this past March.
“I didn’t want to listen when I was younger,” Mauney said this weekend after using 560 points to win the Des Moines Invitational in his first event back since tearing his ACL in Fresno, California. “I was hard-headed and thought I could just get by healing on my own or not even quitting. I would just keep riding on through it.”
Mauney has been battered, bruised and beaten since making his PBR debut in 2006 at the BFTS event in Portland, Oregon. He has sustained various injuries to nearly every part of his 5-foot-10-inch, 140-pound body.
Throughout his career, especially in his early years, he would repeatedly gather himself back up and return for a chance at making 8 seconds no matter how much pain he was in.
There were certainly times he probably should have taken a few weeks off or put more time in rehabbing an injury instead of trying to be a “grizzly bear” and fight his way through it.
Simply put, toughness was never a question when it came to the Mooresville, North Carolina cowboy.
It is partially why Mauney’s wife, Lexie, admitted she was surprised when her husband decided to listen to doctors and participate in physical therapy in March.
In fact, she didn’t even have to twist his arm.
“He actually went to physical therapy, I was really surprised,” Lexie said. “He knew his knee was hurt really bad. He had no range in motion what so ever. He knew he needed some physical therapy or something. After we got home from after he injured it, he was icing it and keeping it elevated.
“He didn’t really take care of his body when he was younger and the older he is getting he is feeling it a lot more.”
Lexie added that the time off was not only good for J.B. physically, but mentally as well.
Prior to the injury, J.B. had gone 2-for-10.
“He was really fighting his head a lot there before he got hurt,” Lexie said. “I don’t like the circumstances of him getting hurt to give him a break, but it was also good for him mentally.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said earlier this season that he believed a key for Mauney this season would be to take time off if he were to ever get hurt. Lambert said that Mauney could compete in just two-thirds of the season and still win the World Championship.
Despite missing five of the 16 events so far this year, Mauney is still just 1,102.5 points behind world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira following his win in Des Moines.
Even though he had taken time off to rehab his injury, Mauney still approached the Des Moines Invitational with the determination that he could fight through any pain his left knee, which clearly was causing him fits at times inside the bucking chute.
“I feel alright,” Mauney said. “I have dealt with injuries that have hurt a lot more riding with them. It hurts, but everybody has to deal with pain riding bulls. The brace that I got on my knee, the stretches I do before I get on loosen it up – so it feels good. Landing on it hurts and makes it stiff, but as far as riding with it, it feels pretty good.
“More or less you have to get inside your head and tell yourself that you can do it no matter what. That is what I tell myself before I get in the bucking chute. You never, never give up no matter what.”
Mauney earned the event win by riding Crooked Face for a second-round high 89.5 points. He also rode Celling Bioscience’s Jukebox Hero for a second-place finish in Round 1. He bucked off Modified Clyde in 3.24 seconds during the championship round and lasted 3.52 seconds on Air Time during the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride admitted that he was by no means a “gym rat,” in the early part of his career, but he eventually realized that age and wear-and-tear begin to take its toll.
McBride says that realization is part of the maturation of being a professional in the latter half of your career.
“It is just part of growing up,” McBride said. “I went through the same things. I was never a gym rat and then you go through an injury and you have to. That is part of it. For somebody like J.B. Mauney, he can’t stand being mediocre. So then he is going to have to do whatever it takes to get back to his winning form. For him, at this point in his life and age, it is going to the gym and physical therapy.”
Mauney plans on continuing to go to physical therapy at least twice a week until he is cleared by doctors. He then expects to continue rehabbing at home with Lexie, who used to work as a physical therapy assistant.
“You get a little older and you have to do things a little different I guess,” he said. “I wish I would have taken care of my body a little better than I did when I was younger, but that is the way it goes. Better late than never.”
Mauney ranks second all-time with 23 BFTS victories and he has finished inside the Top 10 of the world standings in eight consecutive seasons. He has finished runner-up for the world title twice and was a Top-3 finisher four straight seasons from 2007-10.
Yet, does the 2013 World Champion ever wonder what may have been if he took different care of his body or handled previous injuries differently?
“I thought about it a lot,” Mauney said. “I accomplished the main goal I wanted to and that was to be a World Champion. If I had taken care of my body a little better it may have come sooner, it may have come later. You never know. That is the thing with bull riding, you never want to look back and say ‘what if’ because yesterday is forgotten and today is a new day.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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