FORT WORTH, Texas ― The timing couldn’t have been any better for J.W. Harris.
Last week, the four-time PRCA champion was among four riders, which also included Cody Teel, Sage Kimzey and Guytin Tsosie, that were offered three Built Ford Tough Series exemptions beginning this week in Fresno, Calif.
Harris, who originally missed the initial phone call and suspected Jay Daugherty was calling to offer him some Touring Pro Division events when the Senior Vice President of Competition followed with a text that said he had an opportunity for him.
“I was thinking, well, maybe they didn’t fill a (TPD event) somewhere or something like that,” said Harris, who wasted no time accepting the exemptions once he spoke with Daugherty. “I was like, ‘Well, I guess, I’ll be there.’”
Harris and Tsosie, who accepted his offer last Sunday in Albuquerque, N.M., will both compete in Fresno followed by Nampa, Idaho, and Billings, Mont.
In-arena announcer Clint Adkins, who knows Harris and has followed his rodeo career, said he’s excited to see Harris compete on the BFTS along with the Top 35 riders in the world.
Adkins described Harris as an extremely talented bull rider.
“I thought about what the first thing I’m going to ask him,” said Adkins, who referred to Harris as veteran who knows what he needs to do the next three weeks, “and I’m going to say, ‘What took you so long?’”
He added, “I wish I could have seen him here 10 years ago.”
Longtime PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert said, “J.W. Harris has been one of those of those guys who looked like he can do it at this level for a long time. … I like him. I like the way he rides. His dad is a friend of mine that rode good when he rode. Shoot, I’m thinking this would be the greatest opportunity in the world for J.W. and his family.”
Neither Harris nor Tsosie will take away from the 35 regular spots.
Instead they will compete as the 36th and 37th riders in the draw.
Tsosie called the BFTS the biggest stage in bull riding.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Tsosie, who rode 2-of-4 bulls at the Ty Murray Invitational, including an 88.5 point-effort on David’s Dream in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. “I’m getting to be a part of it and it’s just a dream come true.”
The reigning International Indian Finals Rodeo Champion said he went to Albuquerque hoping to ride one or two bulls, but never imagined being invited beyond the one event.
“It’s a lot to take in right now,” he said.
PBR Chairman and CEO Jim Haworth said, “We’ve got the best athletes in the world – bull riders and bulls – it’s really important that we continue to look for some of those athletes that are out there. That’s why we’ll continue to look for exemptions where we can build on that.”
Just over 21 years ago, the PBR hosted its first events by inviting the top PRCA riders in the world.
Tsosie is now 4 –for-10 with one Top-10 finish in three career BFTS events. He’s currently ranked 51st in the world standings after one BFTS event and is roughly 300 points behind the last alternate positions.
Tsosie finished seventh in Albuquerque and earned 459.25 points.
Harris will be making his BFTS debut.
He’s competed at a few TPD events and is 107th in the standings, which is roughly 650 points shy of earning an alternate spot in the draw.
Fresno and Nampa are worth a maximum of 900 points each, while Billings is a three-day event worth 1,200 for a three-week total of 3,000 points.
The 27-year-old has won four of the past six PRCA titles and everyone throughout the Western world will certainly be watching the Mullin, Texas, cowboy. In fact, upon receiving their invitations, Teel and Kimzey both asked Harris if he was planning to accept the offer.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, why wouldn’t I?’ Harris said. “I said, ‘Shoot man, it’s a cool deal. I can go there do really good and then get on tour and it’s an opportunity that I don’t have to go to all these (TPD events) to get on tour.’ I said, ‘I’m going to make the most of it.’
“Whatever they want to do, but I’m going there to enjoy it and have fun.”
Teel, who won the PRCA title in 2012, broke his ankle last week in Houston and had surgery this week, while the PBR hasn’t heard a definitive answer from Kimzey, who is the current top-ranked bull rider in the PRCA.
In its only contact with the 19-year-old, Kimzey indicated he would not be available for the Fresno event.
According to Daugherty, the offer for Teel and Kimzey still stands.
Harris concluded, “I don’t feel like I have anything to prove.
“The way I’m going at it is it’s another bull riding that pays a lot of money. I’m going to go in there and have fun and give’er (heck).”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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