By: Justin Felisko
July 30, 2018
PUEBLO, Colo. – J.B. Mauney was sitting inside the locker room at the Ford Idaho Center many years ago, pissed off and ticked that he had let an opportunity at a victory pass him.
The younger Mauney was hot-tempered to say the least.
A bad weekend or evening in the arena would sometimes lead to a series of objects thrown or punched, while vulgarity echoed off the cinderblock walls of PBR arenas.
Mauney was finally about calmed down when PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert walked in.
“Cody Lambert saw me sitting there by myself and told me then, ‘Man I never seen somebody that reminds me as much of Lane (Frost) as you,’” Mauney recalled last year. “He told me that I was built like him. Tall, lanky and kind of rode like him. The moves I made on bulls was almost just like him.’”
Mauney admittedly was stunned to be in the conversation alongside Frost.
He knows the two have different personalities, but to even be considered in the same physical and athletic category as the bull riding legend was a little bit astounding.
Mauney replied to Lambert, “Really?”
Mauney later explained, “Cody Lambert doesn’t give out compliments very often. It kind of surprised me.”
Lambert recalls the conversation, but he also remembers a part that he kept to himself.
“At that point, when I told J.B. that, what I kept to myself was that Lane rode better,” Lambert explained. “But that is not the case. J.B. has continued to get better. He is in his league now. That is a real compliment. He rides that good.
“I look at Lane as one of the all-time greats. J.B. is every bit that good.”
Lambert made those comments last year, two months before the Calgary Stampede as Mauney was closing in on 500 qualified rides on the PBR’s premier series.
Monday is the 29th anniversary of Frost’s death at the 1989 Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo. The 1987 PRCA bull riding champion was 25 years old.
Even though Mauney was surprised by Lambert’s high compliment, Mauney also could see why.
Mauney has been studying Frost since he was 16 years old.
As a teenager, Mauney would plop in the VHS tape – and later a DVD – of Frost’s famous bull riding instructional video series: “Bull Talk.”
Frost teaches the fundamentals of how to ride bulls, and it is still available for purchase today. The Colorado cowboy begins by reviewing the equipment he uses to ride. He then takes viewers into the chute and how to use one’s equipment.
Mauney’s favorite part of the series is when Frost discusses his strategies of how to ride and get off a bull, including his legendary rides aboard Red Wolf.
“I watch that quite regular,” Mauney, who still studies Frost today, said. “I like watching his rides. The way he breaks them down and goes through them. I have been watching that, nobody knew that, for I don’t know how long.”
Mauney doesn’t believe he is a carbon copy of Frost by any means, but he definitely saw enough of a physical similarity that he could take some tips from Frost.
Frost was listed at 5-foot-11-inches and 145 pounds, whereas Mauney comes in at 5-foot-10, 140 pounds.
“I try to not ride exactly like him, but the way he moved, and I felt like I was built like him,” Mauney said. “I am kind of a little taller and lankier than most guys. He was built the same way. I just like the way he went about it and the way he broke it down. Watching them rides, I don’t go through all the fundamental parts where he does it on a horse and stuff. I skip through and go to where it is just his rides and watch those and how he breaks those down.”
In particular, Mauney really studied Frost’s use of his free arm when riding bulls away from his left hand.
Mauney appreciated Frost’s aggressiveness with bulls that spun to the right, and he saw how well Frost could maintain the sweet spot of being aggressive, but also in control.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, cowboy also rides with his left hand.
“A lot of people say don’t whip your free arm behind you, and you are not supposed to, that is the rule of thumb,” Mauney said. “You can get by with it as long as you come back to the same spot. Back to base. That is kind of how he was. He would kind of whip his whole arm around, but as soon as he would whip it, he would bring it right back forward and to the front. As long as you do that, then you are never really going to get whipped out of shape.”
Mauney has been working on getting his free arm back into form following last year’s career-threatening shoulder surgery after he sustained serious injuries at the Calgary Stampede. Then this past April, Mauney broke his back attempting to ride the late and rank Pearl Harbor.
The 31-year-old has admitted this season that he has yet to regain the kind of fluid motion that he once had in his shoulder, but each day and each bull attempted is another step in the right direction.
Mauney is only 7-for-22 (31.82 percent) on the premier series in eight events. He is 2-for-7 in two summer events.
The future PBR Ring of Honor inductee has fallen to 39th in the world standings, but he will not be subject to the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast cutline because of injury and World Champion exemptions.
Mauney, though, will need to be inside the Top 35 to qualify for the PBR World Finals on Nov. 7-11.
There is still plenty of time for Mauney to accomplish that.
He trails No. 35 Colten Jesse by only 55.84 points.
Lambert isn’t concerned about Mauney missing the World Finals either, and he stuck by his comparison on Monday morning despite Mauney going through one of the toughest patches of his career physically.
Injuries are part of the game, and Lambert believes Mauney can turn things around when the stretch run to the 2018 PBR World Finals begins in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Aug. 11.
“Injuries played a part in Lane’s career too,” Lambert said. “Lane was only 25 years old when he died, but nobody, including Lane, rode as well when they were hurt than when they did when they are healthy. J.B.’s shoulder doesn’t work the same as it did. With J.B.’s loose, fluid type of riding, his shoulder is tighter than it used to be. He looks a little different in that aspect on one that really bucks hard. He hasn’t been able to ride one that really bucks hard like he has his entire career before. He has been able to ride some good ones, but the rank ones like the ones guys like only J.B. can ride, he hasn’t ridden them yet. I still expect him to.
“I have no doubt in my mind that someday he is going to lose his ability to do that. Everybody loses that ability at some point when age, the injuries, the miles and the rest catch up to you. I don’t know when that time is. I don’t sit around speculating on it either. I hope to see J.B. ride like he can and like he has been capable if his entire career, but someday he won’t be able to. That is part of the deal.”
Lambert is still unsure if Mauney will regain his championship form from three years ago, but he wouldn’t be surprised if Mauney did either.
“I already have seen him have some success with that shoulder,” Lambert added. “He made two good rides on two decent bulls at Calgary with his shoulder where he is at right now. I honestly haven’t seen the J.B. that won two World Championships. Maybe we will. Maybe we won’t. But in my mind, he is still better than most, but I don’t think better than most will satisfy J.B.”
As Mauney stood there and reflected last year about Frost, the normally well-polished interviewee became at a loss for words.
What would he ask Frost or say to him if he ever had the chance to meet him?
“There is no telling. I don’t know what I would say,” Mauney said before agreeing he would probably be a little starstruck.
“Well, as much as I watch that DVD, and I watch YouTube videos of him at old bull ridings, I don’t know what I would say.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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