New York (January 10, 2011) - No rider in the recent history of the PBR has shown as much enthusiasm as Ben Jones.
The 31-year-old from Australia admits that he’s “always been hyper,” despite the lessons his mentor Troy Dunn has tried teaching him over the years.
Dunn, a former PBR World Champion and fellow Aussie, has tried to impart to Jones the importance of controlling his emotions – both competitively and in his personal life. Instead of being able to adjust his emotions, though, Jones joked, “I’ve always been stuck on high.”
That outward display was very apparent Sunday afternoon in New York.
Jones became the first of two riders to cover all five bulls at the Madison Square Garden Invitational to start off the 2011 Built Ford Tough Series. After covering Voodoo Child for 91 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, Jones hopped atop the shark cage for the second time and celebrated to the delight of the audience.
“We seem to click a bit, me and the fans,” Jones said. “I don’t really know what it is, but we’re really clicking, and I really can’t thank them enough. Without them I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
After a misspent youth that left Jones living in a metal shed in the middle of the Outback, he has turned his career and his life around.
In fact, this past off-season, Jones returned home to Australia and spent a quiet holiday season with his immediate family for the first time in seven years.
“I just really got my head together right,” said Jones, who is coming off his best season as a pro after nearly having his career derailed by drugs and crime. “Just feeling good.”
With a support system in place and a determination to make the most of his second chance here in the United States, Jones is intent on establishing himself as a Top 10 contender in 2011.
Jones harkenend back to a time late last season, when two-time World Champion Justin McBride pulled him aside and shared a few thoughts.
“He was just trying to get into my head to just settle down and let the bulls buck underneath you, instead of trying to make the bulls buck, just go for a ride and enjoy it,” said Jones, who finished the first event second in the average behind Valdiron de Oliveira.
News and Notes
Valdiron de Oliveira spent time this offseason working to improve his English skills. Sunday afternoon the 31-year-old from Brazil recorded his first audio interview for www.pbr.com.
“I have a lot of friends in New York,” said Oliveira, who is among the most consistent riders in the past five years. “I like it because it’s a big city. … I love to ride in New York and twice I win it in New York. … I was surprised, because for two years I win the first event of the new calendar year. It’s good for me because I’m more confident and more focused because I win.”
Ryan Dirteater didn’t make the Championship Round, but the Cherokee Kid was more than happy to be competing at the BFTS level. “It’s something I’ve been waiting for for over a year now, and it’s good to be back riding at this level ,” he said afterward.
After 14 months of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Dirteater was 2-for-3 this weekend, and said he feels 100 percent healthy.
“I’m on a mission,” said Dirteater, who emphasized the importance of staying healthy. “I just have to forget about the past, prepare for the future and live in the present. … Just keep living my dream and doing what I always wanted to do since I was itty-bitty. I’m not a rookie anymore. I have to take care of my body.”
Jordan Hupp is not one to boast about himself, but the Wyoming cowboy did say he expects to be a contender throughout the 2011 season. He just doesn’t want to predict that he’ll be the champion, because it’s never worked out when he spoke up in the past.
“I feel like I ride better every day than the day before,” he said. “I feel really sure of myself, and I think it is going to be a big year for me. I’m not going to brag about tomorrow and all the great things I’m going to do, because I don’t know – this is bull riding and guys get hurt, things happen. I feel like I’ve got all the potential in the world and I feel like I should be one of the top guys at the end of the year.”
After riding his first bull of the season and covering two of his first three, Hupp said it felt good to start off a new season strong, especially considering there’s a cut every five BFTS events. Even in the midst of the first event, he was aware of it.
“You get five events and then there’s a cut,” said Hupp. “Everybody knows it, and so every event that goes by that you’re not getting points and helping to secure a spot, it’s a little more pressure on you. … You can’t worry about, of course, because then it becomes a burden on you and it hinders you. You go out and you ride bulls and you know it’s there, but you don’t focus on it.”
Cody Campbell made big strides a year ago, and in 2011 he expects to continue improving. “I feel like I’ve settled in a lot the last couple years and this is going to be my year,” he said. “I’m feeling great, I’m feeling confident and I’m ready for the year and to take it on. I want to be a Top 10 rider.”
During the offseason he took time to heal – he hurt his shoulder during the Finals – and said he couldn’t feel any better than he does. Now it’s a matter of consistently covering his bulls, because as he put it, he knows he’s capable of riding the rankest bulls in the world.
“I know I belong here,” said Campbell, who finished the first event eighth in the average. “Every one of us that’s here can win the event. We all have the ability. … Every one of the guys here can win an event, but not everybody here is going to win a world title. That’s just the way it is.”
L.J. Jenkins did something in New York he hadn’t been able to accomplish the past couple of years: start the season with a sense of confidence and consistency. He finished the event 3-for-5 and said he feels great.
“This break has kind of helped me,” Jenkins said. “I kind of went back to the basics and having fun with it. I would get on bulls at the house and I haven’t gotten on bulls at the house in a long time. I’m just going back to having fun and riding bulls.
“The last couple of years I hadn’t had a good start and I was fighting the cut, and this year I wanted to come out and ride like I can. … Whenever you’re fixing to get cut you’re not worried about the bull, you’re just worried about staying on, and that has a lot to play into it. Whenever you’re winning and having fun, you don’t care about anything.”