If you were to ask professional bull rider L.J. Jenkins what it is like to ride a bull for eight seconds, he said it depends.
“Whenever you are riding good, and everything is clicking, it seems like it is coming really fast,” Jenkins said. “But when you are struggling to get a bull rode, you think that you are running 15 seconds. It is a little longer eight seconds that just walking up and down the street for eight seconds.”
On Saturday, Jenkins, 26 — a native of Springfield, Mo., who now lives in Porum, Okla. — was at First Community Bank, 3005 Gardner-Edgewood Drive, Neosho, to sign autographs for children. Later that night, Jenkins went to Crowder College Roughriders Area for the L.J. Jenkins Riding for the ATV Bull Riding Challenge. The best of the best bulls and their riders from the Midwest were slated to be on hand for the one-night event to raise funds to provide scholarships.
“It is kind of a family deal: my dad did it, my brother did it. I was born and raised in Springfield, I have done it ever since I was 6 years old,” he said.
Asked if he saw himself doing bull riding for the rest of his life, Jenkins said, “I think maybe the first couple of years I was just doing it for fun. But then I kind of realized, ‘well hey, this is what I kind of want to do for a living.’ Just like any other kid, I looked up to the great bull riders that you are watching on TV every week. I wanted to do it. I got into steer riding, I started getting better and better, then by the time I was riding junior bulls, I kind of had my mind set that is where I wanted to be.”
When asked how hard is it to ride a bull, Jenkins said that also depends.
“You know, when things are going good, it is not hard at all,” he said. “But when things go bad, it is all timing, it is all in your head. People think that you have to have all of the strength in the world to ride a bull, I have never been to the gym. I do it strictly on balance, knowing the bull, kind of knowing what they are going to do. Like I said, whenever it goes bad, it could go bad for a while until you get things turned around. Whenever you are doing good and you are feeling confident, you just ride better. It is way easier to have more fun.”
Jenkins has been the professional circuit for 10 years. He’s a nine-time PBR (Professional Bull Riders) World Finals qualifier (2005-13) — winning the PBR World Finals event in 2006.
“That is probably my biggest highlight,” said Jenkins.
He currently competes in the PBR and has previously competed with such elite levels as the CBR (Championship Bull Riding) and PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) He’s a 2011 PRCA National Finals Rodeo qualifier and was a CBR finals event qualifier in 2004.
Asked if when he gets on the bull if it is hard to concentrate with crowd cheering him on, he said, “You have got the crowd, I don’t even hear them,” he said. “I rode in Dallas Cowboy Stadium in front of 50,000 people and I could not hear one person. Whenever you are in the chute, all you care about is staying on that bull, you don’t even hear nothing. The only thing that I listen for is that whistle.”
Jenkins said he enjoyed signing autographs Saturday.
“It is great,” he said. “Especially whenever I take that time out to talk to a kid, their parents come and say, ‘that is really great,’ you go to another sport, there is no way that you are going to get a basketball player, football player, come sit down and sign autographs for two hours.”
He also encourages others to become bull riders.
“I have a place at my house that we buck bulls, I help out a bunch of younger kids coming up,” Jenkins said. “This sport is growing, it is getting bigger and bigger. We need to get our youth started at a young age. A lot of guys don’t start until later on, because (their) parents don’t want them to. There are some young kids out there, 13, 12 years old, that ride really good that need to keep on going. So I do the best that I can to help out all of the kids. This sport is growing and we want it to keep growing with that.”