NEW YORK ― Last year, when the season started in New York, L.J. Jenkins was something of an afterthought when it came to the conversation of world title contenders.
Jenkins wasn't among the usual suspects - Silvano Alves, Valdiron de Oliveira, J.B. Mauney, Fabiano Vieira and Guilherme Marchi.
What a difference a year can make.
The 25-year-old won't be quietly asserting himself in the race in 2013. In fact, Jenkins, who finished 2012 ranked third in the world standings, has been in New York all week representing the PBR on a whirlwind pre-event publicity tour that continues today, prior to the start of the Monster Energy Invitational at Madison Square Garden.
"I had points in my career where, yeah, I could contend, but I have to put it all together," said Jenkins, who explained that in 2012, it took until March to get on a roll. "Last year was kind of a breakthrough season for me."
Sure he finished eighth in the world standings in 2011 - the first time he'd finished in the Top 10 since finishing seventh in 2006 - but in seven prior seasons, he hadn't consistently kept himself up in the Top 5, especially down the stretch.
In 2012, he spent the last three months of the BFTS season ranked in the Top 3, including a two-week stint as the No. 1 rider in the world.
He recorded a career-high nine Top 5 finishes and had a career-best streak of eight Top-10 finishes in a row. Jenkins finished second in bulls attempted (93), finished fourth in bulls ridden (49), seventh in riding percentage (52.69) and he also had four round wins.
"I know I'm a world title contender now."
"Last year, nobody put me in there," said Jenkins, of the pre-season list of potential World Champions. "Even after all the Top 10s, they were, 'He's doing good,' and then all of a sudden, it just hit them and they were like, 'He's No. 1 now.' And then finally, they started to (say) I could be a world title contender. That's my main goal: start off the year good and roll through it all year."
While it was a season to remember, Jenkins was less than content with the outcome.
On Thursday, while co-hosting the Monster-Energy-sponsored bull weigh-in outside of Madison Square Garden, Jenkins said that he and J.B. Mauney had some unfinished business in 2013, and would be "back with a vengeance."
In fact, he boldly proclaimed they would finish the season as the Top-2 ranked riders in the world.
"I think this year's going to be a lot better, because I've seen 1.6 seconds in my head since the PBR Finals-that's what I came up short winning the world title last year," Jenkins said, "so it just gives me that drive to keep going.
"I know I'm a world title contender now. I just have to keep it all together."
Although 2012 may have marked his arrival as a legitimate contender, Jenkins had already long since established his potential.
Jenkins' success and career earnings of nearly $1.5 million has him listed 14th among the all-time money-earners.
However, one major difference is that Jenkins is no longer considered a rider long on potential. A year after no one considered him for their list, he's among the short list of potential riders capable of dethroning Alves, who is the first back-to-back, two-time defending World Champion in PBR history.
"I don't think it's going to change much," he said about his approach. "I'm here to do one job, and that's ride the bulls that I have drawn. I'm just hope that I'm fortunate enough to have the good year that I had last year.
"As far as pressure, I'm not going to put (anymore) pressure on myself. I mean, this is what I do for a living. It's what I've done for my whole life, so I know what I'm doing, and I don't need to let any pressure get in my way."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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