FORT WORTH, Texas ― In the early-morning hours of Sunday, May 12, Frank Newsom found himself standing outside a Las Vegas hospital with J.B. Mauney.
Newsom and his wife, Dea, had driven Mauney, who is married to Dea's second cousin Lexie, there so he could be examined for what turned out to be a couple broken ribs following the Last Cowboy Standing event at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Mauney was exhausted.
Defeated was more like it.
It had little to do with bucking off Showboat and getting roughed up on Saturday night or the broken ribs he had dislocated in a practice pen wreck a week earlier. It was more of a culmination of everything else.
Photo by Andy Watson / BullStockMedia.com.
In the arena, the 26-year-old was in the midst of what he has since called a slump ― though no one used that word at the time and certainly not him ― and at home he was a young adult with a young family on the verge of becoming a man.
To that point, Newsom knew Mauney needed some advice. As a matter of fact, the veteran bullfighter suspected Mauney wanted some guidance. However, it wasn't until then that he saw it in his eyes, and finally Newsom knew that he had an opportunity.
"After they checked him out we were standing out there on the curb," Newsom recalled. "We just kind of got to talking, you know, and I just told him how there's a point where a guy's got to change the way he's living. I had to and, I said, 'You're kind of at that point,' and he agreed. We got to talking about asking God into your life and letting Him be in charge.
"He was ready to hear it and it just worked out to where I was there, but, like I said, it's just him wanting to do it; and him doing it is what's making the difference."
A big difference between then and now, or years past and this year, would be how Mauney spent his summer break.
Recharging the batteries and healing the body
Aside from a couple one-day Touring Pro Division events and the week-long Calgary Stampede, he stayed home in Mooresville, N.C.
In addition to allowing his beat up and broken down body to fully heal, he spent time with his family and, more importantly, they spent the summer outside doing what Newsom termed "cowboy stuff."
Mauney worked cattle.
He bailed hay.
He rode horses with his wife, Lexie, and 2-year-old daughter, Bella.
Newsom has been a longtime friend and, in some ways, has mentored Mauney since he married into the family, or, at least, has been a big influence on the second-ranked bull rider in the world.
"After Vegas, he had some time, and went home and just got away from everything," Newsom said. "He got to where he was feeling good. He got his priorities right and got it set in his mind what he really wanted."
Mauney had solidified what Lexie calls "their family circle."
Those who know him best knew this moment was coming.
Growing up and being accountable
Although it might have seemed like he grew up overnight, like his career, Mauney had already stepped up in big moments away from the arena.
When his daughter was born, in March 2011, he was relentless in pursuing 50 percent custody ― he never once used the emotional toll of going to court as an excuse for not riding as well as he had in the past ― and made the first real changes with his lifestyle in an effort to be the same parent Tim and Lynne Mauney had been for him and his older sister, Jessie.
A year later, when he was ready to settle down and, perhaps, get married he rekindled his relationship with Lexie, whom he had previously dated in 2010.
They were married in May of 2012.
It had been a whirlwind of Built Ford Tough Series events and injuries until their first anniversary; and even though the three of them ― J.B., Lexie and Bella ― were inseparable, they had never really stopped to enjoy a prolonged time at home as just the three of them.
"Frank would always call it, 'You're in your own little bubble,'" Lexie said. "You do your own thing. What works for you and for us?"
She added, "J.B.'s in a good mindset when he's happy and that's just the way we want to keep it. Stay happy. Good positive attitude and just stay in our little bubble."
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray has often pointed out the fact that successful bull riders, or any elite athlete for that matter, are the ones who are just as successful in their personal life.
Making Frank and Lexi proud
Now, four short months have made a world of a difference for Mauney as he tries to win the one thing that has eluded him to this point in his professional bull riding career-a world title.
"I'm real proud of the way J.B.'s … turned things around," Newsom said. "I've kind of been down the same road myself and we actually talked about it in Vegas. Just to see him change and not only that, but have the success he's having just makes me happy for him."
It's all been part of growing up, getting older, becoming a man and maturing throughout the process. Through observation ― Lexie said Mauney has always looked up to Newsom even before they were married ― and, more recently, conversations he's figured it out.
Lexie has always had a close relationship with Frank and Dea.
Growing up in Paoli, Okla., she and her mother Lora Wigley lived with her maternal grandparents Wanda and Joe Lee Wigley. Lexie's grandmother and Dea's father are brother and sister.
When Joe Lee passed away in October 2006 ― the same year Lexie graduated from Paoli High School ― Frank became a father-figure in her life-hence the reason she and others often refer to him as "Uncle Frank."
While she took classes at East Central University, in nearby Ada, Okla., Newsom helped care for her horses and looked after the family. To this day ― despite living in Mooresville ― she speaks with Frank and Dea on a near-daily basis and sees Frank every weekend that she and J.B. travel to a BFTS event.
She's thankful that J.B. and Frank have a great deal of respect for one another.
In part, that respect is because of what they've accomplished in the arena and then partially from the way both turned around what Lexie called a "very wild" lifestyle.
"He's taking control of his own life," said Newsom, of what impresses him most about Mauney. "I'm just proud of him. I want to see him do good, and I really pray that a world title is in his future."
"I'm just so proud of him," said Lexie, sounding a bit like Uncle Frank and noting the importance of the "balance" Newsom taught Mauney.
Soft-spoken and yet direct with her thoughts, she added, "I don't ever count him out. I mean, he's riding really well and I'm proud of him. And he has grown up. I have seen a change in him because back in 2010 I was thinking, there's no way. We weren't ready to get married, but he has grown up a lot and I'm proud of him and, I think, he stands a good shot of winning it this year with the mindset he has and the determination."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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