PUEBLO, Colo. – J.W. Harris stood atop the shark cage at the WinStar World Casino and Resort’s outdoor arena and stared at the bull draft board on the big screen. After seeing Joao Ricardo Viera and J.B. Mauney select Jack Daniel’s After Party and Asteroid respectively, he could have chosen a more rider-friendly bull with the third pick in the draft.
Instead, he picked arguably one of the hardest bulls to ride in the Built Ford Tough Series by selecting Mick E Mouse. It was an old school, classic cowboy selection as he paired himself up against a formidable foe.
The four-time PRCA champion then put forth one of his most impressive performances in his short PBR career by matching every move by the undefeated Mick E Mouse before being shed at the last second.
Harris looked up and the clock read 7.47 seconds. The 28-year-old became the closest rider to ending Mick E Mouse’s streak of 22-consecutive buckoffs, which now stands at 23 thanks to Harris being the World Champion Bull contender’s latest victim.
The right-handed bull rider may not have bested Mick E Mouse, but what Harris did do is reassure everyone through his selection of Marlene Henry’s rank bull that he is not losing confidence in his ability to compete on the BFTS despite beginning the weekend with only six rides in 18 attempts.
Harris said earlier in the night that he wasn’t letting his lack of success lead to any cloud of doubt in his mind.
“I have been around it long enough. You ride your way into it and you ride your way out of it,” Harris said. “I don’t get caught up in any of that crap. That is bad for your health.
“I really think it’s just me being lazy and just going out there and going through the motions instead of going out there and riding bulls and worrying to much about what they did in the past. (This weekend) I just showed up and got on.”
Well, his confidence was at a high on Saturday night after he rode Little Bighorn for 86 points in the second round to push himself into third place. It was only the third event of the season that the May, Texas, native has recorded multiple rides. He had previously reached the 8-second mark on Jo Jo for 86.75 points in Round 1.
Harris was feeling real good after his second round ride.
“It’s about damn time,” he said. “Man, I have been riding like crap at these deals. There is no excuse for the way I am riding. I have to pull my head out of my ass and ride better.”
He entered the weekend in a 0-for-5 slump and had ridden just one bull in his last 10 BFTS attempts. After receiving his original three exemptions to compete on the BFTS starting in Fresno, California, Harris has failed to crack the Top 30 of the world standings and has been competing as an alternate.
This weekend he began to once again demonstrate glimpses of the potential talent he has to contend with some of the PBR’s best. His 86.75-point ride on Jo Jo was the second highest scored ride of his BFTS career and it certainly takes a talented rider to challenge Mick E Mouse the way that he did in the championship round.
“I thought he was going to ride him and I still think he is going to ride him,” two-time World Champion Justin McBride said. “I still believe in that statement. I am not taking it back and I think he will pick him again and he will ride Mick E Mouse. He understands how to ride rank bulls and the things you have to do and the position you have to be in.
“I know he is disappointed in not riding Mick E Mouse, but he is going to be able to sleep and look himself in the mirror.”
Harris wound up placing fourth in the event average; it was his second-best finish of his career and he is now up to 31st in the world standings.
In the spring, Harris was primarily competing at PBR events once a week. Although, throughout his PRCA career he has been accustomed to getting on bulls throughout a seven-day period in which he could generate plenty of momentum. Harris competed at a rodeo last Wednesday at the Colorado State Fair before arriving in Thackerville on Thursday for a variety of public relations functions.
He doesn’t believe the balancing act of competing on both circuits – when he can – has negatively affected him. If anything, competing during the week helps him, something that McBride believes as well.
“It is making me ride better,” Harris said. “The more I get on the better I ride, but that is still no excuse.”
Harris added that he wasn’t feeling the pressure of trying to earn a spot on tour this season, but he admits he was getting a little caught up in trying to “prove” he belonged. He has realized he just needs to relax and do what he does best.
“No not really,” he said. “I am just trying to save face because I ride better than what I’ve been doing. I think I was really trying to prove that I do actually belong here. (Shoot), I ain’t got nothing to prove to anybody, except for myself.
“Whatever the naysayers want to say, they can say, and I am going to keep on doing what I do.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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