PUEBLO, Colo. – In the days and weeks after being involved in a head-on collision that killed an elderly Texas couple on June 6 in Brown County, Texas, 2014 PBR Rookie of the Year J.W. Harris and his wife, Jackie, have repeatedly reminded themselves just how lucky they and their two children are.
“Jackie and I have talked about it at least 100 times,” J.W. said on Wednesday morning. “At least we are still alive and worrying about PCL surgery and going to rehab for being sore. It could have been a lot worse.”
The Harris’ visited Dr. Tandy Freeman in Dallas following the accident for a follow-up appointment after the family first was treated at a local emergency room in Brown County for non-life threatening injuries.
J.W. had been experiencing pain in his right leg, as well as his back, following the car accident when the family decided to make a trip to Dallas.
Freeman diagnosed J.W. with a torn right PCL and informed the 29-year-old he would need another surgery and miss an additional six months.
“I got surgery last week,” Harris said. “I will be out six months and back near in January.”
Harris had just gotten off crutches after undergoing left hip surgery in April while he was recovering from right elbow surgery that he had done in February by renowned elbow specialist Dr. John Conway.
Harris had been nearing a return to Built Ford Tough Series competition, and specifically the Thackerville, Oklahoma, event on Sept. 3 before the car accident ended his already disappointing 2016 season that had begun with world title aspirations.
Harris was 3-for-7, including a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory in New York (88.75 points on Like a Boss), in three events this season. According to the PBR competition department, Harris will begin 2017 with five BFTS injury exemptions.
He plans on making a run at winning his fifth PRCA title, as well as his first PBR World Championship.
“We are going to go rodeos and bull ridings,” Harris said. “Yeah, might as well tear it all up again.”
Regardless, all of his bull riding goals are minor in terms of the big picture.
Harris is just thankful that his family is safe and sound after escaping a lethal car accident unscathed for the most part.
Harris also reached out to one of the sons of the elderly couple to offer his condolences.
According to the Brownwood Bulletin, the accident occurred at the railroad pass on U.S. Highway 84/183 between Early and Zephyr. The Bulletin learned that the elderly couple’s vehicle crossed into the oncoming lane at the railroad overpass where the highway condenses from four lanes to two – one in each direction.
Witnesses indicated that another vehicle may have contributed to the accident. As of Tuesday, Harris said no leads had been made about the third vehicle.
“They have a lot of wrecks up in that spot because it narrows down so bad and there is no shoulder or nothing,” he said. “I had seen these two trucks driving side-by-side and I tried to squeeze over, as far as I could, and by the time I tried to do anything that truck was on top of me. When we hit, I was hung in the shoulder.”
Before the car wreck, Harris said his body was 100 percent for the first time since he began riding in the PRCA in 2005.
Harris had decided to get hip surgery during his recovery from elbow surgery because the rehab time coincided with the time necessary to let his elbow heal.
Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd in Nashville cleaned up some bone spurs on Harris’ left hip and did a little microfracture surgery. He also moved some torn cartilage around.
“I had my hip worked on in April and I just got off crutches for my hip,” Harris said. “Shoot, I was feeling good and getting excited about getting ready to to get in shape for Thackerville.”
Harris may have to wait another six months, but he is excited to see what he can do in the PBR next year at 100 percent.
He had never been fully healthy since debuting on the BFTS in 2014.
“No not at all,” Harris admitted. “It was always something, whether it was the elbow or the hip. There was always something nagging. I never really complained about it and still could ride with that stuff. Finally, over time my arm just gave up on me. It just got tired.”
Come January, Harris will be ready to roll with a healthy elbow, hip and knee.
It has been a long, long time since he could say that.
“I think I will come back with the same form,” Harris concluded. “If anything, it should be better for me because, shoot, I don’t plan on having any troubles getting back at it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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