NEW YORK – 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood hoisted his left leg up and placed his foot on the bench inside the locker room at T-Mobile Arena this past November.
Lockwood then leaned forward and began to stretch out his groin muscles.
It may seem trivial, but it was one thing Lockwood stopped doing in 2018.
The third-year pro was already eliminated from the world title race come Round 1 of the 2018 World Finals. His championship title defense season had already gone far from how he would have wanted.
Lockwood had begun the second half with an opportunity to make a push at the 2018 world title four months earlier, but the then No. 7 ranked bull rider hurt his groin during the Music City Knockout in Nashville attempting to ride Locke & Loaded (6.11 seconds) in August. He then re-aggravated the injury in his first event back in September during his 70-point ride on Powder Puff in Springfield, Missouri.
Lockwood then opted to simply shut things down until the PBR World Finals.
So as he began to stretch and get loose for the 2018 PBR World Finals, Lockwood, who had missed the final two months of the regular season, was already thinking ahead to 2019.
“Next year I’ll be good,” Lockwood said as he continued to stretch in the corner.
There were no TV cameras in his face or any other interview requests. Such is life when you are out for two months and are no longer in the world title race.
Lockwood, who would go on to finish 12th in the world standings, took the blame for his sub-par season.
“I’m not going to be halfhearted about the whole thing as I was this year,” Lockwood said. I’m going to be going, going and going.”
So what exactly happened?
Well, Lockwood believes a big part of his struggles led to him getting away from the simple things he did in 2017.
“I wasn’t doing yoga or stretching this year” Lockwood said. “That is why I tore my groin. That is why I was hurt so much. I wasn’t training and stretching as much. I just thought, ‘Ah, whatever.’”
Why did he go away from what worked?
“Man, I honestly don’t know,” Lockwood said. “I guess I changed up my little workout programs. I planned on stretching after working out and then I would get in a hurry and be impatient. I would be like, ‘Screw it. I’m young.’
“I am glad I learned it early on in my career. Yoga is just as good or even better for you than any weight lifting you could do.”
There was also another surprise at the time of the 2018 PBR World Finals.
The World Champion had yet to be named to the Team USA Eagles squad by coach Justin McBride for the 2019 WinStar World Casino& Resort Global Cup USA in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 9-10.
“If he wasn’t going to pick me to be on the team, then that was going to be his decision,” Lockwood said. “But, of course, I wanted to be on the team.”
Lockwood had previously skipped the Global Cup event in Edmonton that Team USA won last November because of injuries, and he then went a surprising 1-for-3 at the Sydney Global Cup in June.
Lockwood’s struggles in Sydney and his recent groin injury gave reason to pause, but Lockwood made sure to do his best to show McBride he was ready for the first Global Cup event to be held on American soil.
Lockwood went 4-for-6 and finished seventh overall in the event average at the 2018 World Finals.
A few weeks later, PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert encouraged Lockwood to call McBride.
“I told him, ‘Put me on your team,’” Lockwood said. “’I will stay on my bulls for you and help this team win.’”
McBride officially named Lockwood to the Team USA squad on Thursday in New York City ahead of this weekend’s Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden, presented by Ariat.
“Jess looked pretty damn good (at the Finals), especially for not being on any bulls,” McBride said.
The two-time World Champion and three-time Global Cup coach said last week that he appreciated the phone call from Lockwood.
It was a sign that Lockwood was ready to do all he could to help Team USA try and regain its global dominance.
“I wasn’t going to ask Jess about it,” McBride said. “If he wanted to be on the team, he could call me, and he did. We had a good talk, and I am glad we did because you want him to be a part of it because of the ability that he’s got.
“He just let me know he was ready to ride, and he was ready to be a part of the team. And he was ready to show up with a good attitude and get on whatever we need him to ride. To go win.”
Lockwood said he is excited to try to redeem himself from his Sydney shortcomings and help the Americans attempt to regain the Global Cup trophy next month at AT&T Stadium. Team USA finished in fourth place behind Team Brazil, Team Australia and Team Canada, but one more qualified ride could have led to a victory.
“I didn’t ride too great there,” Lockwood admitted. “My first one, anyone can stay on that bull. That second one, he was a little bit of a handful, but I should have rode him. I am excited to be on the team and ride, especially ride the rank bulls that are going to separate the real bull riders from the fake bull riders. Props to Brazil for winning in Australia, but it is going to be a whole different ballgame getting on the best bulls in the world.”
Lockwood went 21-for-54 (38.89 percent) last year on the premier series with one event win (Sioux Falls, South Dakota), one 15/15 Bucking Battle victory (Tulsa, Oklahoma), two 90-point rides and seven Top-10s. He only had three Top-5 finishes in 2018.
The 21-year-old also won five rounds compared to nine in 2017.
“Last year, Jess didn’t want to ride,” McBride said. “He didn’t want to ride much, period, whether you were talking Global Cup or what. Jess is a guy I really like, and I would love to see him do good, but Jess has to figure some of that stuff out. That is for him to figure out. If he wants to try and win more, or if he wants to be done being an elite guy, then that is up to him. You can’t make anybody ride. You can sign them up and you can put them on, but you can’t make them ride. They have to want to do that.
“I think Jess is back there and he wants to ride. We had some conversations. He wants to be a part of the team and he wants to show up and ride. That is all I need out of him. He is a young guy and everything, but he has accomplished quite a bit, and he has to be a guy that is willing to step up and win it. He can’t be a guy that is just looking to somebody else to win it. He has to be that guy.”
Matt Triplett was also selected to the team by McBride on Thursday.
The duo joins 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, Cody Nance, 2012 PRCA champion Cody Teel and Chase Outlaw on the Eagles.
The final two riders will be announced on Friday night prior to the start of the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden.
Lockwood is first going to turn his attention to the beginning of the 2019 Unleash The Beast, which kicks off Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Fans can watch Round 1 exclusively on RidePass beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Lockwood has drawn Bandit for Round 1. He will then take on Udder Lover during the 15/15 Bucking Battle later that evening.
CBS national television will broadcast the first 15/15 Bucking Battle of 2019 at noon ET Saturday.
Lockwood won the season-opening PBR Major in New York two years ago and would go on to win the World Championship 10 months later.
He has spent the last month and a half since the 2018 Finals training like he did prior to the 2017 season.
That meant less weightlifting and more stretching and hot yoga.
“I am crazy flexible right now,” Lockwood concluded. “Now I know what I did in 2017 is what worked for me. What I did last year didn’t work for me. It is one of those things you live and you learn. I should be good for this year.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2019 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.