Montana’s Jess Lockwood overcomes injuries, more to become youngest PBR Champion
When PBR world champion Jess Lockwood was given his buckle after the last round of the PBR World Finals on November 5, he didn’t want to give it up.
The PBR needed to take it back, to get his name engraved on it, but he refused. Only after he gave it to his mom, Angie Lockwood, as he went to the press conference, did PBR officials get it.
“I wanted to tell them I know who won it, and the rest of the world knows who won it, and I don’t need my damn name on it,” he said.
The twenty-year-old cowboy, a Volborg, Montana resident, is the youngest man to ever win a PBR title.
Ever since he was little, he’s known he wanted to be a bull rider.
His dad, Ed Lockwood, rode bulls and saddle broncs, qualifying for the College National Finals Rodeo once in the bull riding and twice in the saddle bronc riding.
But after he and Angie married and had their sons, Jess, and Jake, who is seventeen, Ed quit. “I didn’t want to be away from them,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss anything.”
He remembers that as a kid, Jess would watch an hour of PBR, recorded, before he went to bed. “Not just once in a while, but dang near every night,” Ed said. “That’s what he wanted to do, and that’s all he wanted to do.”
When Jess turned eighteen and was able to join the PBR, he moved to Texas. It was September, the beginning of his senior year of high school, but he took his last year of classes online and headed south.
He wasn’t there to goof off, Ed said. “He wasn’t there to fool around. He was there to ride bulls.”
He had been invited to Texas by Cody Lambert, former bull rider and current vice-president of the PBR, and that was the start of his sky rocket to the top in the PBR.
Jess won the PBR Rookie of the Year in 2016, and finished this year with a world title.
Being around people who helped him was important, Jess said. Being with Lambert “made a big difference, to be there and get knowledge from him and (former PBR world champion) Justin McBride.”
This year wasn’t the easiest for Jess. There were highs: he won the Built Ford Tough Series events in New York City, Sacramento, Tulsa, and Austin, and several of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour events.
Injuries plagued him, however. He suffered a torn groin in February, which tore the muscle from the bone. He got a concussion and had back spasms due to an injury. A bull stepped on him and broke had four ribs, punctured a lung and lacerated a kidney in mid-September. After six weeks of faithful physical therapy, the groin injury healed. The ribs, lung and kidney injury kept him in the hospital for just one night. The doctors would have liked him to stay longer, but he disagreed. “I told them I need to get home, so I’ll see you guys later,” Jess said.
Ed is close to his boys, and Jess calls his dad after each ride. After the concussion, Jess didn’t call. Ed knew, from watching scores online, that he had been bucked off, but he hadn’t seen the ride. “After about a half hour I called him,” Ed said, “and I finally got ahold of him. Jess said, “you didn’t see it, did you?’ and I said, ‘what happened?’” Jess told his dad he had a concussion. “I think it was better to know afterwards,” Ed said. “I’m glad I didn’t see it.”
Jess entered the PBR Finals in Las Vegas in fourth place. He won the first three rounds, got bucked off the next two, and in the short round, rode his bull but had a score of 79 points and was offered a reride. He took the reride and ended up getting bucked off the reride.
He’s won about $1.5 million this year, which includes the $1 million bonus that is given to the year-end champion. The million will be paid out over ten years, and Jess already has plans for the money. He’ll add to the bunch of twenty cows he already owns and runs with his dad’s herd.
He also has a site for a house picked out, but he’s not pretentious. It’ll be about two miles from his parent’s place, on the ranch – a modular with a walk-out basement. He’s careful with his earnings. “Our careers are short, so we have to make the most of the money we make.”
Ed and Angie attend the PBR events that are close, and if he’s there, Ed pulls Jess’ bull rope. “It means a lot to me,” Jess said. “It’s comforting.”
For Ed, it can be nerve wracking, pulling his rope and watching his son ride. But that comes with having kids. “It’s nerve wracking when they leave the house, any time they’re out of your sight, especially when they’re riding bulls.” When Jess drove away to go to Texas two years ago, it wasn’t easy, Ed said. But having Lambert as his mentor helped. Lambert “took him under his wing, and took good care of him, and that took a lot of pressure off of us, that he was taking care of him.”
His world title hasn’t sunk in yet, Jess said. “I don’t even know what to think, and what to say.” At home in Montana, he’s gotten lots of congratulations, but nobody has treated him any different, for which he is thankful, and he hopes that doesn’t change.
Jess’ younger brother, Jake, also a bull rider, won the 2017 Montana High School Rodeo bull riding title earlier this summer. When he turns eighteen, he wants to go to Texas with Jess and follow in his brother’s footsteps.
For now, Jess is taking a break during the PBR’s off season. He’ll be back to riding at the first Built Ford Tough Series event, in New York City in January.
He’s back in Montana, trying to soak it in, enjoying his friends and family, and waiting for that buckle to be returned.