Even the most daring, thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies would surely think twice before attempting what J.B. Mauney loves to do whenever he gets the chance — climb atop the biggest, baddest bucking bulls and stay on for 8 seconds while his body and limbs are flung around like a ragdoll. But that’s what makes him the best. Last October, this Statesville native was crowned world champion professional bull rider in Las Vegas, Nev., a title that came with gold buckle, Ford pickup truck, and a $1 million check. But Mauney says the real battle between him and any horned, muscle-ripped beast begins in his head, even before he slips onto the saddle. “It’s 95 percent mental attitude,” he says. “Riding a bull is reactionary and instinctual. It’s kind of like dancing, taking certain steps and then following the movements.” During the latest world championship, he took on Bushwacker, a raging 1,700-pound demon dubbed “the bull no man can ride” who bucked off 42 riders for four consecutive years before Mauney broke the bull’s winning streak, earning a hefty 95.25 points for that ride alone. “I’ve been on Bushwacker 13 times and only ridden him once,” he says. “He’s put quite a few scars under my chin.” And getting beat up is all in a day’s work. In the nearly 10 years he has been doing this, Mauney has suffered a separated shoulder, broken foot, concussion, and a collapsed lung that required surgery. When he was 18, a bull’s back feet came down on him full force, breaking all the ribs on his right side, lacerating his liver and bruising his spleen. “That list is longer than my accomplishments, I promise you,” he says. “Some days you love going to work, and other days you can’t get out of bed because of work.” Mauney, 27, grew up on a 100-acre farm on Johnson Dairy Road in Mooresville, going to rodeos and watching his dad wrestle steers. At 13 he climbed upon his first big bull, and bought his first bucking bull at 15. After graduating early from Lake Norman High School, he and a buddy took off to test the bull-riding circuit. Mauney was instantly hooked, and he liked the idea of riding bulls for a living a lot more than he did getting a regular job or going back to school. He began his first season with the Professional Bull Riders in 2006, finishing 25th in the world and winning the “Daisy Rookie of the Year” award. A year later, he finished in third place, but also took the coveted Lane Frost/Brent Thurman Award for the highest scoring rider during the next three seasons, from 2007-9. (Lane Frost was considered the top bull-rider of all time.) In 2009, Mauney made history as the lone competitor to ride eight bulls in the finals. Mauney’s meteoric rise in the bull-riding ring is in part due to his desire to seek out and take on the rankest bulls. “They show up every couple years — a bull they think can’t be ridden,” he says. “That’s the one I usually go for. I just want to prove to myself there’s not one I can’t ride out there.” Now this 5-foot-10, 145-pound cowboy makes a healthy six-figure annual income, appearing at more than 25 professional events each year. He’s on the road nearly every weekend for most of the year. When he’s not traveling to competitions, he’s usually at home with his wife, Lexie, and 2-year-old daughter, Bella. He also helps with the family business, a commercial beef farm. According to Cody Lambert, vice president of Professional Bull Riders Inc., Mauney has a bright future and uncanny ability. “He has the talent and the mentality to win,” Lambert says. “He’s riding so much better than everyone else that I’ll almost be surprised if he doesn’t repeat the world championship. He wants to ride the biggest, toughest, most near impossible bull and he puts winning first. I think he’ll have several great years.” When pressed about what becoming the world champion means to him, Mauney is clear it’s not about the cash. “Winning $1 million — that’s a nice bonus. But from the time I can remember, I wanted to be a world champion bull rider. That’s what it’s about for me. And after working at it for 26 years, I finally accomplished it.”
February 10, 2014
J.B. Mauney takes the bull by the horns.