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Ex-PBR champion Jess Lockwood overcomes injury to fight for title

Former PBR world champion Jess Lockwood spent nearly three months this year recovering from a broken collarbone. Yet he’s still contending for a second world title.

“He’ll put the effort in to rehab. He’ll do everything he can do get better, and he’s one to not really come back until he’s ready,” said Lockwood’s father, Ed. “When he came back, he started winning right away.”

Imagine if he had been healthy all season.

Lockwood, 22, is No. 2 in the PBR world title standings despite the most serious injury of his professional career. The Volborg, Montana, native trailed standings leader Jose Vitor Leme by a mere 407 points Saturday night before the fourth round of the PBR World Finals at T-Mobile Arena.

He’s won a tour-high 14 events to go with 31 round victories and nearly $500,000 in prize money. He’s completing 64 percent of his rides, too, tops among cowboys with at least 40 events to their name this season.

“That’s what you dream of. Playing in the living room, you’re not saying, ‘I’m going to ride at the county fair,’ ” Lockwood said. “You’re riding at the PBR World Finals and you’re trying to win that gold buckle. … I just keep it simple. Any bull they put under me or any bull I pick, I know I’ve got to stay on.”

Lockwood is a bull riding prodigy, turning professional in 2016 and conquering the world’s best cowboys a year later. He was the PBR’s Rookie of the Year and its world champion in 2017 at the ripe age of 20 and parlayed his earnings into a residence of his own, some 2 miles from his parent’s ranch.

He finished No. 12, though, in 2018 and acknowledged that “you get all this thrown at you” after winning a title and that his life was “kind of a blur at times.” But he bounced back in January by winning two of his first three events and placing in the top five in five of his first six.

Then he was a horned during a ride on a bull named Wild Goose in Feburary at an event in Texas.

“There was nothing I could do. Problem is, I was trying to do much and it held me out even longer,” Lockwood said. “Really, I had to sit on my butt and watch cartoons or something.”

Lockwood finally returned to the tour May 3 and won another event in New Mexico on May 18. He won three more events in June, three straight in early July and three in August to build some momentum before the PBR World Finals.

He also logged scores of 93.75 and 94 atop Heartbreak Kid, a mighty bull who had bucked off 38 consecutive riders.

“I came into the finals with a lot of confidence,” Lockwood said.

And it shows.

Lockwood has been at ease all week and led the aggregate scoring at the finals with a total of 270 through the first three rounds. It’s not his first time here. It’s his fourth, and he’s sporting a mature, seasoned demeanor — knowing that he’s done this before.

“I know what he’s put into it and I know how hard he works at it,” the elder Lockwood said. “It’s not really a surprise to me.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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