ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Cody Jesus answered his cell phone on Thursday night with a little bit of shortness of breath following another practice bull attempt in Windy Valley, Arizona.
Jesus gets on about 10 practice bulls a day and had already attempted 30 bulls in Arizona this week in preparation for this weekend’s Ty Murray Invitational, presented by Isleta Resort and Casino, at WisePies Arena, aka The Pit.
It may seem like a lot, but it was only a few years ago when all Jesus had to practice on was a plastic barrel tied between two trees at home in Sawmill, Arizona.
“I am not tired,” Jesus said. “This is just getting me started for the Ty Murray Invitational. I will get on some more tomorrow before I head out.”
Jesus is this weekend’s Native American invite to the Ty Murray Invitational. It is an annual tradition for Murray to extend an invitation to a Native American bull rider, and Jesus has already had some brief success in his young career.
The 18-year-old won the 2016 Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas courtesy of a 93-point ride in the championship round.
The Navajo bull rider was the only competitor to go 4-for-4.
“It was special, but I just told myself I wasn’t done,” Jesus said. “After I won that, it was time for a bigger step and that is the PBR. I am ready to try that.”
Jesus believes his success at the INFR will help him handle any nerves that will come during his Built Ford Tough Series debut.
“The INFR kind of got me ready for that,” he said. “It got real loud out there. I have to put it all behind me when I get on my bulls.”
The Pit has traditionally been at its loudest during The Ty Murray Invitational when the local invite steps up to the bucking chute.
“I am very excited,” Jesus added. “I can’t wait. I kind of got all of my nerves out at practice, but I am sure they will still be there a little.”
Jesus is also the 2015 Navajo Nation Champion Bull Rider and is a first generation bull rider after becoming interested in the sport because of the movie “8 Seconds.”
His father, Vernon, was also a local bareback rider.
“I watched “8 Seconds” when I was small and I kept watching it,” Cody said. “Then when I turned 14 I decided to try bull riding. I kind of learned (how to ride) myself. I set up an old plastic barrel and tied two ropes to a tree. I rode that for a while. My mom purchased my first practice bull in 2013 and I started practicing a lot.
“I never thought I would make it this far.”
Jesus described himself as a flashy rider, while 2006 PBR World Finals event winner L.J. Jenkins said the left-handed bull rider “spurred everything” the few times he saw the young man compete at open bull ridings.
“He was the real deal,” Jenkins said via text message. “I just don’t know how he will do with a stronger bull. I was impressed the few times I’ve seen him.”
This weekend is Jesus’ second-ever PBR event.
Jesus has drawn Lost Soul (5-2, BFTS) for Round 1.
Last year, Jesus placed second at the Grand Junction, Colorado, Touring Pro Division event.
Jesus expects his girlfriend, brother, mom and dad to all be in attendance and make the 3-hour drive east to Albuquerque.
He has been wanting to compete more at PBR events this year, but has struggled getting into the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour events because of his lack of 2015 word standings points.
“If I do good here, hopefully I can go be on tour,” Jesus said.
Jesus was actually at the practice pen when the PBR competition department called him two weeks ago with the invitation.
The rookie bull rider is extremely grateful for the opportunity to pursue his dream this weekend, and he hopes he can earn enough points to ride in the PBR full time.
“I am glad Ty Murray does something like this to give us a shot to get out there,” Jesus said. “Hopefully I don’t waste this opportunity now. I don’t think I will.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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