PUEBLO, Colo. – Two-time World Champion Justin McBride has become a consummate observer of another two-time World Champion, J.B. Mauney, over the past decade and a half.
McBride has known Mauney for 14 years and seen his progression into an all-time great. From the time the 18-year-old kid from North Carolina showed up in the PBR through McBride’s own retirement, the two shared the locker room, and McBride has watched Mauney evolve into the future Ring of Honor bull rider he is today.
After McBride retired in 2008, he has continued to follow Mauney’s career and gold buckle pursuits as the primary bull riding analyst for CBS Sports alongside play-by-play host Craig Hummer.
McBride, however, was like most fans this past weekend sitting on his couch watching Mauney tie his PBR record for event wins (32) in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
The analyst may have had the weekend off from his broadcasting duties, but McBride didn’t need to be there to appreciate the grit-defining victory he witnessed on the television screen.
Mauney’s path to event victory No. 32 was special.
McBride has known – and witnessed – how hurt, injured and beat up Mauney has been throughout his career, but especially in the past two years since Mauney’s career-threatening shoulder injury at the 2017 Calgary Stampede.
It was just one month ago preparing to head into AT&T Stadium that McBride had to make the tough decision to ask Mauney if he could replace him on the Team USA Eagles squad as Mauney struggled to ride through a broken leg and torn ligaments in his knees.
Yet there was Mauney, standing on top of the shark cage he was barely able to mount at Verizon Arena last Sunday afternoon with career win No. 32 under his belt and a spot in the record books alongside McBride.
“He went at it like a true cowboy,” McBride said. “I know that is a term that gets used a lot now and is mainstream, but what it means to J.B. and I is it is a mindset. What it meant to the guys before us.
“It is a definite mindset of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. I will stamp that on him. That is a brand he has proudly carried on.”
McBride believes Mauney certainly has it in himself to break the event wins record and pass him for second-most all-time 90-point rides this season.
Mauney’s first crack at the record comes this weekend at the U.S. Border Patrol Invitational in Duluth, Georgia. Mauney takes on Polaroid (1-1, UTB) in Round 1 on Saturday night (RidePass at 7:45 p.m. ET).
McBride knows Mauney is not 100 percent right now. He can see it like everyone else.
However, McBride also saw Mauney’s old-school mentality on full display in Arkansas.
Being a cowboy is what has helped Mauney rise above his competition despite Father Time and pain. It is what separates him from other riders, according to McBride.
“That mentality is what gets him as far as he gets,” he said. “He is willing to push past what most people are willing to endure. That is the way he was brought up, the way I was brought up. Once you are willing to accept all the shit that can happen to you, and you are still willing to push on, then (the pain) is not that big of a deal.
“It is not that big of a deal to J.B. to have a broken leg.”
McBride appreciates Mauney’s ability to still have the desire to compete as a professional bull rider.
He retired at 29 years old, knowing he would not be able to continue to ride at a level he wanted to.
Mauney is going through the perils McBride decided to avoid, and he tips his hat to Mauney’s dedication to the sport while balancing being a father and husband – let alone all of the injuries.
“He has a family. He has a lot of stuff. That is why I retired,” McBride said. “I knew I couldn’t maintain where I was at. I knew I didn’t want to continue to push where I was. I had a family and that was more important to me. It is definitely harder than it has ever been for him. Age and everything else in his life. Obviously, that is an impressive thing.
“It is not something you are going to see every day.”
There’s a mutual admiration between these two legends. McBride applauds Mauney’s every monster ride and observes that J.B. is far beyond just a legendary bull rider; he is a legendary athlete among all the greats in his own right.
“J.B. comes from a little different school then most guys,” McBride said. “And I don’t mean just in bull riding. I mean in sports today. He is the throwback.”
Each time Mauney was thrown to the dirt last weekend in North Little Rock after making the eight, he could barely get up. The pain the man on the verge of setting more PBR records is going through is beyond what most of us can imagine. It’s what makes him J.B. Mauney.
He has admitted that it is taking its toll, and McBride knows it too.
“Will he be bouncing around when he is 50 years old playing intramural soccer? No. But I don’t think he planned on doing that anyways.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko