PUEBLO, Colo. – Jess Lockwood was settling into the chute aboard Big Dutch when he took a quick peek up and saw his mom, Angie, intently leaning forward in her seat with her hands clasped in prayer.
Every time her son is set to ride, you can bank on Angie Lockwood’s knuckles turning polar bear white as she prays for the grace of God to watch over her son.
Lockwood quickly turned his focus back inside the bucking chutes inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center, where he flipped over his chaps and began to slide up and nod for the gate.
On one side of Lockwood’s chaps is a set of praying hands with a cross between them, which he had custom-made following his 2017 World Championship in honor of his mom. The other side has his initials J.L.
“That is my mom’s favorite symbol,” Lockwood said. “Whenever I ride, she sits like that. That is how she always sits, with praying hands and hoping we don’t get hurt and just do well.”
Jess surprised his mom with the chaps, which were made by Dylan Borowski, in New York during the season-opener at Madison Square Garden.
“I busted them out in New York in the room,” Lockwood recalled with a boyish smile. “I was like, ‘Mom! Check these out!’ She loved them and thought they were awesome. She got a little teary-eyed.”
Lockwood has said before he rides better with his family in attendance, and that was once again the case in Sioux Falls.
The reigning PBR World Champion picked up his first 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast event victory of 2018 by going 3-for-4 with a 91-point ride on Big Dutch.
“Having my family here just makes it fun,” Jess said. “Ever since THE AMERICAN I have felt normal again. I just haven’t been quite as clutch as I would like to. This one, I felt pretty clutch.”
Earlier Sunday, Lockwood joked with 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis that he should select Pearl Harbor with the second pick of the championship-round draft just to see his mom’s reaction.
Angie has been trying to convince her son to avoid trying to be a dragon-slayer every weekend and looking for bulls like SweetPro’s Bruiser.
“You have no idea how bad mom would freak out if I went up on stage and said, ‘Pearl Harbor,’” Lockwood said with a laugh.
Well, Angie’s hands will be tightly clasped this coming weekend during the Tacoma Invitational 15/15 Bucking Battle as Lockwood has randomly been assigned Pearl Harbor (39-4, PBR UTB) for his opponent.
Fans can watch the 15/15 Bucking Battle exclusively on CBS national television Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Pearl Harbor is 9-0 this year and is coming off a 2.17-second, 47-point buckoff of two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney. Mauney broke his T1 and T2 bones in his back and is out six weeks.
Lockwood and Pearl Harbor have never matched up before.
The 20-year-old trails world leader Ramon de Lima by 215 points.
The No. 7 ranked bull rider in the world won both rounds on Sunday afternoon and walked away with a massive 760 world points to put himself back in the Top 10 of the world standings.
It was Lockwood’s first event back since spraining some ligaments in his riding hand at the Ty Murray Invitational three weeks ago, but that didn’t stop him from having his best showing of 2018.
Lockwood is now 13-for-34 (38.24 percent) in 11 events. He has posted four consecutive Top 10 finishes.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert told Lockwood the last few weeks that he could still be the rider to take control of the 2018 World Championship race and set the tone.
“It is a weird year,” Lambert said. “Jess and I have talked about it. I have talked to my friends about it and stuff. It is a weird year where no one is stepping up and taking it. I said they have been waiting on you all year, so get off your ass.
“The effort was always there, but his riding looked good (this weekend). His rhythm and his timing was there.”
Lockwood has remained humbled in his first season as the reigning World Champion, and he has relied upon his faith to remain grounded.
It could be easy for him to get cockier after earning over $1.5 million last season and lose focus of the goals ahead of him.
His aunt, Lisa Lockhart, will often text him Bible verses or prayers as sources of inspiration, and Jess found one earlier this year that he has kept close to his heart through an app called Daily Bible Inspirations.
“Thank you for the many ways that you have blessed me this year,” Lockwood read aloud in Chicago. “I ask that you now give me a heart and mind that are willing to commit all I have to in this new coming year. In the wonderful name Jesus, I pray Amen.”
He doesn’t have to worry about losing that humility either.
Jess knows his mom and his family will be there in an instant to knock him off his pedestal if he is no longer humble – even if he does ride Pearl Harbor for a memorable 90-plus points this weekend at the Tacoma Dome.
“Oh yeah,” he concluded. “If someone gets out of our line in our family and are not humble they get put in line quick.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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