PUEBLO, Colo. – J.W. Harris sure made a lot of friends during his run of nine consecutive Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications and four PRCA bull riding championships from 2006-2014.
Harris and his wife, Jackie, now want to share their experiences of rodeoing all over the country with their two kids, Aubrey and Dillon.
The 2014 PBR Rookie of the Year announced late Sunday night that he has decided it is time to return to his cowboy and rodeo roots this year following four seasons in the PBR and pursue a fifth gold buckle in the PRCA.
“I have a lot more friends rodeoing than I did going to PBRs,” Harris admitted on Monday. “They were more like family than friends. They are people I trust with watching my kids for a week. That is part of the big reason. I miss getting able to see them people day in and day out and living with them basically. My kids, they are getting to the age now where they can remember. This is something they can remember going up and down the rodeo trail. Driving through Yellowstone National Park and getting to see different things. That is one of the biggest driving deals, family.”
Harris concludes his brief PBR career 58-for-166 (34.52 percent) with three PBR World Finals qualifications, three 90-point rides and three event wins.
The 31-year-old rode Beaver Creek Beau for 87.5 points last year at the World Finals for his only qualified ride and concluded the year ranked 32nd in the world standings.
It was a gutsy effort by Harris after he spent the majority of 2017 riding with a groin strain and torn abdominal muscle.
Harris said his decision to leave the PBR has nothing to do with the fact that he has not had a relatively healthy season since 2015 or that he is tired of getting on the rankest bulls every weekend.
The Texas, cowboy was limited to only three events in 2016 because of left hip surgery and then a life-threatening car crash.
“That is the one thing I am going to miss about the PBR,” Harris said. “Getting on those rank bulls week in and week out. The chance to get on the Pearl Harbors of the world. The Bruisers. That is why I stuck with the PBR as long as I did. Just that simple fact. You get to get on the best bulls, and if you want to be considered one of the best bull riders than put your money where your mouth is and go ride a Pearl Harbor, a Bruiser or Long John and stuff like that.
“That is not my main reason for leaving the PBR because I am tired of getting on the bucking bulls. If I was tired of getting on bucking bulls than I just would have quit.”
Instead, he just wasn’t happy anymore.
“I got to where I just didn’t like coming to them anymore,” Harris said. “It really is not my thing, I guess you could say. All of the lights, cameras and drama. I was trying to be something that I wasn’t. I was trying to be a PBR bull rider instead of a rodeo cowboy. There is just not a whole lot of common ground with the other guys in there. There is a few. Outside of a few, it is not there.”
Some have posed the question if Harris has any regrets about not coming over to the PBR any earlier in his career.
Harris was 28 years old when he accepted an invitation to compete in three premier series events in March 2014. He went on to finish 2014 ninth in the world standings after going 4-for-6 at the PBR World Finals.
The Texas cowboy’s World Finals performance earned him 3,736 points toward the world standings as he pulled off a remarkable come-from-behind run to usurp Gage Gay, Tanner Byrne and Brady Sims for Rookie of the Year.
Harris finished only 95.13 points ahead of Gay in the closest Rookie-of-the-Year race since the PBR switched to a points-based system in 2013.
The comeback was highlighted by Harris’ career-high 93.25 points on Honey Hush in the championship round.
Harris said on Monday that ride inside the Thomas & Mack Center will go down as his favorite PBR memory.
“That kind of put a sock in the mouth to some of the people that said that I didn’t belong in the PBR because I wouldn’t good enough to be there,” Harris said. “That one right there kind of stands out in my mind.”
The next year Harris showed he certainly had what it took to compete alongside the PBR’s best.
All three of his career wins came during the 2015 season in which he put himself just on the edge of the world title race with two victories in September.
Harris finished a career-best 29-for-78 and finished seventh in the world standings.
“I have no regrets,” said Harris, who doesn’t expect to make a PBR return in the future as of now. “Hell, I know I left it all out there every time I got on a bull. Yeah, I wanted to win a world title and it was obviously not meant to be. That is one thing i don’t have is any regrets because I do leave it out there every time I get on one.
“If I had to do it all over again, I would have done it exactly the same way. I don’t regret not coming over any sooner. At the end of it, I did bless myself with a chance to win a world title and it just didn’t happen.”
Harris was thankful for those that helped him along the way in his transition to the PBR, such as PBR CEO Sean Gleason, reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger and Chris Pantani of Cooper Tires.
But home is where the heart is, and Harris is ready to make his return to the rodeo realm.
“If you are not enjoying what you are doing, then you are not going to have success at it,” he concluded.
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