The Iron Cowboy: Jess Lockwood
By: Justin Felisko
Justin McBride arrived at Cody Lambert’s Bowie, Texas, ranch shortly before 7 a.m. late last summer.
The two-time PBR World Champion bull rider headed into Lambert’s bunk house to make himself a cup of coffee while the PBR’s Director of Livestock was out working in the arena when he heard SpongeBob SquarePants blaring in the living room and a kid laughing.
Confused, McBride peeked around the corner to see who was laughing like a little kid.
It was none other than the now 19-year-old Jess Lockwood.
Lockwood was balancing himself atop a rubber medicine ball and doing a series of workouts while watching his favorite television show.
“You want to talk about a little work ethic,” McBride said. “That little (one) works at it.”
And, no, this wasn’t a one-time deal.
Rather it is the kid who’s own story is unfolding every weekend on nationally televised CBS television broadcasts.
“Every day,” McBride said. “It is not sometimes. He is working out three times a day. He doesn’t mess around. And it isn’t geared to having big muscles to show off. It is geared to riding.”
Lockwood, a little bit embarrassed, shakes his head and laughs when asked about his SpongeBob morning workout sessions.
Lockwood wasn’t even 2 years old when the cartoon television show first aired in 1999.
“I love SpongeBob!” Lockwood exclaims. “I will Snapchat my cousins and we will laugh about it and talk. It is nice to just be a kid and stuff.”
Lockwood – the 2016 PBR Rookie of the Year – has been living in Bowie with Lambert for close to a year now after Lambert opened his doors to the three-time Montana High School Rodeo State Champion.
In just his second PBR season, Lockwood has already become the golden child of the PBR and has risen to the No. 1 ranking in the PBR world standings as of Feb. 7.
He has won two of the PBR’s first five events.
Lockwood stormed into the top ranking in the world standings by winning the season-opening PBR Major event in New York City by going 4-for-4 at the Monster Energy Buckoff at the Garden.
The kid from Volborg, Montana, a town of 200 people in Eastern Montana, rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, was featured in Business Insider and had a photo of him with Shaina Twain published in Star Magazine.
One day Lockwood can be found in a national media outlet, while the next he can be found at a host hotel eating a bowl of cereal in his prized Space Jam sweatshirt.
“I mean, I am pretty young,” Lockwood bashfully replies when asked about his national stardom. “All of this stuff, I know what it is, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. I will be able to look back on it when I am older, and it will sure mean a lot, but right now it is kind of whatever. I am taking it as it comes.”
The next PBR Major – the Frontier Communications Iron Cowboy – is slated for AT&T Stadium on Feb. 18.
Lockwood is the nephew of World Champion barrel racer Lisa Lockhart.
“She competes in THE AMERICAN (at AT&T Stadium) each year, and I have asked her what it is like,” Lockwood said. “She says it is the coolest thing you will ever compete in in the world. Being in the stadium, it has a different kind of energy to it. It makes you perform to the highest peak you have ever performed.”
In the coming days, Lockwood will continue to train in preparation for his first appearance at Iron Cowboy.
Lockwood works out two to three times a day, but he also is spending two-and-half hours per day driving from Lambert’s ranch to Sumits Hot Yoga in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Oh, it is helping a lot,” Lockwood said. “I think Yoga is helping me the most. You are doing all sorts of balancing poses the whole time pretty much. When you are on the back of that bull, strength and talent is not going to cut it at all,” Lockwood said. “Your balance, you have to work for that middle. That is all it is. Balance really.”
Lockwood’s unyielding desire and commitment to the craft of professional bull riding has Lambert excited about Lockwood’s future and impressed with his current success.
Lambert even went as far to say Lockwood’s strength may be right up there with 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, who calls Ferris, Texas, home.
“He is so dedicated,” Lambert said. “He is so dedicated to being physically ready and he works on his balance. He has a method to his workout. He is not a dumbass about his workout. It is based on balance. He is very, very strong. Pound for pound, he stays as strong as any of the bull riders. I would say he is as strong pound-for-pound as Guilherme Marchi.
“But his riding is not based on strength. His riding is based on a combination of strength, balance and timing. He works on that every day.”
Decatur, Texas, native Mike Lee is the youngest World Champion in PBR history. He claimed the 2004 title at 21 years old.
Lockwood turns 20 years old in September and would become the youngest World Champion if he goes on to win the 2017 title.
“Just take it one bull at a time,” Lockwood said. “Every time that chute gate opens, plan on winning the round. That is how you win the world title, by winning each ride.”