Rough Rider

J.B. MauneyHe lives down the street from pal Dale Earnhardt Jr., but Mooresville native J. B. Mauney (pronounced Mooney) runs a different circuit from the NASCAR star. At five-foot-ten and weighing in at just a buck forty, the twenty-two-year-old makes a living by riding belligerent three-quarter-ton bulls with names like Major Payne, McNasty, and Rude Awakening on the Professional Bull Riders tour. In four years, Mauney's won more than $1.3 million and seven events, including two this season as he competes for the world title.

Eight seconds is all the time a professional bull rider needs to command his foe. Charlotte Magazine needed more so here's eight minutes with J.B. Mauney, the Mooresville native currently chasing his first world title.

How does one get started riding bulls? Is there a career path there?

When I was three (my parents) started me riding sheep. They put a rope around the sheep, you hang onto it and it runs real fast. I went to high school rodeos my freshman and sophomore years and then I stopped going to them. I started going to International Professional Rodeos and Southern Rodeo Association events. I was probably one of the youngest guys going to them at the time. They paid money and high school rodeos didn't so I quit going to high school rodeos. Might as well make some money.

You're twenty-two years old, and you've already banked a million dollars. How's that feel?

At the world finals last year I won the first round and they said I crossed the $1,000,000 mark then. I was wondering where it all went. 

Has it changed you?

My friends say the only difference is I have a lot more toys now.

Maybe that's where it went. But you're traveling all the time; that has to be expensive.

It is and then the tax man, he came in and took a lot of it also.

The PBR website says you weigh 140 pounds, the bulls are a bit bigger. Is that a fair fight?

The average bull would weigh about 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. You're a little out-weighed.  

That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even if you win, you lose.

To tell you the truth I probably haven't been healthy in two years. My knee has been tore up for a long time, and I've never had it fixed but there are other little things. I've broken bones and I've torn muscles and I've done things like that but it's all part of the game. I'm kind of bad about not going to the hospital so there are a few bones that have grown back the wrong way. I broke my leg one time and didn't even know it. My fingers don't look too good.

My dad would tell me from the time I was little that if you're gonna play the game you've got to take the pain.

Bull riding is a young man's game. How long do you think you can keep this up?

If you can make it into your mid-thirties, you've had a long career riding bulls.  Hopefully I'll make enough money to where I won't have to ride into my mid-thirties but I'll probably do it until my body can't handle it no more.  

What does it take to get on top of three-quarter ton of beef with a bad attitude?

You've got to be physically tough and mentally tough to do it. If you're somebody who's weak hearted, you'd better not try to ride bulls.

What you think about when you're on top a bull?

You really don't have time to think when you're riding. It all happens so fast. It better be reaction because if you're thinking about it, you'll be hitting the ground and trying to get up.

So you never think about something else like "I could be fishing right now"?

It's never happened to me before, and I guess if it does that'll be the day I quit.

Eight seconds: how long does that feel like on top of a bull?

Sometimes it feels like you rode them just a little bit and sometimes it feels like an eternity, like eight seconds is never going to come.

A lot of fuss was made about you going head-to-head with a bull named Bones last February. What was that about?

I'd seen the bull a bunch. It was the 2008 world champion bull, and he'd never been rode.  They decided to do a challenge with last year's champion Guilherme Marchi for $20,000.  The bull ended up throwing him off, and I kinda actually opened my mouth and said I'd like to get on him for $20,000. I got on him the very next weekend and ended up riding him.

Now if you would've lost, it would have cost you $20,000, right?

I guess; that's what they tell me. I didn't know how it was going to go. I'm just glad I didn't get thrown off.

Now you're from North Carolina and the bull is from North Carolina; is there a rivalry there, like the Carolina-Duke thing?

I guess, kind of. He's wanting to throw me off, and I'm wanting to ride him so it could be.

Has there ever been a bull that you're afraid to ride?

Not really. There have been bulls I've got on that I was nervous about getting on. Say they're really, really mean or something, but I've never been scared to get on one.  Whatever happens is gonna happen and that's the way I look at it and about everything in life. If one's gonna run over you, he's gonna run over you.

You're one of the riders who uses a helmet; why is that?

That helmet has saved me a bunch of times. It probably will eventually be required in bull riding, but right now I don't see it coming anytime in the near future. I still think it though to be your own decision. My mom made me wear one from the time I was nine years old so I was already used to it by the time I started getting on bulls. At that time she told me it was either where the helmet or not ride. I always told her I was gonna quit wearing it when I turned eighteen, but I turned eighteen and it didn't hurt me at all, it didn't mess me up, and I rode with it fine so I just kept on riding with it.

Was it a fashion statement?

One reason I didn't like it when I was younger was because I think it was cowboy to wear it. Cowboys don't wear helmets. It was a losing battle for me against my mom, though.

I got my face stepped on a couple of times and got up and walked off with just a few scratches foot, so it kind of made a believer out of me. I've been in some pretty bad incidents where if I didn't have the helmet on I would've been hurt pretty bad or it could have been worse. One stepped on me last year and it crushed my helmet, ripped my face mask off of it, almost busted the helmet completely in two. It knocked me out but I was fine after a while. I walked out of the arena.

I guess mom knows best. So if it weren't bull riding, what would you do?

People always ask me what I'd do if I couldn't ride bulls and honestly I don't know.

It would probably have to be something that would keep me on the edge.

I understand you know Dale Earnhardt, Jr. pretty well. Would he get on your ride?

I don't know, he probably would knowing him, though. He'd probably try it. 

You're from Mooresville, how about NASCAR racing? Would you trade a bull for the 88 car?

That would be a little scary, but I'd probably do it. It would be fun, but I drive fast enough as it is. I don't really wanna go that fast, but I would probably try it once. 

Bull riding seems like a Texas or Oklahoma thing. How much rodeo is there a North Carolina?

There's a lot actually. There's a guy from Nebraska who told me, “I wish I could go somewhere that I could get on a lot of bulls,” and I said well, come to my house. In the summertime you can go to an open bull riding that probably pays $500 to win almost every day of the week. You can get on practice bulls. I've got bulls and there's a lot of guys around there that have bulls and they're always wanting to try to buck them.

Everywhere I ever go, I can get on an airplane or I can get in a cab, and they always think I'm from Texas. When I tell them I'm from North Carolina, they always look at me funny. 

For more information on J.B., check out his PBR page at  


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