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Father figures

Mauney and Briscoe have new reasons to turn up the effort

DES MOINES, Iowa (May 7, 2011) - Fatherhood has given J.B. Mauney and Travis Briscoe a whole new perspective on the sport of professional bull riding.
 
Both are noticeably missing from the Top 10 of the world standings. While neither is willing to use the birth of his daughter as an excuse – Mauney fell to 11th last week and Briscoe moved up to 30th after being out with a strained groin – both admit that making large adjustments in their personal lives has impacted their seasons.
 
Mauney’s daughter Bella was born last month, and Briscoe’s wife Jessi is due the first week in June.
 
“Before, there was no one J.B. had to worry about,” said Mauney. “J.B. did what he wanted to and it didn’t matter, because it was just me.
 
“Now I have a little girl and I keep her most of the time when I’m at home. And that’s changed things – me – a lot. It changed my priorities, and I’m trying not to be like I used to be – you know, immature. I’m trying to do things right.”
 
He’s also trying to ride his way through one of the worst slumps of his professional career. “My Finals went horrible – the worst Finals I’ve ever had,” he said. “And then it seemed like my riding was decent at the first of the year, and it’s just went downhill from there”

Briscoe simply took the time off to be home with his pregnant wife.
 
Like Mauney, he got to a point where he was fighting with his head, and eventually it led to getting hurt.
 
“When I got home, I told my wife I was so disgusted with the way I was riding that for six weeks I wasn’t going to think about bull riding, and that I was going to focus on her pregnancy and being a good husband,” Briscoe said.
 
“Subconsciously, you think about it – there’s something else. It got to a point where I don’t want to say it was time to get selfish, but this is what pays my bills and this is what’s going to raise this child. I need to be here and I need to do my job, and beyond that, just do it because you love it.”
 
The time away allowed him to prepare for his daughter and helped him return to craving the sport the way he once did.
 
“I feel like I’m 16 again,” he said.
 
Briscoe got on a few practice bulls before he traveled to Seattle, and said he felt good.
 
He especially felt good this Friday night after winning the opening round in Des Moines with an 88.5-point effort on Bad Yeller, and while he came down early off of Jeffrey Scott’s Titanium Tough in the first short round, he’s third in the average after two of four rounds.
 
This comes a week after he finished 12th in the average in Seattle – missing out on the Built Ford Tough Championship Round by two spots. Previously, he had made the final round only twice in the first 12 events of the year. He’s a full 10 points below his career riding average of 38 percent.
 
With his wife at home in New Mexico, he’s back to traveling with Austin Meier and Skeeter Kingsolver. Ryan McConnel has joined them this week, and beyond the Built Ford Tough Series events through May, the four riders have put together a summer schedule of Touring Pro events.
 
“They’re great guys,” said Briscoe, “and when you’re talking about guys like that, you have to rise to their level too, but I want to make it to where they have to rise to my level.”
 
Fans will notice a change in Mauney’s summer plans.
 
“I’m going to go as much as I can,” he said, “but I’m going to stay at home a little more.”
 
When he does travel, his parents Lynn and Tim Mauney will help out with Bella.
 
He was disappointed with Friday’s performance.
 
Mauney bucked off King X in 5.5 seconds, and on the season he’s now covered just 20 of 46 bulls at BFTS events. His 43.48 percent riding average is better than 25 other riders in the Top 40, but is 13 points off his career average and more than 20 points lower than his career best of 63.64 percent in 2009.
 
“I got in a slump, stomped, beat up, and it seems like every time I get to feeling halfway decent, I get run over, stomped and slammed again,” he said. “It just takes a toll. Mental-wise I know I can ride bulls and … it ain’t working.”
 
He’s appeared in only four championship rounds – only one of which, in Kansas City, Mo., has come after the fourth event of the season – and he’s 0-for-4 in those rounds. Twice he’s bucked off Bushwacker – the favorite to win the World Champion Bull title.
 
“For the past two months I’ve been trying to figure it out,” Mauney said. “I feel good one bull, and then on the next one it’s just like I went back to ground zero again. I just have to quit thinking about stuff and go back to riding bulls like I know how to.
 
“You ride yourself into a slump and you ride yourself out.”
 
“I’m getting on practice bulls, I feel good and I don’t do things like I used to,” he continued. “I used to go to a bar every night, and I quit doing that. I’m a lot more rested, and hopefully before too long everything will turn around.”
 
—by Keith Ryan Cartwright