A whole bunch of bull coming to Winston Salem
By Steve Goldberg
Back in the spring of 2009, there was another packed audience of some five hundred men, women, and children filling the bleachers at Stegall's Arena in Concord, North Carolina.
Nearby, a wiry-thin 22-year-old from Mooresville, NC sat down with a writer to discuss his ascent in a sport where he had already banked an incredible $1.3 million and seven wins since he joined the big leagues four years earlier.
Growing up in a town self-branded as Race City for all the NASCAR teams based in the area, J.B. Mauney was making his name in a sport with just as much carnage and chaos as the "Big One" at Talledega, but Stegall Arena wasn't a racetrack but a fenced in corral that hosted cash and big ol' belt buckle bull riding events when the weather cooperated on spring and summer Sundays.
Mauney was the local hero; he had started there and went all the way up the ranks to the PBR, the top flight of international professional bull riding. By 2013, he became the PBR World Champion, something he would repeat in 2015.
The 140 pound Mauney who squared off with ¾ ton bulls was a popular champion, giving a new face to the fact that North Carolina was indeed, a bull riding, big buckle and boot wearing state. He was mentored by Jerome Davis, the OG cowboy from Archdale who won the North Carolina State High School Bull Riding Championship in 1990 and the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Bull Riding Championship in 1992 before joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Davis won a world championship in 1995 and was elected to the Professional Bull Riders Ring of Honor in 1998. That same year, he was paralyzed from the chest down after being thrown. Bull riders don't quit and he started working with aspiring riders like Mauney and raising bucking bulls at his ranch in Archdale. He was also one of the twenty founding riders of the PBR back 1992 as a bull riding only competition separate from the multi-event rodeos.
Starting this year, Davis will be the coach of the Carolina Cowboys, one of eight five-man teams in the new PBR Team Series. Based in Winston Salem, these real cowboys will go head-to-head, or is it horn-to-horn, with teams from Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.
Adding horsepower to the effort, the Carolina Cowboys team will be operated by champion NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and his grandson, driver Austin Dillon.
Potential riders for the team include literal Carolina cowboys like Statesville's Eli Vastbinder, currently #8 in the world rankings, and Ezekiel Mitchell (#39 in current rankings) who has moved to Winston Salem from his native Texas.
And don't forget the other athletes, the bulls, some of which will come from North Carolina contractors like Davis and Jeff Robinson out of Mars Hill.
The PBR Team Series will open its regular season at Cheyenne Frontier Days, July 25-26. The Carolina Cowboys will host their three-day home stand at the Joel Coliseum Sept 9-11. Following a 10-event regular season, the team finals will be Nov. 4-6 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.