Bull rider earns state honor

L.J. Jenkins, 19, captured the Professional Bull Riders World Finals event title in Las Vegas earlier this month. (Courtesy photo)

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

L.J. Jenkins always felt he’d win a world championship as a professional bull rider, just not this soon.

Jenkins, 19, captured the Professional Bull Riders World Finals event title in Las Vegas earlier this month.

In honor of his accomplishment, Gov. Bill Richardson has declared today as “L.J. Jenkins Day” throughout the state to honor the Texico resident.

Jenkins, currently ranked seventh in the world PBR rankings, will be honored in a 7 p.m. celebration at the Texico Community Center. He will be presented the governor’s declaration by Gloria Wicker of Clovis, a member of the governor’s rodeo council.

“When we get a world champion that’s six or seven miles from us, that’s big news,” Wicker said. “I understand there are people who do not care much for rodeos … but this is like any other world champion.”

Jenkins, who heard about the declaration Tuesday, admitted complete surprise about the governor’s announcement. He was never surprised he ended up as a bull rider.

“My dad did it, my step-dad did it, my brother did it,” Jenkins said. “When I was little, I just figured I’d do it.”

But be a world champion less than two years into his professional career?

“I knew I’d be here one day, but never at 19,” Jenkins said. “I just did what I’ve been doing my whole life, and it kind of worked out.”

His mother, Sandy Bowers, admitted surprise as well, especially considering that Jenkins had a lung punctured in January when a bull stepped on him.

“Physically, it only took him about eight or nine weeks (to recover),” Bowers said. “Mentally, he was 18 and it took him about until September until he could go back and ride the way he used to ride — even better than he used to ride.

“I hate to say it, because it sounds like I don’t have faith in my son, but I was surprised.”

Jenkins still can’t escape injuries. He’s preparing to have surgery on his left shoulder in the next two weeks, and said he could be out up to six months.

When he comes back in 2007, family members said he’d be wearing a New Mexico state patch. Rodeo council members are hopeful they can turn Jenkins’ new-found fame into an invitational event held in the state.

“I wouldn’t doubt at all,” Wicker said, “that we’d have 8,000 or 10,000 people come to an event like that.”