By BRAD KEITH
In Saturday night’s final go-round of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Stephenville saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley will perform for the final time this year in front of thousands at the Thomas & Mack Center and millions more on CBS Sports.
But it wasn’t always this way. Growing up south of Dallas in Ennis, where rodeo isn’t nearly as large a way of life, being a young cowboy meant being snickered and pointed at.
“I lived in Ennis until high school, and I was the only kid in the whole school who rodeoed,” Crawley, 26, explained in a phone interview with The Flash Saturday evening. “Other kids made fun of me for it, and I was never comfortable there.”
That all changed when the Crawley family relocated to Stephenville just before he began high school.
“Stephenville was totally different. Rodeo is so accepted there, and that made it comfortable for me and allowed me to really grow and develop as a competitor.”
Crawley also hooked up with legendary Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame saddle bronc rider Tom Reeves, who after reaching 18 finals, finishing among the top four six times and winning the 2001 world championship, taught his art to young cowboys including Jacobs and his younger brother Sterling Crawley.
Jacobs says he travels with Sterling, 23, year-round, and they live two houses apart on the same property. They were both in WNFR in 2012 and 2013, and Sterling just missed this year, finishing 17th in the world standings.
“Being around Tom Reeves is the other reason moving to Stephenville was so great,” Jacobs said. “Stephenville and Tom Reeves are two of the biggest reason I’m where I am today.”
In Las Vegas, that is, for his fourth straight finals. And he says his perception has changed since his first WNFR appearance in 2011.
“It’s still exciting every time I get to perform here, but my perception has changed,” said Jacobs, who is eighth in the world standings. “Like anything else, you get more comfortable with time, and the more times you compete at this level in this atmosphere, the better you get.”
Crawley has had a tough run the last six rounds, failing to ride the required eight seconds twice and posting four scores in the 70s to miss the money each time. But he made roughly $32,000 on the opening three nights, when he split third and fourth, won the second go-round then placed sixth. He conquered Spade for 82.5 points in his round two win.
Crawley would love nothing more than to return to that form and finish the finals on a strong note – and with a nice payday. The Stephenville cowboy says there is nothing like the final go-round of the WNFR.
“Oh it’s incredible, I mean there’s nothing like it. For a lot of guys in several events, everything from the whole year will be determined tonight,” Crawley said. “The fans get crazy and the atmosphere is electric. It’s as good as it gets, and to compete on that stage is a huge honor.”
One he’s mere hours from enjoying for the fourth straight year, and hopefully many more to come.