Born: July 17, 1987

Given all of his success, one might assume that professional bull rider L.J. Jenkins grew up on a ranch. Not the case, he says. Before he ever made it big, Jenkins lived in Strafford east of Springfield as well as the Highlandville-Spokane area of Christian County and attended Springfield elementary and middle schools.

So how in the world did he ever get into bull riding?

“It’s something my dad did. I rode in youth organizations around Springfield, and I fell in love with it,” Jenkins said. “A lot of kids, they want to be a Michael Jordan. I wanted to be a bull rider.”

Jenkins poured blood, sweat and tears – OK, maybe not a lot of tears – into becoming one of the best in the elite Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit, steadying himself and his cowboy hat on raging beasts for 8-second rides for more than a decade.

Now he rides into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which is proud to induct Jenkins among its Class of 2016.

When the Springfield native retired in 2015, he did so ranked No. 12 on the all-time money list with more than $1.8 million earned over the past 11 seasons (2005-2015). He also was the 24th-ranked bull rider in the world standings. In 2006, Jenkins opened eyes across the sport by winning the World Finals on the PBR, three months after his first winning ride. The distinction is the sport’s second-highest behind the World Championships in overall season points.

Overall, Jenkins qualified for the World Finals 10 times. He also collected 42 top five finishes and 19 90-point rides during his career, winning seven Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) events as well. When he retired, according to, Jenkins boasted a 44.26 career riding percentage, covering 320 of the 723 bulls he has faced over 243 events on the BFTS. In essence, he wasn’t just a tough cowboy. He was among the elite.

His career might have continued if not for suffering a fractured first cervical vertebra in April 2015, forcing him to retire in July. But, in reality, most bull riders begin to wind down their careers in their early 30s anyway, and Jenkins would be right to marvel at the swath he cut through the PBR. He came from nowhere.

“At the end of my first year (in the local All Youth Rodeo Association), I rode calves, I was champion, I got my first buckle and I was hooked. I was 8,” Jenkins said, and then joked this:  “Even before I rode calves, I was riding the arm chair at home. There was nothing that was getting away from me.”

Jenkins attended schools in Strafford and Spokane before moving to Oklahoma. Over the years, he graduated from calves to steers, junior bulls, senior bulls and so forth.

However, to reach the PBR’s Touring Pro Division (TPD), a hopeful must be at least 18 in order to purchase a PBR permit. Jenkins knew this well and, in 2005, scouted out the calendar. It so happened that a TPD event was set the day he would turn 18 in Gillette, Wyoming, where he would compete anyway in the High School National Finals Rodeo. Lo and behold, Jenkins won the TPD event. Jenkins also won his final BFTS event of the season, riding 3-for-3 bulls. He finished in 18th place at the World Finals.

All this came after Jenkins attended the same bull riding school as future Missouri Sports Hall of Famer and PBR legend Luke Snyder and PBR stalwart Matt Bohon.

“If I could go back and live one month of my career, I’d relieve that month,” Jenkins said of his successful July 2005. “I went from being a high school kid to being with my heroes.”

In 2006, Jenkins won the World Finals, earning $288,567 after he rode six of eight bulls. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declared Nov. 22 as “L.J. Jenkins Day,” and Jenkins finished seventh in PBR world standings.

And that’s how it went over the next decade as Jenkins consistently finished in the top 10 of events. In March 2010, he completed his highest-marked ride – 94 points – on Voodoo Child. In 2014, he won the PBR stop in – where else? – Springfield, in front of sold-out crowds at JQH Arena.

“That was one of my most favorite ones to go to,” Jenkins said. “You can’t go anywhere (in PBR) for three days and see them pack the house every single night like in Springfield.”

What a career it was for Jenkins, who owns a 600-acre cattle ranch outside Porum, Okla., with his fiancée, Christen.

“I got to see a lot of places because of bull riding,” Jenkins said. “The sport did a lot for me. I don’t know what I would have done to make it any better.”