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Jacobs Crawley letting it wail at National Finals Rodeo

He used to ride to and from the rodeo in an ambulance.

He has a degree in industrial and systems engineering from Texas A&M.

He made his final dissertation via Skype wearing a suit jacket and athletic shorts while sitting at an ironing board at Aria during the National Finals. On that Saturday, he wore spurs; on Thursday, a cap and gown.

He’s the defending saddle bronc world champion.

He played college football … in high school … with a football carved from a coconut and giraffes for goalposts.

OK, so the last one isn’t true. Yet. But the other four are, and that probably makes Jacobs Crawley the Most Interesting Man at this year’s NFR running through Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I don’t know about that — you’re making me blush,” the obliging Texan said Monday before winning Monday’s go-round.

I do know about that, because when Jacobs still was an Aggie, I met him and younger brother, Sterling, and their rodeo travel partner, Jeremy Melancon. This was when they were traveling to and from Cheyenne and Calgary and dusty cow towns with fewer places to eat via an old ambulance they bought off some guy from New Jersey, converted into sleeping quarters, and painted jet black.

“People thought we were a SWAT team,” Jacobs Crawley said.

They drove that old ambulance until the wheels literally fell off, and then they sold it, and now the wheels are back on. The old ambulance still makes the rounds on the rodeo circuit, as a rolling billboard/apparel truck for a company called Hooey.

People wrote all kinds of stories about the young cowboys and that old ambulance, but that’s not why they purchased it. There was room to sleep in back, and room to put in a shower, which beat putting on swim trunks and turning a hose on one another, which is what they sometimes did in some of the smaller cow towns, or at Motel 6 when the hot water ran out.

But Jacobs Crawley is 28 now. He has attained maturity, or at least a helping of it. He’s a college grad and a husband and the reigning saddle bronc champion of the world, with an eye on gold buckle No. 2.

Sometimes he travels to rodeos in airplanes now. Scary planes, he says. With propellers.


He has earned more than $1 million riding broncs, and much of which he hasn’t spent on traveling the circuit he has invested in real estate. He hasn’t yet used his engineering degree, though it will be nice to fall back on if this kid from Utah, the aptly named Ryder Wright, keeps winning saddle bronc go-rounds here.

Now, instead of getting hosed in a small arena, he and wife Lauren beat a hasty retreat to their spread near Stephenville, Texas. Or, when they are on the circuit, to a quiet booth in a nice restaurant after the roping and the riding and the racing around barrels.

After Monday night’s winning ride, the Crawleys were headed to Battista’s Hole in the Wall for Italian fare with red sauce, all the wine one can drink and accordion music. That’s the best thing about the NFR and Las Vegas, Jacobs said. Every night, there’s a different restaurant.

Perhaps by Saturday when the NFR ends, the saddle bronc competition will be like that, too: Every night, a different winner. Maybe Monday was the start of that, or the start of Crawley putting together a string of his own.

With 18-year-old Wright having monopolized the NFR with four consecutive round wins, Crawley’s lead had shrunk to a minuscule $1,008 until the champ won Monday with a score of 89 aboard Medicine Woman of the Frontier Rodeo Company. This was just after Wright got tossed off a former bucking horse of the year called Spring Planting.

Crawley improved from 11th to fifth in the all-important NFR average. Wright slipped from first to fourth.

“Rodeo’s a funny sport, and in a draw event, you need the right animal,” Crawley had said earlier in the day about the threat posed by young Wright. “Sometimes a guy can get on a roll and do no wrong.

“He’s so young, it’s like he doesn’t know (about the pressure). He’s yawning in the locker room.”

If Crawley hadn’t driven the wheels off that old ambulance, and the flashing red light and siren hadn’t been disconnected for legal reasons — and rodeo contestants didn’t pull for one another like they do — he might have considered letting it wail to startle his young challenger.

“Rodeo is such a humble sport, you never wish anything but positive for everyone,” he said.

But where other cowboys might have sighed about the turn of events, Jacobs Crawley chuckled.

He knew there still was time to make a run before coconut footballs were kicked between giraffe heads.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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