Even as a young boy, fourteen-year-old Thibodaux native Jay Rodrigue has never been afraid to grab life by the horns.
Raised around various farm animals and pets, Rodrigue followed in his father’s footsteps around the ripe young age of five and took to bull-riding. He says that when he was young, he “saw plenty of pictures and heard stories” of his father riding. “I grew up knowing about it, but I wanted to do it, too,” he explains. It was that drive and curiosity that led Jay to his first rodeo. “After that first one, I just kept it up. I have been going ever since.” Everything Jay learned about the rodeo he learned from his father. He started with sheep and other small animals before gradually working his way up to the real deal: riding bulls.
“I did not think it was possible that I could win my first rodeo, but I guess things happen for a reason,” he says. Jay is now a Two-Time World Champion Bull Rider with various sponsors all over the United States, including Airborne Support Incorporated, 100x Helmets, Up North Cattle Company, and American Hat Company. Most notably, Jay’s father Eddie revealed that Mrs. Ann Barker with Terrebonne Ford in Houma goes to each of Jay’s rodeos to personally support him and his exceptional endeavors. She writes, “We are so proud to sponsor this amazing young cowboy! [He’s] more than Ford tough!”
Bull Riding is a dangerous sport that requires hours of training and practice, not to mention mental and physical preparation right before an event. Before each ride, Jay and his family stop at their favorite station and pick up snacks for the ride to the arena. Once they arrive Jay begins to prepare himself for the ride by putting on all of his gear and psyching himself up for the task at hand. To protect himself, he wears a helmet from 100x Helmets. He says it is “like a football helmet or a bike helmet,” but it is specifically for bull riding. A cage protects his face, internal padding softens the inside, and secure straps hold everything in place for a safe and unencumbered ride. The helmet is not a big deal to Jay, and he jokes, “I do not feel like losing my head.”
When asked, Jay explained that his favorite part of Bull Riding is winning, but that there is more to riding than just holding a title, like those slow moments leading up to the opening of the gates. Every second of buildup is intense. He says that the waiting, sitting atop the bulls in anticipation, is like “a time bomb ticking away, but in a good way. I get nervous, sure, but once the gate opens and it is time to drop, it is like a switch flips in my head and I just go.” Jay’s love of bull riding overshadows the anxiety he feels before each event, and it becomes second-nature once the bulls’ hooves hit the ground.
“It is an awesome feeling,” Jay says. Holding the Worldwide Championship twice is a very gratifying experience for the young man, and he does not plan to stop anytime soon. Jay plans to attend even more rodeos, and looks forward to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s next big event.