J.B. Mauney's thoughts about the helmet he wears during competition are about what you'd expect from a professional bull rider.
"Cowboys wear cowboy hats," Mauney said.
But just like participation in the sport itself, Mauney didn't have much of a choice about headwear.
The 23-year-old Mauney, who will compete this weekend in a Professional Bull Riders event at Intrust Bank Arena, was forced by his parents to wear the helmet when he was a child.
"When I was younger, I always said that when I turned 18 I was going to throw it in the garbage can," he said.
Having already suffered a major injury, Mauney isn't taking any chances.
He recognizes the look may not be aesthetically pleasing, but with prevention of concussions becoming more important in all sports, he's playing it safe even in a sport predicated on manliness.
"Getting on those bulls every weekend, you're going to get hit in the head, you're going to get stepped on," Mauney said. "So why not try to save yourself from some stitches and maybe breaking your face all to pieces."
Wearing the helmet isn't all Mauney has done to stand out on the Built Ford Tough Series. He's No. 5 in the points standings after 18 events and seventh in all-time money earnings with more than $2.1 million in five seasons. The PBR was started in 1992.
The last two seasons, Mauney finished second in the BFTS point standings thanks to a midseason slump that has also plagued him this year. He failed to earn money in six of eight events after six top-10 finishes in the first eight competitions.
"I go through it every year, just like now," Mauney said. "The past month I couldn't figure it out. I'll hit a spell where I'm not doing very good, then it will start clicking again and I'll get back to riding good."
Born in rural North Carolina, Mauney seemingly had two extracurricular opportunities — stock car racing and football.
But Mauney's parents started him on riding sheep at age 3 and Mauney has long carried a passion for bull riding even though he participates in other rodeo events.
"I've roped and steer wrestled and rode bucking horses and things like that," Mauney said. "I like roping calves, but it didn't give me the adrenaline rush that bull riding does. In bull riding, I get pumped up and it gets me going, and that's probably the reason I've stuck to riding bulls."
Like most bull riders, Mauney has an injury story, and his might rank among the worst.
Competing in an open ride event in 2005, Mauney was stepped on. He knew his ribs were broken but figured that was the extent of his injuries.
A CAT scan the following day revealed all the ribs on his right side were fractured and he had a lacerated liver, bruised kidney and bruised spleen.
Mauney's surgeon told him he wouldn't ride again for eight months, but Mauney was back in four. In 2006, he was the BFTS rookie of the year, proving that the injury hadn't broken his body or his love for the sport.
"When I first started getting on practice bulls, just getting the timing down, at first I was a little nervous," Mauney said. "But after I was on two or three bulls I stopped thinking about it and just got to riding."