“This is a sport where pride has a lot to do with it,” Mauney said, this past weekend at the Iron Cowboy Invitational.
He admitted to hearing the critics and the naysayers.
“If it don’t piss you off,” Mauney added, “you need to go home.”
Many of wondered if the 31-year-old is capable of recapturing the form he had for the first decade of his career.
Last July, Mauney completely tore the shoulder of his free arm from the bone. Dr. Tandy Freeman needed 13 anchors and a screw to rebuild it and he was told he would need until February to recover and rehab.
Most thought he would return in January because, well, that would be considered the Mauney way.
They were wrong.
He flew to Las Vegas at the end of October for the World Finals. He rode his first bull and then bucked off four in a row and has since admitted he almost certainly returned too early and altered his riding style.
“I can get my free arm above my head,” Mauney explained, “but, my go-to move, was to bring it right back down.”
And that’s where the trouble started.
His still riding at 50 percent having covered five of 10 bulls at the elite level of competition, but three of the five have been in the opening round and has yet to record a qualified ride in the Championship Round.
He also injured his groin.
“I can live with trying,” he told Justin McBride, a fellow two-time PBR World Champion. “I couldn’t sit home and think, ‘What if?’
“If I stayed beat up a little longer, it was my choice and I have to deal with it.”
His style over the years had been “loose and cool.”
He’d wildly throw his free arm up over his shoulder.
Fans loved seeing him make those big moves.
Until this past week, Mauney admitted he didn’t trust the surgically repaired shoulder enough to throw it the way he used to. Now he has.
He was one for two at a qualifier for an event called The American and followed that up by riding his first bull, Shelley’s Gangster, for 87.75 points at the Iron Cowboy.
“All I needed was confidence in my shoulder,” Mauney said. “I felt like I could move it good.”
He added, “When I’m riding my best, I tuck my hand in there to stay there.”
That could be problematic for the rest of the field.
A less-than-100-percent Mauney, who missed four events with the groin injury, is still ranked 22nd in the world.
That’s a big opening for a guy who has won 31 events in his career, including the World Finals event title, and claimed world titles in 2013 and again in 2015. Mauney has ridden 504 bulls at the elite level and 72 of those have been for 90 or better.
His $7.25 million is the most won by a western sports athlete.
How does he plan to reestablish himself as a contender for a third gold buckle?
It’s simple, he concluded, “Stay on.”