By Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton
It hasn’t happened too often, so getting recognized by bull riding fans still catches Colton Jesse off guard.
“I got stopped at Lowe’s the other day,” he said with a chuckle. “That was new. It’s happened a few times, but it’s nice.”
A descendant of the DeLonais family, Jesse was the 2018 runner-up for Professional Bull Riding’s Rookie of the Year. He finished the 2018 season ranked No. 22 in the world, thanks in part to a top 10 finish at his first major event, the PBR Iron Cowboy.
That success on the circuit earned Jesse a spot at the Global Cup earlier this year at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Billed as bull riding’s version of the Olympics, the Global Cup featured seven-member teams from Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and two from the United States.
Coached by a citizen of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and former professional bull rider Wiley Petersen, Team USA Wolves was an all-Native squad, while Team USA Eagles was open to non-Native riders.
Other members of Team USA Wolves include Cherokee Nation citizens Cannon Cravens and Ryan “Cherokee Kid” Dirteater; Keyshawn Whitehorse, Justin Granger and Cody Jesus from the Navajo Nation; and Chippewa/Sioux rider Stetson Lawrence. The all-Native team, a first in any professional sport, was even introduced with fancy dancers on the event’s first night.
“Our intro definitely had people talking,” Jesse said. “The energy about the whole event and the support was just really cool.”
Team USA Wolves finished third at the Global Cup behind Brazil and Team USA Eagles, and Jesse tied for 20th among all 47 riders. The team went eight for 18 against bulls that had a 66 percent buck-off rate in 2018.
Since the Global Cup, Jesse has gone on to participate at additional PBR events in St. Louis, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. Riding since before he started kindergarten, Jesse says he would not have it any other way.
“It’s in my blood,” he said. “My grandpa and my dad rode. They didn’t push me to that. No one has. My parents gave me the choice to do whatever. Got away from it when I was younger for a year or two, then got back to it. Just been with me — I don’t know anything else, and I don’t want to. It’s what I go to bed thinking about and wake up thinking about it. It’s my livelihood.”
Eventually, the Konawa, Oklahoma, native would like to give back to the sport that has meant so much to him and teach younger generations of riders the basics of bull riding.
“If someone was looking to play basketball for the first time, just given the ball and put up one-on-one against Lebron James, they’re probably going to get discouraged pretty quickly,” he said. “I want to see more kids getting into the sport, because it seems like it’s a bit of a dying breed. There’s a lot of great talent showing up, but I’m just not seeing it in as many kids as when I was young.”